Sunday, February 17, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 16, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 16, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

The most uplifting story, I think, is at the end: 3 philosophers set up a booth on a street corner – here’s what people asked.

Climate crisis and Green New Deal
Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 2-11-19]

Bavarian conservatives forced to go green as wildlife campaign breaks records
[Global Handelsblatt, via Naked Capitalism 2-15-19]
“A record 1.7 million people in the southern state signed the petition, called ‘Save the Bees,’ in just two weeks. The organizers, the Ecological Democratic Party, or ÖDP, comfortably beat their 1-million signature target, or 10 percent of voters. Because the threshold was passed ahead of a mid-week deadline, the state’s conservative government is forced to act. Under Bavarian state law, the ruling coalition, led by the right-wing Christian Social Union, must put forward a cross-party bill and organize a referendum in the next six months…. The four-page document calls for detailed amendments to Bavaria’s nature protection laws and for fundamental changes to farming practices in the state. One such amendment demands an increase in the share of organic farmland to 30 percent by 2030, from just 10 percent today. Non-organic farmers will be forced to reduce their use of pesticides. The petition also requires all farmers to create more diverse habitats within their agricultural holdings, to better support wildlife.”

China and India Lead the Way in Greening
[Earth Observatory, via Naked Capitalism 2-14-19].
The world is literally a greener place than it was twenty years ago, and data from NASA satellites has revealed a counterintuitive source for much of this new foliage. A new study shows that China and India—the world’s most populous countries—are leading the increase in greening on land. The effect comes mostly from ambitious tree-planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries. 
Ranga Myneni of Boston University and colleagues first detected the greening phenomenon in satellite data from the mid-1990s, but they did not know whether human activity was a chief cause. They then set out to track the total amount of Earth’s land area covered by vegetation and how it changed over time. 
The research team found that global green leaf area has increased by 5 percent since the early 2000s, an area equivalent to all of the Amazon rainforests. At least 25 percent of that gain came in China. Overall, one-third of Earth’s vegetated lands are greening, while 5 percent are growing browner. The study was published on February 11, 2019, in the journal Nature Sustainability.
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 2-15-19].
The mammoth task of making all buildings more energy efficient — yes, all, just like the Green New Deal says — hasn’t cowed the authorities in Europe. The German Energy Agency calculates that to make the country’s building stock almost carbon-neutral by 2050 about 1.4 percent of buildings a year will need to be refurbished; the current rate is about 1 percent, so the goal looks ambitious, but not unattainable.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 9, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 9, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Conservative / neoliberal policies create criminogenic economies
(Link for definition and explanation of criminogenic)

Cost of Dirty Money
Barry Ritholtz, February 4, 2019 [Bloomberg, via The Big Picture]
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, shady transactions continue to reach as much as $2 trillion a year. This is a fascinating interactive, tracking that money thru banks, shell companies, and other mechanisms. [Click here for interactive graphic.]

Franklin Foer [Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 2-9-19]
The collapse of communism in the other post-Soviet states, along with China’s turn toward capitalism, only added to the kleptocratic fortunes that were hustled abroad for secret safekeeping. Officials around the world have always looted their countries’ coffers and accumulated bribes. But the globalization of banking made the export of their ill-gotten money far more convenient than it had been—which, of course, inspired more theft. By one estimate, more than $1 trillion now exits the world’s developing countries each year in the forms of laundered money and evaded taxes. 
As in the Russian case, much of this plundered wealth finds its way to the United States. New YorkLos Angeles, and Miami have joined London as the world’s most desired destinations for laundered money. This boom has enriched the American elites who have enabled it—and it has degraded the nation’s political and social mores in the process. While everyone else was heralding an emergent globalist world that would take on the best values of America, Palmer had glimpsed the dire risk of the opposite: that the values of the kleptocrats would become America’s own. This grim vision is now nearing fruition. 
The contagion has spread remarkably quickly, which is not to say steadily, in a country haunted since its founding by the perils of corruption. The United States has had seizures of conscience en route to the top of the new global order surveyed by the British journalist Oliver Bullough in his excellent book Moneyland: Why Thieves and Crooks Now Rule the World and How to Take It Back.

The economic nutcase behind the coup attempt in Venezuala

The economic takeover of the country with the largest oil deposits is being planned by a Milton Friedman disciple from Venezuela. He is currently at Harvard—that rat's nest of neoliberalism. Some say ideas don't matter. Well strap yourself in—apparently this guy has the ear of Donald Trump. Just ghastly!

Ricardo Hausmann Is Taking Milton Friedman’s Lessons to Venezuela

Tanya Rawal-Jindia | February 9, 2019

For a few years now, there has been a tendency to compare Donald Trump to Richard Nixon, but the more urgent comparison in the face of the Venezuelan crisis is one between two well-pedigreed economists: Milton Friedman and Ricardo Hausmann.

Under Nixon’s reign, Milton Friedman was the “intellectual” who started to gain excessive power. Friedman was a trained economist, earning a doctorate at Columbia University, with teaching and research stints at the Universities of Chicago and Stanford.

And under Trump, we have another trained economist: Ricardo Hausmann. He received his doctorate from Cornell University and is the director for the Center of International Development at Harvard University.

For years now, Ricardo Hausmann has been suggesting that the solution for Venezuela’s socialist “crisis” is a U.S. invasion or “intervention.”

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Financing the Green New Deal

Sister Ellen—Keep on preaching the truth as demonstrated by the successful social actions of North Dakota's Non-Partisan League, the KfW Bank of Germany, and FDR's RFC. The BIGGEST single impediment to a more enlightened approach to the oncoming catastrophe that is climate change is the fact that we allow our monetary system to be run by thieves.

The Financial Secret Behind Germany’s Green Energy Revolution

Ellen Brown | January 26, 2019

The “Green New Deal” endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D.-N.Y., and more than 40 other House members has been criticized as imposing a too-heavy burden on the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it. However, taxing the rich is not what the Green New Deal resolution proposes. It says funding would come primarily from certain public agencies, including the U.S. Federal Reserve and “a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks.”

Funding through the Federal Reserve may be controversial, but establishing a national public infrastructure and development bank should be a no-brainer. The real question is why we don’t already have one, as do China, Germany and other countries that are running circles around us in infrastructure development. Many European, Asian and Latin American countries have their own national development banks, as well as belong to bilateral or multinational development institutions that are jointly owned by multiple governments. Unlike the U.S. Federal Reserve, which considers itself “independent” of government, national development banks are wholly owned by their governments and carry out public development policies.

China not only has its own China Infrastructure Bank but has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which counts many Asian and Middle Eastern countries in its membership, including Australia, New Zealand and Saudi Arabia. Both banks are helping to fund China’s trillion-dollar “One Belt One Road” infrastructure initiative. China is so far ahead of the United States in building infrastructure that Dan Slane, a former adviser on President Donald Trump’s transition team, has warned, “If we don’t get our act together very soon, we should all be brushing up on our Mandarin.”

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Tesla buys Maxwell

The guy who was an ultra-capacitor geek n college has purchased probably the most promising next-gen storage technology. My guess is that this is the start of a promising relationship. Capacitors will probably never run an EV for a host of real-world reasons. But because they can charge and discharge so rapidly, they can certainly help—especially in leveling the loads in real-world traffic conditions.

But the real reason for Tesla's hookup with Maxwell is likely to be their ability to make a superior anode that doeasn't use cobalt. Cobalt is found greatest quantities in parts of the world known for corruption, major human rights abuses, and violence. Relying on such a rickety supply chain for a critical part of a manufacturing process is something to be avoided at all costs. With this purchase, Tesla will be able to make cobalt-free anodes that are objectively better.

Fred Lambert over at Electrek has much wisdom to add about this high-level Industrial Class hookup.

And Autoblog explains the importance of ultracapacitors

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 2, 2019

Week-end Wrap - February 2, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

A Serious Green New Deal Would Take Up One-Third of the Economy—Are We Ready for That?
Marshall Auerback, February 2, 2019  [Economy for All, (Independent Media Institute), via Naked Capitalism 2-2-19]
There’s no question that deep pockets will be needed, given the scale of the task at hand. Multi-trillion-dollar levels of spending, in fact, will be necessary if we want to follow what the science is telling us needs to be done.... From a practical standpoint, it would make sense to offer parallel incentives to the fossil fuel investor class; rather than have them drag their heels, why not entice them into a profitable line of business?

Absent this alternative use, the source of the demand will be met by the Far East, and the Green New Deal will become a job creation program for Asia, not the United States (as well as creating huge unemployment). We will therefore face a very difficult trade-off between heavy protectionism (at much higher prices) to stimulate investment in productive capacity in the United States or much larger trade deficits.

Ironically, as Jon Rynn, a fellow at the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems, notes in his book, Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The Power to Rebuild the American Middle Class, “suburban sprawl” came about by virtue of hundreds of billions of dollars of federal government spending via Eisenhower’s Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, and the G.I. Billthat provided loans to millions of returning soldiers to buy homes (and make builders like Fred Trump rich), the build-out of suburban water and road infrastructure. An infrastructure bill therefore cannot simply modernize existing structures, but can and must help to reverse these trends by featuring more public transport and more public housing in densely populated areas. 
Above all else, labor must not simply be treated as a rounding error in this process. As Brian Kohler put it, if environmentalists and politicians aiming for a sustainable economy “fail to understand the jobs issue, you will create a confrontation that you cannot win. You will force us into an alliance with our employers and you, we, society and the environment will all be the losers.”
Francie Diep, January 24, 2019 [Pacific Standard - 1-24-19]
I think these numbers are on the low, low side. They begin at $200 billion. As the above article notes at beginning, it's going to be a couple trillion.
If you're looking for numbers, this report is the closest thing I've seen to quantifying the Green New Deal. It published in 2014, at the behest of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. A team of economists from the University of Massachusetts­–Amherst calculated what would be needed to cut the U.S.'s carbon emissions by 40 percent in 20 years. The study found that the American government and private companies would have to invest a collective $200 billion a year, the government should collect about $200 billion a year in carbon taxes, about 1.5 million jobs would be destroyed, and 4.2 million new jobs would be created. 
"We could extrapolate, based on the work that we've done here, just to get some really rough numbers," says Heidi Peltier, one of the researchers who worked on the report. So: If a 40 percent emissions cut cost $200 billion a year and created a net 2.7 million jobs, then a 100 percent emissions cut might cost $800 billion a year and create a net 6.8 million jobs. "It's not necessarily going to be linear like that, but it might give us a ballpark, at least," Peltier says.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Scientists Create Liquid Fuel That Can Store The Sun's Energy For Up to 18 Years

IF this works, it will truly be the game-changer. Storing energy has been the ultimate quest since forever. So far, the best we can do is lithium-ion batteries—good enough to give us Teslas but unlikely to provide us with base loads and eliminate coal plants.  But the idea that we could capture solar energy and store it in a liquid form means we could reuse a bunch of the petroleum infrastructure.

But this is a lab experiment. We do not know how the process scales. We don't know how much energy it requires to make nor do we know how many storage cycles this magic liquid can do before it loses its transformative powers.

But good luck! May the land of Linnaeus and Celsius and Nobel get it right one more time.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Week-end Wrap - January 26, 2019

Week-end Wrap - January 26, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

[via North Carolina AFL-CIO 1-21-19]

North Carolina AFL-CIO 2019 Labor Legislative Conference (LLC) will be held at the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel, 421 S. Salisbury St, Raleigh, NC on February 12-13, 2019. REGISTER & PAY ONLINE. This conference combines training on our legislative agenda with a Labor Lobby Day to advocate for working people. Registration is open to members of AFL-CIO affiliates and community allies. Register by February 1st to get our discounted, "Advanced" ticket pricing! Read more.

Martin Luther King on BASIC INCOME

[via Naked Capitalism 1-21-19]

Panic is on the agenda at Davos – but it’s too little too late
[Guardian 1-23-19, via PDOC member Kim Piracci]
Pity the poor billionaire, for today he feels a new and unsettling emotion: fear. The world order he once clung to is crumbling faster than the value of the pound. In its place, he frets, will come chaos. Remember this, as the plutocrats gather this week high above us in the ski resort of Davos: they are terrified.... 
In its pretend innocence, its barefaced blame-shifting, its sheer ruddy sauce, this is akin to arsonists wailing about the flames from their own bonfire. Populism of all stripes may be anathema to the billionaire class, but they helped create it. For decades, they inflicted insecurity on the rest of us and told us it was for our own good. They have rigged an economic system so that it paid them bonanzas and stiffed others. They have lobbied and funded politicians to give them the easiest of rides. Topped with red Maga caps and yellow vests, this backlash is uglier and more uncouth than anything you’ll see in the snow-capped Alps, but the high rollers meeting there can claim exec producer credits for the whole rotten lot. Shame it’s such a downer for dividends.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The way its supposed to work

The Diamond-Star auto manufacturing facility in Normal Illinois was shut down by Mitsubishi in 2015. Selling an old auto plant is amazingly difficult. They tend to be very large (2.6 million square feet—242,000 sq. meters) surrounded by rail yards an other transportation hubs. When in operation, an auto plant is an operating investment of roughly $1billion, with 1200 skilled operators to make it all work. At one point, this operation cranked out 200, 000 cars per year—or about one a minute.

This plant is being refitted to make electric pickups called Rivian. The selling price was $16 million. Some of the equipment is unusable. Some, like a paint shop, is extremely valuable. But the biggest advantage is that the plant has only been closed for four years. This means that many of those valuable producer-class types it takes to create a working production plant are still in the area. My guess is that the Rivian roll-out will be a lot smoother than the Tesla Model 3.

When I was in college, I worked at an auto-parts store that was part of a small chain. The head of purchasing once told me to never order parts from California—parts made in the Midwest were better-built, cheaper, and they arrived as promised. He was right in 1970. It will be interesting to see if the Midwest is still home to some world-class manufacturing expertise.

I am NOT a truck guy so I have NO idea if these things will sell to the folks who like their pick-ups loud and petroleum-fired.  Scaringe looks like HE knows trucks so this might work.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Week-end Wrap - January 19, 2019

Week-end Wrap - January 19, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

The Green New Deal: How We Will Pay For It Isn’t ‘A Thing’ – And Inflation Isn’t Either
Robert Hockett, January 16, 2019 [Forbes,via Naked Capitalism 1-18-19] 
I was frankly surprised to find so good an article in Forbes, which is usually a voice for the reactionary rich. But, stopping to consider: it makes sense that any person, even if rich and reactionary, who accepted the facts on the looming disasters threatened by climate change, would realize at some point that solutions are incredibly expensive, on the order of at least $100 trillion. The next obvious question: how to pay for the solutions? If you're rich and reactionary, it must be pretty terrifying to suddenly comprehend that if society is going to survive climate change, society is going to have to take a LOT of your money in taxes to be able to afford the fixes required. Modern monetary theory and its promise that governments can just create all the money needed, must appear as nothing short of salvation.
The short answer to ‘how we will pay for’ the Green New Deal is easy. We’ll pay for it just as we pay for all else: Congress will authorize necessary spending, and Treasury will spend. This is how we do it – always has been, always will be. 
The money that’s spent, for its part, is never ‘raised’ first. To the contrary, federal spending is what brings that money into existence. 
If years of bad or no economic education make that ring counterintuitive to you, you’re not alone: politicians and pundits who ought to know better are with you. But the problem is readily remedied: just take a look at a dollar (or five dollar, or ten dollar, or … dollar) bill. The face you see is George Washington’s – a public official’s – not yours or some other private sector person’s. The signatures you’ll find, for their part, are those of the Treasurer and the Treasury Secretary, not yours or some other private sector person’s. And the inscription you’ll read across the top is ‘Federal Reserve Note,’ not ‘Private Sector Sally’s Note.’

‘Note’ here, note carefully, means ‘promissory note.’ Money betokens a promise. Hence money’s relation to credit. We’ll come back to this later. The money that Treasury spends is, in any event, jointly Fed- and Treasury-issued, not privately issued. That is to say it’s the citizenry’s issuance, not some single citizen’s issuance. It’s like a promise we make to each other. Hence the term ‘full faith and credit’ you’ll hear about when asking what ‘backs’ our currency and our Treasury securities.... 
The truth of the resource constraint is that money usually can be publicly issued and spent only at a rate commensurate with new goods and services supply. If the money supply grows too rapidly for goods and services to keep up, you get the old problem of ‘too many dollars chasing too few goods’ – inflation. If the money supply grows too slowly to keep up with productive capacity, you get the opposite problem – deflation, a far more serious threat, as we’ve seen since the crash of ‘08
Over the past four decades or so, inflation in consumer goods markets – so-called ‘Consumer Price Inflation,’ or ‘CPI’ – has been by and large nonexistent in the ‘developed’ world. Our problem has been just the opposite – deflation. That is what slow, ‘anemic,’ and even ‘negative’ growth rates across the ‘mature’ economies in recent decades have been about. What inflation we’ve had has been concentrated in financial markets, where the ever-more rich in our ever-more unequal societies gamble their winnings. Meanwhile those below the top have had to spend less and borrow more, bringing deflation and, worse still, debt-deflations after the financial crashes inevitably brought on by asset price hyperinflations in our financial markets. 
Which takes us to the Green New Deal. Representative Ocasio-Cortez, whose educational background is in economics, understands as few leaders seem to do that our problems of late have been problems of deflation, not inflation. She also knows well that both inequality and the loss of our middle class have both caused and been worsened by these deflationary trends, along with their mirror images in the financial markets: our asset price hyperinflations – ‘bubbles’ – and busts. Her Green New Deal aims to do nothing short of reversing this slow-motion national suicide – and end our ongoing ‘planet-cide’ in the process.
[Axios, North American Wind Energy Association 1-16-19]
A combination of state, regional and federal policies could make the ambitions of the Green New Deal's goal for 100% renewables a reality, writes Robbie Orvis, director of energy policy design at Energy Innovation. "Although a massive undertaking, this energy transition is technologically feasible and economically beneficial," he writes.
[The Hill, via American Wind Energy Association 1-14-19]
American lawmakers must support the Green New Deal plans to shift away from carbon-emitting fuel sources toward completely renewable energy, wrote hundreds of environmental organizations in letter to the House of Representatives. "As the United States shifts away from fossil fuels, we must simultaneously ramp up energy efficiency and transition to clean, renewable energy to power the nation's economy," they wrote.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Leisure Class amuses itself

The following is from the Caucus99percent site. This is where all the good writers from Daily Kos went after it became abundantly clear in 2016 that Kos had no tolerance for the Progressive / Populist / New Deal wing of the Democratic Party and went out of his way to annoy the Bernie Sanders supporters.

The Russia Hoax sickens me. I have precious little tolerance for these sorts of maneuvers but this is worse than even the 1950-60s. My problem is that I have seen Russia, read her literature, listened to her music, and marveled at her playwrights.

And Ice Hockey—it's damn easy to follow the game in Minnesota and watched when Herb Brooks spent six seasons at the University of Minnesota reverse-engineering the hockey theories of Anatoly Tarasov—the supreme genius of Russian hockey. His efforts were rewarded when he coached a bunch of college kids to a Gold Medal in 1980 beating the top ranked teams in the world to do it—vs Czechoslovakia 7-3, USSR 4-3, Finland 4-2. Their only blemish was a 2-2 tie against Sweden who had the utterly awesome Pelle Lindbergh in net. Tarasov himself, who through bureaucratic Soviet stupidity was no longer the coach of the Big Red Machine, recognized that Brooks was his peer. How can such a relationship NOT be a good thing? And yet 39 years later we are being told that our diplomats are criminals if they even talk with their peers in Russia—thanks for nothing Russia bashers.

For me, the Russians are fellow people of winter and I find it exceeding difficult to watch politicians and news media defame these people for some cheap political advantage. They have suffered through great hardships over the last 150 years, and I find it disgusting to watch an ignorant weasel like Adam Schiff look into the camera and tell us easily refutable lies about one of the great cultures in history.

Moreover, the world is facing a climate calamity. Time is running out quickly. Our tax money should be spent of remediation, NOT on some exercise of "who can tell the biggest whopper and get away with it."

If You Have Been Playing "THE RUSSIA HOAX" at Home, along with Our Studio Audience, You'll Want to Grab this Clue!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Week-end Wrap - January 12, 2019

Week-end Wrap - January 12, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Constitutional Foundation of the US Economy: Powers are Implied Not Enumerated
Tony Wikrent, April 9, 2017 [RealEconomics]
These issues go to the heart of the question: What is the role and purpose of government? They include such specific issues as the General Welfare clause, states rights, implied versus enumerated powers, and the reach and scope of the Commerce clause. Contrary to the idealized wrong-wing myth of the U.S. economy being founded on the principles of laissez-faire, the framers of the Constitution deliberately set out to create a central government strong enough to force the thirteen states into one national economy. To do this, the national government undertook a number of programs and policies to build and strengthen the national economy by encouraging and protecting manufactures and commerce, establishing a national banking system, and promoting and directly assisting the development of transportation. 
The first Act of Congress established the administering of oaths of office for federal officials, but the second Act was the imposition of the Hamilton Tariff to protect domestic industry and raise revenue. In 1791, Congress chartered the First Bank of the United States. The Patent Office was created in 1802. Direct federal involvement in the building of transportation infrastructure included projects authorized under the 1807 Coast and Geodetic Survey, and other measures to improve river and harbor navigation, which were formalized and put on a more permanent footing by the 1824 Rivers and Harbors Act. Various Army expeditions to the west, beginning with Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery in 1804 and continuing into the 1870s, gathered and disseminated geographical and scientific knowledge that was crucial to opening the West to settlement (see for example, the careers of Major Stephen Harriman Long, Major General John C. Frémont, and Brigadier General Randolph B. Marcy). These expeditions were almost always under the direction of an officer from the Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, an organization that has been almost completely written out of American history, but which comprised the elite of U.S. Army officers. Pursuant to the General Survey Act of 1824, Army officers were assigned to assist or direct the surveying and construction of the early roads, railroads and canals -- whether they were private or state projects did not matter.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Another Producer-Class visionary—Mate Rimac

A car nut from Croatia, Mate Rimac, has grown up to be a VERY deep thinker on the future of transportation—who also happens to build beautiful hypercars on the side. In this presentation, he explains the problems and potential of autonomous vehicles. He also explains why making all this work is so important.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Week-end Wrap - January 5, 2019

Week-end Wrap - January 5, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

It’s Not Your Money
Ian Welsh, April 15, 2015
You also didn’t earn most of it. 
It seems like every time I discuss taxation, some libertarian will waltz in and say: “It’s my money and I don’t see why the government should be able to take it.” 
So let’s run through why, no, it isn’t your money. We’ll start with two numbers. The income per capita for the US in 2005 was $43,740. The income per capita for Bangladesh was $470. 

Now I want you to ask yourself the following question: Are Bangladeshis genetically inferior to Americans? Since not too many of my readers think white sheets look great at a lynching, I’ll assume everyone answered no. 
Right then, being American is worth $43,270 more than being Bangladeshi and it’s not due to Americans being superior human beings. If it isn’t because Americans are superior, then what is it? 
The answer is that if it isn’t individual, it must be social. On the individual but still social level, Americans are in fact smarter than Bangladeshis because as children they are far less likely to suffer from malnutrition. However not suffering from malnutrition when you’re a baby, toddler or young child has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the society you live in and your family–two things over which you have zero influence (perhaps you chose your mother, I didn’t!). 
Bangladeshis won’t, on average, get as good an education. They won’t get as much education either, since every child is needed to help earn a living as soon as possible. For most Bangladeshis, there’s no room for the extended childhood and adolescence to which westerners have grown accustomed, which often stretches into the late twenties or even early thirties, amongst those seeking Ph.Ds or becoming doctors or lawyers.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Week-end Wrap - December 29, 2018

Week-end Wrap - December 29, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

A Short Crash Course in American Political Economy
Tony Wikrent, November 25, 2016 [Real Economics]
...Economic equality is basic to a republic because, the idea was, no person can be fully independent and be a good citizen if their livelihood depends to some extent or other on another person’s largess, benevolence, or tolerance. This was the basis of the fight between the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians. Jefferson believed that only farmers who owned their own land were independent enough to honestly exercise the duties of citizenship. Jefferson wanted to delay the advent of industrialization and subservient factory labor as long as possible. This is why Jefferson acceded to the Louisiana Purchase, which he would otherwise have opposed on the grounds that the federal government has no express power to acquire so vast territory. [2] With the Louisiana Purchase, yeoman squeezed out of the established eastern seaboard would be able to cross the mountains, and buy, steal, or somehow take the land of the native Americans and set themselves up as independent farmers, thus extending in both space and time Jefferson’s ideal agrarian republic.\ 
Hamilton, by contrast, understood that the economy could not be frozen in time and remain entirely agrarian. Industrialization HAD to not only proceed, but be encouraged [3], for the USA to have any chance of resisting the intrigues and hostility of the European powers – which remained committed to eradicating the American experiment in self-government until the US Civil War. (France and Spain landed troops in Mexico and Caribbean at the beginning of the war; the Mexican republic was eliminated and Maximilian, younger brother of Austrian emperor Francis Joseph I, was installed as puppet emperor. The British government of Lord Palmerston was preparing to land troops in Canada in 1862, but was deterred by the pro-USA street fighting in London and elsewhere which was led by the British allies of Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi.) 
Hamilton’s great insight was that economic development depended entirely on improving the productive powers of labor. This meant the development of science and technology, and the spread of machinery to replace muscle power, both animal and human. The correct view of Hamilton must be precise: it was not that Hamilton sought to encourage and protect wealth, but to encourage and protect the CREATION of wealth. (Read Section II, Subsection 2, “As to an extension of the use of Machinery...” in Hamilton’s December 1791 Report to Congress on the Subject of Manufactures, if you want something to read today.) 
This is where Marxist analysis fails catastrophically. Yes, much of economic history is that of elites accumulating wealth through exploitation, fraud, and violence. BUT: how was that wealth which is stolen created in the first place? Thorstein Veblen, and his discussions of industrial organization versus business organization, are far more useful in understanding the COMPLETE economic story, not just the exploitation side of it....

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Week-end Wrap - December 22, 2018

Week-end Wrap - December 22, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

How Britain stole $45 trillion from India
[Al Jazeera, via Naked Capitalism 12-18-18] 

2,000 Years of Economic History in One Chart
Barry Ritholtz [The Big Picture 12-19-18]

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Week-end Wrap - December 15, 2018

Week-end Wrap - December 15, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

The French Protests Do Not Fit a Tidy Narrative
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 12-13-18]
No one excels Taibbi at staccato jabbing the powers that be with the facts of their own arrogant incompetence. The protests in France are spreading, not because of a carbon tax on gasoline, but for the same reasons Occupy spread, before it was crushed by Obams's Domestic Security Alliance Council.
The vest movement, a.k.a. gillets jaunes, began as a localized French grievance about a fuel tax and has spiraled into an international phenomenon. In Europe, there have been yellow vests in Sweden, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. There are vesters marching in Alberta, Canada (these seem more right-wing and anti-immigration), but also in Basra and Baghdad, where protests are directed at poor living conditions. Egypt banned the sale of yellow vests to stem protests against the al-Sisi dictatorship. 
The common thread seems mostly to do with class. However, since we’re more comfortable covering left-versus-right than rich-versus-poor in America, the journalistic response here has been a jumble. 
The New York Times editorial “Macron Blinks” recognized the battle lines were between the “marginalized” and the “pro-business program” of “the rich and powerful.”

....When an online commenter suggested “centrism” was just another word for “elitism,” Boot was again puzzled.... 
Over and over, a daft political class paternalistically implements changes more to the benefit of donors than voters, then repeatedly is baffled when they prove unpopular....
These policies came gift-wrapped in assurances. NAFTA was to produce one million new jobs* in the first five years. The WTO was supposed to add $1,700 to every family’s income, every year. The 2004 tax holiday, which slashed taxes on $299 billion in offshored profits, would create 500,000 jobs, corporate leaders (and the George W. Bush administration) promised.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

We chose not to fly

It's about freaking time. In my humble opinion, the most harmful climate change deniers are not the knuckle draggers who can bring themselves into believing that nothing is happening and this is one giant hoax. Rather, it's the serious scientists who claim that greenhouse gasses are about to destroy the ecosphere and then fly 100,000 miles a year to conferences where they back-slap with their buds while peddling their wisdom. NO ONE will ever live down such behavior, such hypocrisy.

Here are three people who have decided to set a better example. Although reducing one's travel from 100k to 30k isn't all that much of an improvement. Perhaps some day before the Greenland ice sheet melts, maybe these folks will realize that if they have anything important to say, they can do it by videoconferencing. Well, we can hope.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Week-end Wrap - December 8, 2018

Week-end Wrap - December 8, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Lawler: US Death Rate Up, Life Expectancy Down in 2017
[Calculated Risk, via Naked Capitalism 12-5-18]
“What is especially striking about this table is the sharp increase in death rates among 25-44 year old over the last five years.”
One part of the U.S. yield curve just inverted; what does that mean?
[Reuters, 12-6-18]
....yield curve inversions - when shorter-dated securities yield more than longer maturities - have preceded every U.S. recession in recent memory by anywhere from 15 months to around two years. “The yield curve has sent a chill down investors’ spines in regard to the future outlook of the U.S. economy,” said Chad Morganlander, senior portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors in New Jersey.
13% Of Americans Will Boycott Christmas Spending 
[Safe Haven, Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-3. 
“The 2018 Bankrate Holiday Gifting Survey showing that 13 percent of American shoppers are planning to completely boycott holiday spending…. Despite growing consumer resistance, 45 percent of shoppers will still spend beyond their comfort zone, says Bankrate’s survey. And in this race to show their love by gifts—where larger gifts apparently mean more love–Americans are prepared to plunge themselves into heavy debt."
If that percentage tripled, to over a third of USA shoppers boycotting holiday shopping, it would wreak havoc in the boardrooms of hundreds of really large corporations.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Week-end Wrap - December 1, 2018

Week-end Wrap - December 1, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Worldwide the suicide rate is down by 29% since 2000. In America it’s up by 18%
[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 11-29-18]

Report: Death Rates Increase for 5 of the 12 Leading Causes of Mortality 
[Pharmacy Times, via Naked Capitalism 11-29-18] A useful summary.

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 11-26-18]

Household debt hit a record high of $13.5 trillion last quarter
[Time, via Avedon's Sideshow 11-23-18]

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Developing Nations Are Stepping Up Into Global Clean Energy Leadership

The importance of "sunk costs" looms larger by the day. Turns out it is really, REALLY hard to replace old technology with new. And it only makes sense even IF the only consideration is how much money has been invested over the years in the electrical grid, filling stations, etc—things that by rights should be rotting in technology graveyards by now. Of course, it isn't just the interests of pension and hedge funds at stake here—there is also matters of pride in technology, etc. We have successfully made the transition from one technology to another: tubes to transistors, film to digital photography, fax to email attachments, etc. but nothing on this scale.

So now we see that the people with the least infrastructure to displace happen to live in areas with the most sunlight. So it is really no surprise that the least developed countries in the world are embracing solar power with the most enthusiasm. It is the cheapest energy solution by far.