Sunday, July 14, 2024

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 14 2024

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 14 2024

by Tony Wikrent

The Trump Shooting: The Most Shocking Act of a Shockingly Violent Age

Michael Tomasky, July 14, 2024 [The New Republic] 

This was not an abnormal incident. It’s a sign of the times….

ut whatever his motivation turns out to be, his act not isolated. There was the shooting of Republican Congressman Steve Scalise in 2017. The attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of Nancy, in 2022. Those are just the headline-grabbers, but political violence, or at least the threat of it, is now a constant in American life.

Threats of political violence against members of Congress have skyrocketed. The Capitol Police investigated 902 such threats in 2016. That jumped up to 3,939 in 2017, and by 2021, the number was more than 9,600, or 10 times the number from just five years before. Hate crimes in 2022 hit 11,288, which is up from recent years (the number was 7,759 in 2020.) Domestic terrorism is on the rise, with the preponderance coming from the political right; the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Department of Justice, reported earlier this year that since 1990, “far-right extremists have committed far more ideologically motivated homicides than far-left or radical Islamist extremists, including 227 events that took more than 520 lives.”

Strategic Political Economy

What Liberals Get Wrong about the Right with Corey Robin - Factually! - 236




Rising Market Power Has Led to the Rise in Far-Right Political Parties 

[ProMarket, via Naked Capitalism 07-02-2024]

Is the Heart and Soul of Trump’s MAGA Base Really the White Working Class?

Les Leopold, January 16, 2024 [Wall Street's War on Workers Newsletter; Common Dreams]

The corporate media and all too many politicians are blaming working people for the rise of Trump and MAGA. Yet, if we open our (lying) eyes a bit more, we can’t miss the massive horde of lawyers and businesspeople who serve as Trump’s enthusiastic enablers….

Political scientists Noam Lupu (Vanderbilt) and Nicholas Carnes (Duke) definitively disproved the notion that most of the people who voted for Trump in 2016 were white working class. They showed that only 30 percent of the Trump voters could be considered a part of that group….

The 2018 Primaries Project, at the Brookings Institute, reported that those voting in congressional Republican primaries in 2018 were better educated and richer than the public at large. Again, the white working class formed no more than one-third of the Republican primary base.

What about the January 6th insurrection? Wasn’t that a white working-class riot? Not according to the University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which analyzed the demographics of the 716 individuals who had been charged with various January 6th crimes, as of January 1, 2022. Fifty percent were either business owners or white-collar workers, and only 25 percent were blue-collar workers (defined as no college degree).

The research for my book, Wall Street’s War on Workers, provides new data that confirms the white working class does not in any way pour into Hillary Clinton’s “basket full of deplorables.” In fact, most white working-class voters have become decidedly more liberal on divisive social issues over the last several decades, including LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, and racial discrimination….

Why Blame the White Working Class?

The attacks on working-class populism have been around for more than 140 years. Corporate owners and their newspapers viciously denounced the populist movement of the late 19th century, which aggressively challenged financial and corporate power. To counter that increasingly successful movement, newspapers, as well as pro-corporate politicians, depicted the populists as ignorant bomb-throwing radicals and worse….

Rule and Repetition: Biden and Blue MAGA

John Ganz [Unpopular Front, July 10, 2024]

...perhaps not everyone is familiar with the part of Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of History he is paraphrasing. It’s a section that has to do with the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Empire:

[Caesar’s] position was indeed hostile to the republic, but, properly speaking, only to its shadow; for all that remained of that republic was entirely powerless. Pompey, and all those who were on the side of the senate, exalted their dignitas auctoritas – their individual rule – as the power of the republic; and the mediocrity which needed protection took refuge under this title. Caesar put an end to the empty formalism of this title, made himself master, and held together the Roman world by force, in opposition to isolated factions. Spite of this we see the noblest men of Rome supposing Caesar’s rule to be a merely adventitious thing, and the entire position of affairs to be dependent on his individuality. So thought Cicero, so Brutus and Cassius. They believed that if this one individual were out of the way, the Republic would be ipso facto restored. Possessed by this remarkable hallucination, Brutus, a man of highly noble character, and Cassius, endowed with greater practical energy than Cicero, assassinated the man whose virtues they appreciated. But it became immediately manifest that only a single will could guide the Roman State, and now the Romans were compelled to adopt that opinion; since in all periods of the world a political revolution is sanctioned in men’s opinions, when it repeats itself. Thus Napoleon was twice defeated, and the Bourbons twice expelled. By repetition that which at first appeared merely a matter of chance and contingency becomes a real and ratified existence.

In other words, assassinating Julius Caesar could never work: the world itself was changed; this one particular individual cold be done away with, but his type of rule was here to stay… The Hegelian repetition has occurred. “Trumpism” isn’t confined to the person of Donald John any more than Caesarism was confined to the person of Gaius Julius. It’s the way things are now. Cynics who would gladly see democracy dead and buried like to say, “politicians, they’re all the same.” They now have a point.

I still believe Trump is the worse of the two options, the harder edge of this politics of despair that we must do our best to mitigate…  perhaps removing Biden wouldn’t work either, just as assassinating Caesear didn’t. This is not an adventitious thing. It’s systemic. The revolution has already taken place.

EXPLAINED: Mass Protests in Kenya

Bad Faith [YouTube, via Naked Capitalism 07-07-2024]

Zambian Economist Grieve Chelwa joins Bad Faith to explain how mass protests in Kenya defeated IMF-backed austerity policies, and how the IMF and World Bank use debt as a mechanism of control. Dr. Chelwa charts how the BRICS bank & dedollarization may provide a way out for countries struggling under western debt-control, and the crucial role global solidarity must play. This is one of those big picture episodes you wont want to miss.




Global power shift

Saudis Warned G-7 Over Russia Seizures With Debt Sale Threat

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 07-10-2024]

Saudi Arabia privately hinted earlier this year it might sell some European debt holdings if the Group of Seven decided to seize almost $300 billion of Russia’s frozen assets, people familiar with the matter said…. The Saudis specifically mentioned debt issued by the French treasury, two of the people said….

...It was unclear, said the people, if Saudi Arabia acted out of self-interest — fearing a seizure would set a precedent that could be used against other countries in future — or in solidarity with Russia. Riyadh and Moscow have maintained close relations since Russia invaded Ukraine and together lead the OPEC+ cartel of oil producers…. 

Gaza / Palestine / Israel

War on Gaza: How Hamas lured Israel into a lethal trap 

[Middle East Eye, via Naked Capitalism 07-10-2024]  

‘More than 186,000 dead’ in Gaza: How credible are the estimates published on The Lancet? 

[France24, via Naked Capitalism 07-12-2024]

Pro-Israel Group Censoring Social Media Led by Former Israeli Intelligence Officers 

Lee Fang [via Naked Capitalism 07-12-2024]

The UAW’s federal monitor twice pressured the union to back off its call for Gaza ceasefire, then launched an investigation 

Ryan Grim, July 11, 2024

The federally appointed monitor tasked with overseeing the United Auto Workers, Neil Barofsky, is ratcheting up his conflict with UAW President Shawn Fain, announcing another investigation into the union leader who rose to national prominence amid the successful “Stand Up Strike” against the Big Three automakers.

Yet newly unveiled documents suggest Barofsky’s pursuit of Fain has less to do with concerns over union self-dealing and more to do with the politics of Israel-Palestine….


How Britain's Prime Minister Protected a Pedophile 

[Active Measures, July 11, 2024

As the former head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Keir Starmer oversaw the agency as it dropped the case against the notorious child molester Jimmy Savile.

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

End Austerity: A Global Report on Budget Cuts and Harmful Social Reforms in 2022-25 

[CADTM, via Naked Capitalism 07-10-2024]

Laid-off tech workers advised to sell plasma, personal belongings 

[SFGate, via Naked Capitalism 07-09-2024]

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 07-09-2024]

A senator from Javier Milei's party proposes legalising the sale of children by families whose resources are overstretched

Boeing and Wall Street: How financialization wrecked a great company 

[Seattle Times, via Naked Capitalism 07-08-2024]

Elon Musk beats $500m severance lawsuit by fired Twitter workers 

[Al Jazeera, via Naked Capitalism 07-11-2024]

Who gets the flow? Financial globalisation and wealth inequality 

[Journal of Macroeconomics, via Naked Capitalism 07-08-2024]

The Great Neoliberal Burden Shift (Part I) – How Corporate America Offset Liability Onto the Public 

[Workday Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 07-08-2024]

Everyone Has A Price — And Corporations Know Yours 

David Dayen, July 9, 2024 [The Lever]

Digital surveillance and customer isolation are locking us into a consumer hell of personalized prices.

Food companies feel the pain as consumers reject higher prices 

[Washington Post]

PepsiCo, which makes not only its namesake sodas but also other drinks, Frito-Lay snacks and Quaker cereals, raised prices by 5 percent in the second quarter and saw unit sales shrink. Volumes in North America fell 4 percent for Frito-Lay, one of the company’s more prolific snack businesses, and 3.5 percent for PepsiCo Beverages. Some retailers have already responded. Target, Aldi, Amazon and Walmart announced in May that they were rolling back prices on many grocery items….

Also Thursday, Conagra reported a 2.3 percent sales decline and a 1.8 percent decrease in volume during its mostly completed quarter. The soft sales numbers were driven by “continued lower consumption trends,” according to the company, whose brands include Slim Jim, Banquet, Vlasic, Swiss Miss and Duncan Hines….

Food companies have been seeing “value-seeking behavior” over the past year, among lower-income and higher-income customers alike, Conagra chief executive Sean Connolly told analysts Thursday.

“Part of that is grounded in reality ― people needed to make their household budgets work for them ― and part of it was principle,” Connolly said. “Even higher-income customers on principle didn’t like the prices they were seeing in the basket and they would trim on purchases.” 

Those pressures are expected to wane throughout the year as consumers grow accustomed to the higher price points, Connolly said. The company’s sales of snacks and frozen foods are now essentially flat, for example. A year ago those categories were in a steep decline.

[TW: Connolly’s statement that consumers will become accustomed to higher prices brings to mind Steve Keen’s pinpointing the supply and demand curve as a major source of dementia in the economics profession.]

Predatory finance

How thousands of Americans got caught in fintech’s false promise and lost access to bank accounts 

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 07-09-2024] Today’s must read because crazy. 

Restoring balance to the economy

The Case for an International Hard Law on Corporate Killing (PDF)

[Keele Law Review, via Naked Capitalism 07-12-2024]

From the Abtract: “Soft law options have not brought about a sufficient reduction in instances of deaths caused by corporate behaviour across jurisdictional borders. This article will argue that the time has now come to establish an international hard law on corporate killing, and for states to ensure that there is a viable path towards a redress for victims and their families along with adopting a duty to assist the victim or their family to pursue redress to ensure a fair balance of power against transnational companies.

U.S. Department of the Treasury, IRS Announce $1 Billion in Past-Due Taxes Collected from Millionaires

[Department of the Treasury, via 7-12-2024]

...The IRS in 2023 launched a new initiative to pursue high-income, high-wealth individuals who have failed to pay recognized tax debt, with dozens of senior employees assigned to these cases. This campaign is concentrated among taxpayers with more than $1 million in income and more than $250,000 in recognized tax debt….

Prior to President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, more than a decade of budget cuts prevented the IRS from keeping pace with increasing complexity and ensuring that wealthy taxpayers, large corporations, and complex partnerships pay taxes owed under current law. The effort to pursue high-income, high-wealth individuals who have failed to pay past-due tax debt is one of several initiatives the IRS has launched to improve tax fairness and reduce the deficit. In the past two years, the IRS has launched:

  • A new initiative to crack down on abuse of corporate jets for personal travel.
  • A campaign to collect taxes owed by 125,000 high-income, high-wealth earners who have not filed taxes in years.
  • Audits of 76 of the largest partnerships with average assets of $10 billion that represent a cross section of industries including hedge funds, real estate investment partnerships, publicly traded partnerships, and large law firms.
  • Audits of the 60 largest corporate taxpayers, with average assets of $24 billion. 
  • And a new regulatory initiative to close a major tax loophole exploited by large, complex partnerships that could raise more than $50 billion in revenue over 10 years.

In addition to enhancing tax fairness, these initiatives will narrow the gap between taxes owed and taxes paid, reducing the deficit. New Treasury and IRS analysis shows these investments in high-end enforcement, technology, and data resulting in $851 billion in additional revenue over the next decade if the investments in the Inflation Reduction Act are continued as President Biden has proposed….

Why The IRS Went Soft On Crime

Spencer Woodman, July 8, 2024 [The Lever]

Michael Welu worked at the IRS for decades as a specialist in helping agents identify and investigate possible tax crimes…. 

For more than 30 years, Welu watched the agency struggle with budget cuts and dwindling staff. What troubled Welu, he says, went deeper than just resource constraints.

During his time at the IRS, he says, upper management in the division tasked with auditing large corporations and ultrawealthy people — the Large Business and International Division — was quick to dismiss any suggestion that a powerful taxpayer may have committed a crime, and commonly discouraged front-line agents from pursuing big cases. This stood in deep contrast to the office that policed small businesses and self-employed people, which was empowered to — as Welu saw it — take an appropriately firm stance toward taxpayers breaking the law, even if they were dealing with far smaller dollar amounts….

 The agent said managers within LB&I appear to fear that issuing a summons would upset the esteemed lawyers and accountants representing the country’s wealthiest taxpayers.

In one publicly reported instance, an auditor in LB&I’s Global High Wealth unit who merely mentioned the possibility of a summons while auditing a billionaire was forced to apologize after the billionaire’s representatives complained to the IRS, according to ProPublica.

Welu says the reluctance to issue summonses generally came from the higher levels of management. Welu would attempt to overcome this resistance by preparing a united front of lower-level attorneys to support taking steps like sending a summons for bank records or compelling a taxpayer to be interviewed by agents, he says.

Disrupting mainstream economics

The meme that is destroying Western civilisation Part VI: How government spending creates money

Steve Keen, July 9, 2024

In the last post (SubstackPatreon), I showed how private banks create money, by marking up their Assets (Loans to the Private Sector) and their Liabilities (Deposits of the Private Sector) simultaneously. I also pointed out that in a pure private sector economy, since banks must be in positive financial equity, the private non-bank sector is necessarily in negative financial equity: in the aggregate, the private non-banking sector will have financial liabilities that exceed its financial assets.

This isn’t an impossible situation: firms and households can service their debts, so long as the money they’ve borrowed into existence is used to create and sell goods and services that enable them to pay the interest on their debts. But it’s an uncomfortable situation: no-one likes having negative net financial worth.

Is there a solution? Let’s look at the double-entry bookkeeping.

If government spending exceeds taxation, we call the difference a Deficit. As I explained in the second post (SubstackPatreon): a Deficit increases the bank deposits of the private sector, so it adds to the money supply, just as new Credit money does.

What it does differently is it doesn’t increase Loans on the Asset side of the banking sector’s ledger—which is what private bank lending does—but instead, it increases what are normally called Reserves (these are better described as “Settlement Accounts”, but I’ll stick with the Reserves name for now).…

The meme that is destroying Western civilisation Part VIII: If the government isn't in negative equity, then the private sector is

Steve Keen, July 12, 2024

...The idea that it’s morally repugnant for a government to get into a negative financial equity position by “spending more than its income” is, I think, the major reason why politicians and journalists obsess about balancing the budget, and running surpluses to reduce the level of government debt (I’ll tackle the issue of government debt in a future post in this series).

There are three things wrong with this attitude:

·         the logic of double-entry bookkeeping;

·         the history of government attempts to get out of negative equity; and

·         the existence of nonfinancial as well as financial assets.

If there is either no government sector—or if the government scrupulously equates its spending and taxation, so that it never runs a Deficit, and its financial equity is zero—then the Private Non-Bank Sector of the economy (households and firms) must be in negative financial equity. This is because:

a)      since one entity’s financial Asset is another’s financial Liability, the sum of all Assets and Liabilities is zero; and

b)      since the Banking Sector must, by law, be in positive Equity (a bank whose short-term Liabilities exceed its short-term Assets is bankrupt), the remainder of the economy must be in identical negative equity relative to it.

The difference between a simplifying assumption and a fantasy: Why Neoclassical economists make fantastical assumptions

Steve Keen, July 11, 2024

...You might think that mainstream economists would have been very chastened by their failure to anticipate the biggest—and worst—economic event since WWII. Some were, but the majority simply ignored that failure….

...these assumptions were enthusiastically adopted by Neoclassicals, since it gave them a way to argue against interventionist government economic policies….

Neoclassical economists have lost the capacity to distinguish simplifying assumptions from fantasies, because Neoclassical theory abounds in fantasies that are needed to gloss over its many logical contradictions and empirical fallacies…. 

Health care crisis

The Corporate Greed Behind Bird Flu 

[The Progressive Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 07-07-2024]

Chronic illness now stands 9.8 standard deviations above its prepandemic average in Spain

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

New data from the official Spanish health survey. The share of the population that has a chronic illness now stands 9.8 standard deviations above its prepandemic average. Hospitalizations, 5.9 standard deviations above its average. All age groups doing badly.

Information age dystopia / surveillance state

Gen AI: Too much spend, too little benefit? 

[Goldman Sachs, via The Big Picture 07-13-2024]

Tech giants and beyond are set to spend over $1tn on AI capex in coming years, with so far little to show for it. So, will this large spend ever pay off? MIT’s Daron Acemoglu and GS’ Jim Covello are skeptical, with Acemoglu seeing only limited US economic upside from AI over the next decade and Covello arguing that the technology isn’t designed to solve the complex problems that would justify the costs, which may not decline as many expect.

Climate and environmental crises

World’s wheat belt yields may drop over 40 percent because of climate change

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 07-08-2024]

This used to be the world’s wheat belt, which fed billions. Not anymore. Above 30 degrees Celsius wheat yield begins to drop by as much as 44%.  This means that the dark spots on the map in India, China and US will suffer huge losses as farmers go broke…

Climate Change Risk to National Critical Functions 

[RAND, via Naked Capitalism 07-12-2024]

Persistent heat wave in the US shatters new records, causes deaths in the West and grips the East 

[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism 07-09-2024]

Oregon County Seeks To Hold Fossil Fuel Companies Accountable For Extreme Heat 

[ars technica, via Naked Capitalism 07-10-2024]

Filing here.

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Princeton Scientists Develop Passive Mechanism To Cool Buildings in the Summer and Warm Them in the Winter 

[SciTech Daily, via Naked Capitalism 07-07-2024]

A Look At GeoXO, NOAA's Next Weather Satellite

John Oncea, June 25, 2024 [Photonics Online]

Democrats' political malpractice

Obama’s right to kill 

David Sirota [X-Twitter, via Thomas Neuburger, God's Spies, July 26, 2024

In 2014, Obama's lawyers insisted a president had a unilateral right to extrajudicially assassinate Americans.10 years later, Trump's lawyers are basing their assertions on the same argument.

Naomi Klein: Why Top Dems are not afraid of Trump 

Naomi Klein [X-Twitter, via Thomas Neuburger, God's Spies, July 26, 2024

...these top Dems are not scared of a Trump win because they believe they are going to be fine. That they have the wealth and connections to protect themselves, even when others are targeted.

It's the same reason so many of these same people know plenty about climate breakdown, and still oppose real climate action. They believe other people will eat the risks - and they aren't wrong.

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

Group Behind Project 2025 Already Claiming Election Interference by Biden 

Julia Conley, Jul 13, 2024 [CommonDreams]

AMERICAN CIVILIZATION? Conspiracism and hyper-partisanship in the nation’s fastest-growing city

George Packer June 10, 2024 [The Atlantic, via The Lever “Long Reads’]

1. The Conscience of Rusty Bowers

...He trained to be a painter, but instead he became one of the most powerful men in Arizona, a 17-year state legislator who rose to speaker of the House in 2019. The East Valley is conservative and so is Bowers, though he calls himself a “pinto”—a spotted horse—meaning capable of variations. When far-right House members demanded a 30 percent across-the-board budget cut, he made a deal with Democrats to cut far less, and found the experience one of the most liberating of his life. He believes that environmentalists worship Creation instead of its Creator, but he drives a Prius as well as a pickup.

In the late 2010s, the Arizona Republican Party began to worry Bowers with its growing radicalism: State meetings became vicious free-for-alls; extremists unseated mainstream conservatives. Still, he remained a member in good standing—appearing at events with Donald Trump during the president’s reelection campaign, handing out Trump flyers door-to-door—until the morning of Sunday, November 22, 2020.

Bowers and his wife had just arrived home from church when the Prius’s Bluetooth screen flashed white house. Rudy Giuliani was calling, and soon afterward the freshly defeated president came on the line. As Bowers later recalled, there was the usual verbal backslapping, Trump telling him what a great guy he was and Bowers thanking Trump for helping with his own reelection. Then Giuliani got to the point. The election in Arizona had been riddled with fraud: piles of military ballots stolen and illegally cast, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens and dead people voting, gross irregularities at the counting centers. Bowers had been fielding these stories from Republican colleagues and constituents and found nothing credible in them.

“Do you have proof of that?” Bowers asked.

“Yeah,” Giuliani replied.

“Do you have names?”

“Oh yeah.”

“I need proof, names, how they voted, and I need it on my desk.”

“Rudy,” Trump broke in, “give the man what he wants.”

Bowers sensed some further purpose to the call. “To what end? What’s the ask here?”

“Rudy, what’s the ask?” Trump echoed, as if he didn’t know.

America’s ex-mayor needed Bowers to convene a committee to investigate the evidence of fraud. Then, according to an “arcane” state law that had been brought to Giuliani’s attention by someone high up in Arizona Republican circles, the legislature could replace the state’s Biden electors with a pro-Trump slate….

4. Sunshine Patriots

….Richer, the top election official in Maricopa County, is an expert on the extremism of his fellow Arizona Republicans. After taking office in 2021, he received numerous death threats—some to his face, several leading to criminal charges—and he stopped attending most party functions. Richer is up for reelection this year, and Turning Point—which is trying to raise more than $100 million to mobilize the MAGA vote in Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin—is coming after him.

Election denial is now “a cottage industry, so there are people who have a pecuniary interest in making sure this never really dies out,” Richer told me drily. “Some of these organizations, I’m not even sure it’s necessarily in their interest to be winning. You look at something like a Turning Point USA—I’m not sure if they want to win. They certainly have been very good at not winning. When you are defined by your grievances, as so much of the party is now and as so much of this new populist-right movement is, then it’s easier to be mad when you’ve lost.”

Project 2025 … and 1921, and 1973, and 1981 — Terrifying blueprints for the next Republican presidency are a quadrennial tradition.

Rick Perlstein, July 24, 2024 [The American Prospect]

...The Heritage Foundation’s 900-page Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise, the anchor of the marquee right-wing think tank’s Project 2025, is not what you’ve heard. It’s not some book of magic spells for President Trump’s minions to cast, and poof goes away every last vestige of truth, justice, and the American way. For one thing, much of it is too dumb to accomplish anything at all…. some chapters consist of multiple authors debating opposite interpretations of basic public questions? (“The Export-Import Bank Should Be Abolished” vs. “The Case for the Export-Import Bank”; “The Case for Free Trade” vs. “The Case for Fair Trade.”)

And the author of the Federal Reserve chapter, like a college student tackling a term paper assignment, summarizes every theory on monetary policy, from the status quo ante, to Milton Friedman’s monetarism, to “commodity-backed money” (the gold standard), all the way to outright Fed abolition, before throwing up his hands at the notion that a future conservative administration could possibly agree upon any satisfactory reform at all.

The section about Russia in the State Department chapter—the author is an old hand of the High Reaganite wing of the Republican foreign-policy guild; a “globalist,” if you will—emphasizes that the Russia-Ukraine conflict “starkly divides conservatives,” with one faction arguing for the “presence of NATO and U.S. troops if necessary,” while the other “denies that U.S. Ukrainian support is in the national security interest of America at all.”

This misunderstanding is important. The silence, so far, on those parts, indicts us. These are great, big, blinking red “LOOK AT ME” advertisements of vulnerabilities within the conservative coalition. Wedge issues. Opportunities to split Republicans at their most vulnerable joints, much as when Richard Nixon cynically expanded affirmative action requirements for federal building projects, in order to seed resentment between blue-collar building trades Democrats and Black Democrats….

The best part so far about the journalism about Project 2025 is how it has documented its cataclysmic aim of destroying the very notion of an expert and independent civil service—the people Trumpies call the “deep state.” I don’t point to antecedents to minimize that danger. I point to them to maximize it. The fact that conservatives have been trying so hard for so long is what makes it more dangerous. It’s our good luck that each time, some accident of history stood in the way of the worst right-wing plans. The Great Depression prevented Project 1921. Phew. But not a good accident! Better for us to nip this thing in the bud on our own. And that takes a deeper understanding of antecedents….

It’s one of the things people get most wrong about Nixon: his supposed liberalism… Its author was a young bureaucratic genius named Frederic Malek. He was awarded the plum job heading the White House personnel office because he had so successfully run a similar project during the 1972 campaign: finding and deploying invisible levers within the federal bureaucracy to punish those believed to be hurting Nixon’s chances for re-election, and to recruit those he thought could help. 

The NATO Declaration and the Deadly Strategy of Neoconservatism 

Jeffrey D. Sachs, July 13, 2024 [CommonDreams]

For the sake of America's security and world peace, the U.S. should immediately abandon the neocon quest for hegemony in favor of diplomacy and peaceful co-existence.

The (anti)Federalist Society assault on the Constitution

AOC’s Move on Thomas and Alito Has All the Right Historical Echoes

Thom Hartmann, July 12, 2024 [The New Republic]

Ocasio-Cortez’s articles of impeachment against the rogue justices probably won’t remove them. But history suggests it might help tame the court in other ways….

The last time the Supreme Court experienced such a crisis of confidence with the American people was in the 1935–1937 era, and the way it resolved is fascinating.

Back then, four of the justices—Pierce Butler, James Clark McReynolds, George Sutherland, and Willis Van Devanter—were collectively known as the Four Horsemen. They were invariably joined by one of the other justices—most frequently Owen Roberts—to strike down President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s popular New Deal legislation that attempted to address unemployment and poverty….

Shortly before Roosevelt was reelected in 1936, the court went even further and struck down a New York state law that established a minimum wage for women and children, in Morehead v. New York ex rel. Tipaldo. The pendulum of popular opinion swung against the court almost overnight.

In 1937, the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security Act were on their way to the court. Considering how the Four Horsemen had ruled during FDR’s first term, Roosevelt knew that he needed to do something or risk losing both pieces of legislation along with the collapse of his entire New Deal agenda.

With the New Deal on the line, Roosevelt—much like AOC today—went on the attack. On February 5, 1937, just months after his landslide reelection, he announced his plan: He asked Congress for the authority to appoint one new justice for each justice then on the bench over 70 years old.…

The Supreme Court’s Billionaire Buddies Just Made Your Life Worse

VISHAL SHANKAR and WILL ROYCE, July13, 2024 [CommonDreams]

The assault by the six right-wing justices on the Chevron doctrine is an assault on everyday people, carried out on behalf of corporations and the Court’s wealthy benefactors….

These wealthy benefactors played a hidden role in the successful overturning of Chevron this term by using the disputes about federal fishing fees in the Loper Bright and Relentless cases as stalking horses against the doctrine. Petitioners in both cases were represented pro bono by lawyers with close ties to the Koch network. In Loper Bright, herring fisherman Bill Bright was represented by three lawyers who also work for Americans for Prosperity, one of the Koch Network’s most prominent organizations. In Relentless, the petitioners were likewise represented free of charge by the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), a right-wing litigation group that has received over $5 million from Koch-affiliated organizations and $4 million from Leonard Leo’s dark money groups….

How Jeff Yass Became One of the Most Influential Billionaires in the 2024: Election

[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 07-13-2024]

The libertarian who turned Susquehanna into one of Wall Street’s most powerful trading firms is enmeshed with TikTok—and betting on Trump.

Media focus on Biden provides cover while corporations and conservatives rush to finish off the administrative state

Heather Cox Richardson, July 24, 2024 [Letters from an American]

...As media attention remains focused on Biden, a Supreme Court decision from last week that upends the modern American state and another that overturns the central concept of our democracy have disappeared from public discussion. In Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, the court overruled the longstanding legal precedent establishing that courts should defer to a government agency’s reasonable interpretation of a law. Instead, it said, judges themselves will decide on the legality of an agency’s actions.

In Public Notice, Lisa Needham noted that right-wing judges have already blocked Biden administration rules that protect overtime pay for workers, prohibit noncompete clauses for truckers, and prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. As right-wing plaintiffs launch suits challenging rules they dislike, she notes, we should expect to see many more federal judges “deploying junk science and personal opinions to get to their preferred conclusion while ignoring the expertise of agency employees.”

Loper Bright was a slashing blow at the federal regulations that make up the framework of today’s government, but it paled in comparison to the Supreme Court’s decision in Donald J. Trump v. United States. In that stunning decision, the six right-wing justices—three of whom Trump himself appointed—declared that a president is immune from prosecution for crimes committed as part of his “official duties.”

This astonishing decision overturned the bedrock principle of the United States of America: that no one is above the law. But to be clear, the court did not give this power to Biden. Because it is not clear what official acts are—since no one has ever before made this distinction—it claimed for itself the right to decide what illegal behaviors are official acts and which are not. Since at least one of the justices (Samuel Alito) has flown flags demonstrating support for overthrowing Biden’s government and putting Trump back into office, and the wife of another (Clarence Thomas) worked with those trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, it seems likely that their decisions will reinforce Trump’s immunity alone.

The destruction of the regulatory state is already happening: The post-Chevron world is here.

Lisa Needham, July 08/ 2024 [via Heather Cox Richardson, July 24, 2024, Letters from an American]

...Lawsuits to invalidate specific rules had been proceeding through the federal courts before Loper Bright, generally arguing that agencies exceeded their authority in promulgating a rule. These lawsuits exist in no small part because the Supreme Court made it clear they would destroy Chevron deference for years now, with Justice Neil Gorsuch having led the way well before his appointment to the Court.

Trump appointee Sean Jordan, who sits in the reliably hard-right Eastern District of Texas, was so eager to block a Biden administration’s overtime rule that he dropped his decision the same day Loper Bright came out. It runs 36 pages and mentions Loper Bright multiple times, which means either Jordan was so confident of the Supreme Court decision that he either wrote it in advance or he hurried to stuff Loper Bright into his already-written opinion….

What this mean is that anytime a business doesn’t like a federal rule, it can just sue. It promises to be a free-for-all. Three hospitals in New Jersey sued HHS the day Loper Bright came down, saying the agency’s interpretation of a statute governing Medicare reimbursement is unlawful.

In another case, filed before Loper Bright, a trucking company challenging the Biden administration’s rule that addressed misclassification of independent contractors filed a memorandum on July 2 arguing that Loper Bright means the court should not defer to the Department of Labor’s interpretation of the law. The next day, Trump appointee Ada Brown of the Northern District of Texas enjoined enforcement of the Biden administration’s rule prohibiting non-compete agreements but limited the injunction to the plaintiffs, which are various pro-business groups like the Chamber of Commerce….

Over at Law Dork, Chris Geidner has a good rundown of not just how the courts are sledgehammering LGBTQ rights, but also how having courts, rather than regulators, make these decisions results in an uneven patchwork of rulings over a Health and Human Services rule that prohibited health care providers from discriminating based on gender identity.

Only five days after Loper Bright was issued, three separate federal courts issued rulings blocking parts of the HHS rule. There’s no chance that William Jung, a Trump appointee to the federal district court for the Middle District of Florida, hadn’t already written most of his decision before Loper Bright was issued, but the case gave him far more ammunition. Fung’s ruling in Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services blocked part of the Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities rule from going into effect — but only in Florida.

Project 2025's plans for the Justice Department

Chris Geidner, July 08, 2024 []

1. This is not a plan that Trump can “torch,” “disavow,” or whatever Mike Allen is editing his Axios headline to say today….

The section is written by Gene Hamilton, a former senior official in the Trump administration whose name is all over litigation across the country today because he is the legal director of America First Legal. America First Legal is, in essence, the MAGA legal organization. It is run by Trump senior advisor Stephen Miller, despite his not being a lawyer, and Hamilton is the second-in-command…. 

2. The 28-page Justice Department section has a primary purpose of turning DOJ into an aggressive enforcer of the Trump agenda across the federal government and down into state and local governments. “Ensure the assignment of sufficient political appointees throughout the department,” the plan states outright, noting that the number of political appointees serving in past administrations — including “particularly” during the Trump administration — was not enough “to stop bad things from happening through proper management or to promote the President’s agenda.”

The program explicitly questions how the new administration should relate to other branches, asserting that the administration should “use its independent resources and authorities to restrain the excesses of both the legislative and judicial branches.” ….

3. Project 2025’s DOJ section talks about cuts and consolidation repeatedly, all with the aim of increasing strict adherence to political goals with the benefits of eliminating independent judgment and government accountability. The plan would cut positions and offices, and it explicitly acknowledges that this will make government less responsive….

4. The plan is extremely anti-immigrant. This makes sense in light of Hamilton’s background, and it would have DOJ take on an increased role in the Miller-Hamilton anti-immigrant efforts….

5. The plan calls for vigorous enforcement of the Comstock Act, including specifically calling for a “campaign” to prosecute attempts to mail abortion medication….

6. The plan attacks diversity efforts as being backed by “an unholy alliance of special interests, radicals in government, and the far Left.” ….

Rate of women getting sterilized doubled after Roe was overturned 

[KFF Health News, via Naked Capitalism 07-09-2024]

A Century of Business in the Supreme Court, 1920-2020 (pdf)

Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2022-55

Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 2022-16

26 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2022 Last revised: 28 Feb 2023
Lee Epstein
University of Southern California

Mitu Gulati
University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: February 26, 2023

A decade and a half into its life, we ask: How pro business is the Roberts Court? Using a simple objective measure – how often does business win in the Court when it is fighting a non business – we find that the Roberts Court may be the most pro business Court in a century. The win rate for business in the Roberts Court, 63.4%, is 15 percentage points higher than the next highest rate of business wins over the past century (the Rehnquist Court, at 48.3%). The question is why? It is tempting to conclude that this pro business result is purely a function of there being a Republican majority of justices on the Roberts Court. The data suggest that the story is more complex. Additional features that emerge from the data are: (a) It is not just the Republicans on the Roberts Court who are more pro business than in prior Courts, but the Democrats as well; (b) The Government, through the SG’s office and across both Democratic and Republican administrations, has been much more supportive of business positions than in prior eras; (c) An elite Supreme Court bar has emerged in recent years and businesses have hired them disproportionately so as to better influence the Court.

The Consequences of Loper Bright (PDF)

Cass Sunstein [SSRN, via Naked Capitalism 07-12-2024]

From the Abstract: “[C]urrent evidence is consistent with the following proposition: If the goal is to predict whether a court of appeals will strike down an agency’s interpretation of law, it may be more important to know whether the panel consists of Republican or Democratic appointees, and whether the agency’s interpretation leans left or right, than to know whether Chevron or Loper Bright is the governing law.”

Something Has Gone Deeply Wrong at the Supreme Court

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 07-07-2024]

Jurists who preach fidelity to the Constitution are making decisions that flatly contradict our founding document’s text and ideals.

The Hydraulic Effect of Loper Bright Enterprises in Consumer Finance: More Regulation By Enforcement 

[Credit Slips, via Naked Capitalism 07-11-2024] Important.

Project 2025 Is Taking Its Cues From the Supreme Court’s Worst Decisions 

[Balls and Strikes, via Naked Capitalism 07-11-2024]

Civic republicanism

James Wilson’s law lecture to President Washington and Congress

[Statutes and Stories, February 15, 2021]

At 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 15, 1790, founding father, professor and Supreme Court Justice James Wilson presented an introductory lecture to President Washington, Vice President Adams, and Congress. Also in attendance were Martha Washington, the Governor and Legislature of Pennsylvania, and “a great number of ladies and gentlemen…composing a most brilliant and respectable audience.” … The extraordinary crowd was assembled for Wilson’s inaugural law lecture as the first Professor of Law at the College of Philadelphia.

James Wilson's Lectures on Law (1789 to 1791)

[TW: Like all the other readings on republicanism at the beginning of our nation, I am struck with how hostile the ideas and ideology of conservatives and the (anti)Republican Party have become.]

Part 1, Chapter I Introductory Lecture Of The Study Of The Law In The United States

But law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge. The same course of study, properly directed, will lead us to the knowledge of both. Indeed, neither of them can be known, because neither of them can exist, without the other. Without liberty, law loses its nature and its name, and becomes oppression. Without law, liberty also loses its nature and its name, and becomes licentiousness. In denominating, therefore, that science, by which the knowledge of both is acquired, it is unnecessary to preserve, in terms, the distinction between them. That science may be named, as it has been named, the science of law….

The science of law should, in some measure, and in some degree, be the study of every free citizen, and of every free man. Every free citizen and every free man has duties to perform and rights to claim. Unless, in some measure, and in some degree, he knows those duties and those rights, he can never act a just and an independent part….

[Trump immunity decision]

The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is, to discover the meaning of those, who made it. The first rule, subservient to the principle of the governing maxim, is, to discover what the law was, before the statute was made. The inference, necessarily resulting from the joint operation of the maxim and the rule, is this, that in explaining a statute, the judges ought to take it for granted, that those, who made it, knew the antecedent law....

[Wilson rejects British common law as basis of American jurisprudence]

A question deeply interesting to the American States now presents itself. Should the elements of a law education, particularly as it respects publick law, be drawn entirely from another country—or should they be drawn, in part, at least, from the constitutions and governments and laws of the United States, and of the several States composing the Union? ….

Surely I am justified in saying, that the principles of the constitutions and governments and laws of the United States, and the republicks, of which they, are formed, are materially different from the principles of the constitution and government and laws of England; for that is the only country, from the principles of whose constitution and government and laws, it will be contended, that the elements of a law education ought to be drawn. I presume to go further: the principles of our constitutions and governments and laws are materially better than the principles of the constitution and government and laws of England.

Permit me to mention one great principle, the vital principle I may well call it, which diffuses animation and vigour through all the others. The principle I mean is this, that the supreme or sovereign power of the society resides in the citizens at large….

…by Sir William Blackstone, this great and fundamental principle is treated as a political chimera, existing only in the minds of some theorists; but, in practice, inconsistent with the dispensation of any government upon earth….

[Rejects Blackstone]

In the course of these lectures, my duty will oblige me to notice some other important principles, very particularly his definition and explanation of law itself, in which my sentiments differ from those of the respecable Author of the Commentaries. It already appears, that, with regard to the very first principles of government, we set out from different points of departure.

66 As I have mentioned Sir William Blackstone, let me speak of him explicitly as it becomes me. I cannot consider him as a zealous friend of republicanism. One of his survivers or successours in office has characterized him by the appellation of an antirepublican lawyer. On the subject of government, I think I can plainly discover his jealousies and his attachments.

For his jealousies, an easy and natural account may be given. In England, only one specimen of a commonwealth has been exhibited to publick examination; and that specimen was, indeed, an unfavourable one. On trial, it was found to be unsound and unsatisfactory. It is not very surprising that an English lawyer, with an example so inauspicious before his eyes, should feel a degree of aversion, latent, yet strong, to a republican government….

[Why US republic is so different from all previous governments]

The dread and redoubtable sovereign, when traced to his ultimate and genuine source, has been found, as he ought to have been found, in the free and independent man.

This truth, so simple and natural, and yet so neglected or despised, may be appreciated as the first and fundamental principle in the science of government.

[TW: conservatives reject this; they believe the source of sovereignty to be the social and political processes that have become traditional.]

[More on rejecting British common law]

86 But further; many parts of the laws of England can, in their own nature, have neither force nor application here. Such are all those parts, which are connected with ecclesiastical jurisdiction and an ecclesiastical establishment. Such are all those parts, too, which relate to the monarchical and aristocratick branches of the English constitution. Every one, who has perused the ponderous volumes of the law, knows how great a proportion of them is filled with the numerous and extensive titles relating to those different subjects. Surely they need not enter into the elements of a law education in the United States. [So much for Alito’s use of 17th-century jurist English Sir Matthew Hale in his Hobbs decision discarding Roe. v. Wade.]

88 The numerous regulations, in England, respecting the poor, and the more artificial refinements and distinctions concerning real estates, must be known; but known as much in order to be avoided as to be practised. The study of them, therefore, need not be so minute here as in England….

101 Property, highly deserving security, is, however, not an end, but a means. How miserable, and how contemptible is that man, who inverts the order of nature, and makes his property, not a means, but an end!

[outright rejection of conservatism]

102 Society ought to be preserved in peace; most unquestionably. But is this all? Ought it not to be improved as well as protected? Look at individuals: observe them from infancy to youth, from youth to manhood. Such is the order of Providence with regard to society. It is in a progressive state, moving on towards perfection. How is this progressive state to be assisted and accelerated? [TW: as I have argued many times, a key tenet of civic republicanism is a positive requirement to do good by improving the condition of humanity.]


“true ambition or the love of fame prevail over avarice; and till men find leisure and encouragement for the exercise of this profession, by climbing up to the vantage ground, so my Lord Bacon calls it, of science, instead of groveling all their lives below, in a mean but gainful application to all the little arts of chicane. Till this happen, the profession of law will scarce deserve to be ranked among the learned professions: and whenever it happens, one of the vantage grounds, to which men must climb, is metaphysical, and the other, historical knowledge.” …

“They must pry into the secret recesses of the human heart, and become well acquainted with the whole moral world, that they may discover the abstract reason of all laws: and they must trace the laws of particular states, especially of their own, from the first rough sketches to the more perfect draughts; from the first causes or occasions that produced them, through all the effects, good and bad, that they produced.”….

[Man as a member of society]

I will view man as an individual, as a member of society, as a member of a confederation, and as a part of the great commonwealth of nations. His situation, under the third relation, is, in a great measure, new; and, to an American, peculiarly important: It will, therefore, merit and obtain peculiar attention.

[TW: Compare to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's summary of neoliberalism: “There is no such thing as society” Also, I have previously written about 19th century American System political economist Henry Carey who explained the objective of economic policies should be to build and advance civilization.]

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 07 2024

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 07 2024

by Tony Wikrent

The (anti)Federalist Society assault on the Constitution

The Weekend at Yale That Changed American Politics 

Michael Kruse [Politico, magazine September/October 2018]

It’s not too extreme to say that one wonky student group founded in 1982 has reshaped the Supreme Court, and the nation. What actually happened at the birth of the Federalist Society? ….

...a few conservative students at elite law schools sensed not anxiety but a moment of opportunity. Inspired by Reagan’s ideology and emboldened by his election, they did something ambitious to the point of audacious. They asked a collection of the country’s most notable right-leaning scholars, judges and Department of Justice officials to assemble at one of the very hubs of liberal orthodoxy, the campus of Yale University. Convened principally by Steven Calabresi, who was at Yale Law, and Lee Liberman and David McIntosh, who were at University of Chicago Law, some 200 people arrived in New Haven, Connecticut, on the last weekend of April for a three-day symposium.

It had a dry title—“A Symposium on Federalism: Legal and Political Ramifications”—and it easily could have been just another set of lectures, of interest only to a small lot of participants and attendees, the kind of higher-ed, corkboard-flyer get-togethers that happen all the time with no broader fanfare or larger lasting consequences. But at this one, as speakers castigated what they viewed as coastal elites and a leftist media and legal establishment and argued for a more “originalist” reading of the Constitution, people present felt a new sort of buzz. In the hallways, between the sessions, the vibe was more than just brainy….

Over the years, the Federalists have honed a disciplined, excessively modest narrative of their origins and purpose—that they are simply a facilitator of the exchange of ideas, a high-minded fulcrum of right-of-center thought, a debating society that doesn’t take overtly partisan, political positions. That narrative is not wrong. It’s just not the whole truth. The full story of that initial weekend—based on interviews with people who were there, as well as the seldom-read words of the speeches recorded in a 1982 issue of the conservative Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy—reveals something different. The effort was, from the get-go, aggressively political. There was a feeling of steeling for a fight….

...Bork, for example, who had been a law professor at Yale and had just become a federal judge, spoke of “the onslaught of the New Deal” and “the gentrification of the Constitution.” Abortion and “acceptable sexual behavior,” he said, should be “reserved to the states.” Pointedly, with Roe v. Wade, he said, the Supreme Court had “nationalized an issue which is a classical case for local control. There is simply no national moral consensus about abortion, and there is not about to be.”….

 “Part of Reagan’s policy was to build up forces in battleground nations in order to help topple enemy regimes,” Calabresi told Riehl, “and I thought of us as kind of the same equivalent in law schools.”

At Yale, Calabresi and a couple of conservative law students formed a student group in the fall of 1981. Eating lunch one day, according to a subsequent telling in the journal at Harvard, they batted about possible names. The Ludwig von Mises Society? The Alexander Bickel Society? The Anti-Federalist Society? The Anti-Federalists, after all, were the ones who sought a more decentralized government at the time of the founding of the country. They landed, though, on the Federalist Society, because it invoked the Federalist Papers and the long-running American debate about the appropriate balance of power between the national and state governments….

...They had the beginnings of buy-in. Now they needed arguably an even more important lubricant. Money. Leveraging a recommendation from Scalia, Calabresi contacted the conservative Institute for Educational Affairs to ask. “As Professor Scalia of the University of Chicago Law School mentioned to you last Wednesday on the telephone, we are interested in holding a symposium,” he wrote early that February in a letter archived among Bork’s papers at the Library of Congress. “Professor Scalia said you thought I.E.A. might be quite interested in sponsoring and funding such a symposium.” Calabresi estimated that it would cost “in the neighborhood of $24,000.” It ended up being closer to $25,000. And it worked. IEA wrote a check that covered most of the cost. The rest came from donors, including the John M. Olin Foundation and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute….

In 1987, Bork’s Supreme Court nomination was scuttled by a liberal-led Senate campaign that used Bork’s own words on issues such as Roe v. Wade—issues he had spoken about at the symposium. It angered and motivated members of the Federalist Society, convincing them they needed to redouble their efforts. “It was a galvanizing defeat,” Hollis-Brusky told me, demonstrating to some of them that they had tried to come too far, too fast. It also reinforced the notion that ideological purity wasn’t the only ingredient to transforming the judiciary. Raw politics mattered as well. And nearly two decades later, the Federalists would cement their power by keeping someone off the court. In 2005, they agitated for the withdrawal of George W. Bush’s nominee Harriet Miers, who had no Federalist Society ties (and a conspicuously scant résumé), leading to the nomination of Samuel Alito, who did. The episode affirmed the way in which the society’s influence had grown. Alito joined fellow Federalist Society contributors Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts….