Sunday, August 26, 2018

Week-end Wrap - August 25, 2018

Week-end Wrap - August 25, 2018
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

We can still avert climate disaster with a “wartime footing” of switching to renewable energy, but neoliberal economics stands in the way 
by Kate Aronoff, August 14 2018 [The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 8-19-18]
BY SHIFTING TO a “wartime footing” to drive a rapid shift toward renewable energy and electrification, humanity can still avoid the apocalyptic future laid out in the much-discussed “hothouse earth” paper, a lead author of the paper told The Intercept. One of the biggest barriers to averting catastrophe, he said, has more to do with economics than science.... (The actual title of the paper, a commentary published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, is “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene.”)
....Asked what could be done to prevent a hothouse earth scenario, co-author Will Steffen told The Intercept that the “obvious thing we have to do is to get greenhouse gas emissions down as fast as we can. That means that has to be the primary target of policy and economics. You have got to get away from the so-called neoliberal economics.” Instead, he suggests something “more like wartime footing” to roll out renewable energy and dramatically reimagine sectors like transportation and agriculture “at very fast rates.” 
....Contra much of the apocalyptic coverage around “Trajectories,” runaway climate change of the kind described in Steffen and his co-authors’ paper is very likely preventable. The ways to prevent it just happen to go against the economic logic that has dominated the world economy for the last half-decade, to scale back regulations and give major industries free reign. 
....The paper itself put it in fairly direct terms. “The present dominant socioeconomic system,” the authors wrote, “is based on high-carbon economic growth and exploitative resource use. Attempts to modify this system have met with some success locally but little success globally in reducing greenhouse gas emissions or building more effective stewardship of the biosphere. Incremental linear changes to the present socioeconomic system are not enough to stabilize the Earth system; these include changes in behavior, technology and innovation, governance, and values.”

Exclusive: Some Arctic Ground No Longer Freezing—Even in Winter
[National Geographic via Naked Capitalism 8-23-18]

Germany Has Proven the Modern Automobile Must Die
by Emily Atkin, Augiust 21, 2018 [Wired, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-18]
In 2007, the German government set a goal of reducing Germany's greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by the year 2020. So far, Germany has reduced its emissions by 27.7 percent. That is one of the most significant reductions in the world, but it now appears Germany will not achieve the goal set in 2007 in the next two years. The major obstacle that has emerged is the reliance on automobiles for transportation and mobility.
But as Germany’s shortfall shows, the only way to achieve these necessary, aggressive emissions reductions to combat global warming is to overhaul the gas-powered automobile and the culture that surrounds it. The only question left is how to do it.
.... TO AMERICAN EYES, Germany may look like a public transit paradise. But the country also has a flourishing car culture that began over a hundred years ago and has only grown since then. 
Behind Japan and the United States, Germany is the third-largest automobile manufacturer in the world—home to BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz, and Volkswagen. These brands, and the economic prosperity they’ve brought to the country, shape Germany’s cultural and political identities. “There is no other industry as important,” Arndt Ellinghorst, the chief of Global Automotive Research at Evercore, told CNN. A similar phenomenon exists in the United States, where gas-guzzlers symbolize nearly every cliche point of American pride: affluence, capability for individual expression, and personal freedoms. Freedom, in particular, “is not a selling point to be easily dismissed,” Edward Humes wrote in The Atlantic in 2016.  
....The most effective solution would be to combine these policies. Governments would require drastic improvements in fuel efficiency for gas-powered vehicles, while investing in renewable-powered electric car infrastructure. At the same time, cities would overhaul their public transportation systems, adding more bikes, trains, buses and ride-shares. Fewer people would own cars.
In March 2009, I estimated that in the United States, $3.195 trillion would be needed to build dense rail mass transit systems in the 39 largest U.S. cities, where nearly half of all Americans live. Here is what Chicago's rail transit system might look like if we doubled its current size:

Don't look at it as a cost; look at it as a massive economic opportunity. A nationwide $3.195 trillion project is just construction costs – it does not include the cost of new rolling stock and maintenance rail vehicles. It would create 7.5 million jobs, for ten years. 
[The Oregonian, via Naked Capitalism 8-250-18]
Ten Years After the Crash
by George Packer [The New Yorker, Auguts 27, 2018 issue, via Naked Capitalism 8-20-18]
....Perhaps Obama made too many compromises in the hope of appealing to a bipartisanship that was already dead. But his biggest mistake was to save the bankers along with the banks. After a financial crisis caused in part by fraud, not a single top Wall Street executive was brought to trial. The public wanted to punish the malefactors, but justice was never done. 
In the years after the crash, you could feel the fabric of the country fraying. The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street rose up as opposite expressions of anti-establishment rage, nourished by the sense that colluding √©lites in government and business had got away with a crime. The game was rigged—that became the consensus of the alienated. The left turned its anger on corporations and banks; the right blamed bureaucrats, minority groups, and immigrants. Rising extremism, especially among Republicans, made it impossible for important facts uncovered by the press or asserted by politicians to have an impact.... 
Economically, the country has changed surprisingly little since 2008... The lasting effect of the crisis is in our politics. The Presidency of Donald Trump is an overdetermined fluke, an accident with a thousand causes. Among them is the catastrophic event that gutted millions of lives and ended in no fair resolution, only cynicism.

2018: the year the failure of privatisation and austerity in Britain became undisguisable 
[New Statesman, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-18]

The Greece Bailout’s Legacy of Immiseration 
by James Galbraith [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-18]

Vernon Jordan: ‘It’s not a crime to be close to Wall St’
[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 8-19-18]
Admittedly, guilt by association is not a just or fair doctrine, but the plain fact is that Wall Street is the largest, most insidious, most influential and most powerful force currently looting USA. Wall Street does not provide financing for entrepreneurs, and has not for decades; rather, it funds speculation, usury and the looting of industrial companies. Nothing about Wall Street in its current form is socially useful, and anyone who argues otherwise -- or, as Jordan does here, deliberately overlooks Wall Street's predatory nature -- is part of the problem.

Why do American CEOs get paid so much?
by James Galbraith [Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-18]
The important issue raised by this report is one that it doesn’t discuss. Was it a good idea to align CEO compensation in the country’s largest corporations with the casino of the stock market? This has been the mantra of finance economists since the 1970s – maximize shareholder value! Let the market decide! Let the workers and the consumers and the public fend for themselves! 
The mantra has produced a world of corporate predators, looters and asset strippers, of technology and bank wealth on the coasts and industrial wastelands in between. In our era of quantitative easing and tax cuts to fuel stock buybacks, it has led to government policies aimed at making the stock market boom, while the corporations and their customers pile up the resulting debts. And so we have a country of wealth, dynamism and power, afflicted by decay, displacement, unemployment, foreclosures and blight – a country riven by resentments and anger and capable of believing the nostrums and bluster of Donald J Trump.

by Annie Lowrey, August1, 2018 [The Atlantic]
....half of Amazon’s employees make less than $28,446 a year, per the company’s legal filings.* Some workers have complained of getting timed six-minute bathroom breaks. (Amazon said it does not track or limit employee bathroom use.) Warehouse workers need to pick goods and pack boxes at closely monitored speeds, handling up to 1,000 items and walking as many as 15 miles per shift. Contractors have repeatedly complained of wage-and-hour violations and argued that the company retaliates against whistleblowers. An Amazon temp died on the floor just a few years ago.... 
Moreover, Amazon itself paid no federal corporate income taxes last year, despite making billions of dollars in profits. It has fought tooth-and-nail against state and local taxes, and has successfully cajoled cities into promising it billions and billions and billions in write-offs and investment incentives in exchange for placing jobs there....  
Noncompete agreements are another tool Amazon and other big companies use to suppress the costs of labor and to bolster their bottom lines, to the benefit of major shareholders. Amazon’s contracts have required employees to promise that they will not work for any company that “directly or indirectly” competes with Amazon for 18 months after leaving the firm. Given the breadth of the Amazon’s business, that means taking a job with Bezos might have meant turning down a future job not just at Walmart, but also at postal companies, logistics businesses, warehouses, and retailers. “Amazon appears to be requiring temp workers to forswear a sizable portion of the global economy in exchange for a several-months-long hourly warehouse gig,” The Verge, which reported on the contracts, argued. (Amazon said it does not currently have warehouse employees sign noncompetes.).... 
A recent study by The Economist found that Amazon opening a fulfillment center in a given community actually depresses warehouse wages: In counties without an Amazon center, warehouse workers earn an average of $45,000 a year, versus $41,000 a year in counties with an Amazon center. The data also show that in the two-and-a-half years after Amazon opens a new fulfillment center, local warehouse wages fall by 3 percent.
Pay a living wage’: Bernie Sanders accuses Disney of dodging fair pay
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 8-24-18]. 
“The Walt Disney Company came under heavy fire on Thursday for a decision to walk away from hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks for its southern California theme parks, a move critics are characterizing as an extraordinary last-ditch effort to avoid paying a living wage to thousands of workers… ‘Disney is so nervous that the living wage ballot initiative in Anaheim is going to pass,’ [Sanders] charged, ‘it would rather end some of the corporate welfare it receives from local taxpayers than pay all 30,000 of its workers decent wages.'
by Damon Linker, August 23, 2018 [The Week, via Naked Capitalism 8-24-18]
....the bulk of Republican voters simply do not reside in the same moral and epistemological world as the rest of the country, including its centrist establishment. These Republicans don't believe or trust anything they read in the mainstream media, or anything a Democrat or Republican critic of the president says. And they have no interest in or respect for high-minded statements of principle (about, say, the rule of law) that purport to transcend partisanship. 
What these Republicans care about is prevailing against their opponents, period. Accusing these GOP voters of double standards is beside the point. It's true that if any Democratic president had been accused of even one-tenth of the charges swirling around Trump, Republicans would be calling for blood. But what does it prove to point this out? That Republicans are hypocrites? Sure they are. Proudly. They hate it when their enemies break norms and laws, and they love it when their teammates do the same thing. That's the mindset of someone willing to fight dirty. That's what they think it takes to win. 
Pundits know that Republican voters view the world this way, because they confront evidence for it every single day. Yet they seem incapable of adjusting their analytical frames to take its implications into account.

Beto O'Rourke: The return of good ole' Texas populism?
[, August 21, 2018]
...O’Rourke adds that he was just reading Lawrence Wright’s new book God Save Texas, which explores the cultural and political past, present, and future of Texas. “I just read the passage where it talks about how LBJ was actually responsible for more liberal legislation than JFK,” he said. “Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, all that big-time, like, FDR-style stuff.” 
“Remember how that person in Del Rio asked ‘How socialist are you gonna be?’” O’Rourke says, pulling ahead of a string of cars with Beto stickers, all headed toward Johnson City. “A while back, we were in this small town in West Texas, and someone talked about how Lyndon Johnson and FDR established the Rural Electrification Administration. That’s an idea that really comes from Texas populism-- that we’re gonna figure out how to do stuff that big business doesn’t see a profit in, or that small towns can’t do on their own.”
Two days before, in the tiny town of Iraan, O’Rourke had responded to a question about health care access in small towns by connecting it to the Rural Electrification Act-- it’s one of his favorite talking points. Back in 1936, the federal government provided federal loans to expand electricity to thousands living without it, effectively modernizing rural life across the state. It wasn’t a profitable enterprise-- the cost of extension outweighed the revenue from new customers-- which is precisely why government intervention was needed. “It’s not profitable for rural hospitals to come in here,” O’Rourke said. “But it’s necessary if we’re going to take care of each other. It’s one of the things that government is for.”

Tech Companies Are Gathering For A Secret Meeting To Prepare A 2018 Election Strategy
[Buzzfeed, via Naked Capitalism 8-24-18]. 
“Representatives from a host of the biggest US tech companies, including Facebook and Twitter, have scheduled a private meeting for Friday to share their tactics in preparation for the 2018 midterm elections.” 
Lamber Strether writes that it's
Simple. Start by not accepting revenues from political campaigns. Then kill the algos by converting all timelines to chronological lists of posts only from subscribed accounts. If you want to get more brutal, turn reposts from more than one degree of separation off by default, which would destroy virality. I said simple. I didn’t say profitable. Maybe social media should be a commons and not profitable

“‘Padlock the revolving door’: Warren makes anti-corruption pitch” 
[American Banker, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-18] 
“The legislation includes a ban on individual stock ownership by members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries, senior congressional staff, White House staff, federal judges and senior agency officials. It also includes restrictions on former federal employees joining the lobbying ranks, as well as on lobbyists going to work for the government, among other things. The bill would prohibit the world’s biggest companies, including banks, from hiring former senior government officials for four years after they leave the public sector. It would impose lifetime lobbying bans on presidents, vice presidents, members of Congress, federal judges and Cabinet secretaries. Lobbyists, meanwhile, could not take government jobs for two years; that period is six years for ‘corporate lobbyists.’… ‘Sure, there’s lots of expertise in the private sector, and government should be able to tap that expertise,’ Warren said. ‘And, yes, public servants should be able to use their expertise when they leave government. But we’ve gone way past expertise and are headed directly into graft
. Padlock the revolving door.'”
My immediate reaction is that this is unworkable. I think the only real solution is to revive the ideals of republicanism from the Revolution of 1776, most especially that of public virtue, which is that the common good and the general welfare are to be cherished and followed much, much more than self interest. The problem very few people talk about is that the republicanism of 1776 and 1789 was replaced by capitalism, most especially capitalism's socially corrosive idea that the common welfare is best advanced by everyone pursuing their own selfish interests. 

“A rundown of all the ways Trump is overseeing an all out, under-the-radar attack on workers” 
[Salon, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-18].
“In addition to all that, the Trump administration has proposed $2.6 billion in budget cuts—an enormous 21 percent—to the Department of Labor. Those cuts include a proposed elimination of four department programs and their services, such as training for worker-safety and for migrant farmworkers. The budget also seeks to significantly slash funding for Job Corps, a program that provides job training to disadvantaged youth, by $407 million, or 24 percent. Dimitri Iglitzin, a labor attorney in Seattle, says that “Of all of the ways that the Trump administration has been crushing labor, the most important has been the neutering of the Department of Labor. On a day-to-day basis, the agency that should be fighting for working people is doing so no longer.” 
Lambert Strether comments:
Three takeaways: First, if Obama’s Democrats had passed cardcheck, unions would be in a much stronger position. Second, liberal tropes that Trump is senile, insane, stupid, and so forth, just aren’t helpful, profitable though they may be. Exactly as with the courts, Trump has moved efficiently and with dispatch — in a word, strategically — to service his constituencies, and act in his own class interests, and in the interests of his donor class, despite all the sound and fury. Third, by not focusing on what Trump is actually doing, liberal Democrats cripple future efforts to undo it; hysteria is no match for hysteresis, in other words

As the progressive push for big spending grows, so does the Democratic divide on the deficit
[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 8-20-18] With shout-out to Stephanie Kelton.

“Pollsters: Trump and GOP are losing young, female voters permanently”
[The Hill, Naked Capitalism 8-21-18].
“Pollsters Anna Greenberg and Dan Cox said on Monday that President Trump and Republicans are losing young women to Democrats permanently. ‘When you ask millennial women who are likely voters, about 65, 68 percent would actually vote for a Democrat in the generic congressional race, so that puts them as base Democratic voters,” [said] Greenberg. ‘What we know is that in your coming of age years, from sort of your teens into your early 20s, have a profound, long-term impact on what your partisanship and voting patterns are for the rest of your life,’ she continued. ‘So, not only in this moment are these millennial women heavily, heavily Democratic and heavily hostile to Trump, but it’s likely that they are going to sort of be the vanguard of, I think, the feminization of the Democratic Party,’ she said.” 
Lambert Strether comments:
Several points: This is the liberal Democrat’s favorite “Demographics is destiny” talking point, which is important operationally because it implies that Democrats never need to change; all they need to do is wait. True, that hasn’t worked for fifteen years, but maybe it will work at some time in the future. Second, that’s likely voters. True, Democrats are resolutely opposed to expanding their base, so non-voters don’t matter to them, but I for one would like to know where the non-voters are going and what they’re thinking. Third, despite Greenberg’s pseudo-revolutionary language — “vangaurd,” “feminization,” identified, I would imagine, with “feminist” — Greenberg has nothing to say about policy, let alone ideology. If we’re looking a generation of Hillary Clintons, why would that be a good thing? We really do have to get away from the idea that ascriptive identity is a good thing in itself. If it were, Obama, The First Bank President, would have been the FDR so many Democrats of good faith (including Thomas Frank) thought he would be.
“data demystified #2: Analyzing ‘Don’t Knows’ and ‘Neithers'” 
[data for progressvia Naked Capitalism 8-22-18] ]. 
“Policy alternatives such as public banking, universal basic income, and job guarantees are for the first time gaining widespread interest among advocacy groups and candidates. [These ideas] are unfamiliar to the mass public, and this can complicate attempts to “measure” their attitudes on these subjects…. Survey respondents who do not have a strong opinion on issues that are new to the progressive agenda, or whose interests are “uncrystallized,” face two options when answering survey questions. They may choose to select the middle option (“neither agree nor disagree”) or they may choose to say they “don’t know” how they feel about the issue. Survey respondents who are self-conscious about their knowledge may respond that they “neither agree nor disagree” with an issue rather than admit that they do not know enough about the issue to provide a response. This is often called satisficing…. 
[P]olitical science and psychology literature has shown that some groups of people are more likely to take the middle stance on an issue or declare that they “don’t know.” In studies of political knowledge, for instance, women are shown to have a lower propensity to guess when they are unsure; that is, women are more likely to say that they don’t know, while men are more likely to try and come up with an answer on the spot. Moreover, research has shown that lower levels of political knowledge among ethnic and racial minority groups are more likely the result of different political experiences that provide different kinds of knowledge. Therefore, analysis of public opinion surveys needs to consider how responses may have raced and gendered components.”  

Meet the Militant Taxi Drivers Union That Just Defeated Uber and Lyft 
[In These Times, via Naked Capitalism 8-19-18]

“Massachusetts gives workers new protections against noncompete clauses” 
[Ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-18]. 
“In a Thursday phone interview, [state Rep. Lori Ehrlich] told Ars that her work was motivated by hearing from hundreds of Massachusetts workers who had suffered from the abuse of noncompete laws. ‘We heard from people working at pizza parlors, yogurt shops, hairdressers, and people making sandwiches,’ Ehrlich said. ‘Those stories were incredibly compelling and really drove the narrative for change.'” • “Drove the narrative for change.” Ugh. More: “The legislation bans the enforcement of noncompete agreements against minors, student interns, and workers who are laid off. The law also bans the enforcement of noncompete agreements against what’s known as non-exempt workers—hourly, generally low-wage workers who are eligible for overtime pay.”

The top five trucking markets represent 18% of all U.S. domestic volume
[Freight Waves, via Naked Capitalism 8-20-18].
“Top five trucking freight markets currently represent 18% of the entire load volume of U.S. domestic freight. This according to a new SONAR market-share index released on Friday. The entire U.S. domestic freight volume is divided up among 135 total markets. The top five markets currently are: Atlanta: 4.48%; Ontario, CA (just outside of Los Angeles): 4.12%; Joliet, IL (just outside of Chicago): 3.46%; Harrisburg, PA: 3.10%; Dallas, TX: 2.83%.”

Tackling employment in the informal economy: A critical evaluation of the neoliberal policy approach
by Colin Williams,  The University of Sheffield
[Economic and Industrial Democracy, 2017, Vol. 38(1) 145  –169, via Weekly Digest 8-23-18]
This article evaluates critically the neoliberal perspective that employment in the informal economy is a product of high taxes, public sector corruption and state interference in the free market and that reducing taxes, corruption and the regulatory burden via minimal state intervention is the remedy. Analysing the varying size of the informal economy across 36 developing and transition countries, little or no association is found with higher tax rates, greater levels of corruption and state interference. Instead, employment in the informal economy appears to reduce with higher levels of regulation and state intervention. 

Wind accounted for 6.3% of US generation in 2017, report says
August 24, 2018 [North American Windpower online (8/23), Public Radio Tulsa (Okla.)/The Associated Press (8/23) , via American Wind Energy Association]
The US wind industry added 7,017 megawatts of new installed wind capacity in 2017, bringing the nation's total to nearly 89 gigawatts and enough to account for 6.3% of all US electrical generation, says the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The US has 25,464 MW of offshore wind capacity under various stages of development in 13 states, it says.
Report: Texas continues to lead US for wind generation
August 24, 2018 [Houston Chronicle (tiered subscription model) (8/23) , via American Wind Energy Association]
Texas added more new installed wind capacity than any other state in 2017, and with a total of almost 22,600 megawatts, continues to lead the nation in terms of wind generation, according to the Energy Department. The report said wind accounted for 14.8% of Texas' generating capacity last year.
Expert sees cities, states moving away from fossil fuels
August 23, 2018 [The Seattle Times (tiered subscription model) (8/22) , via American Wind Energy Association]
Cities and states are shifting away from fossil fuels and political affiliations have nothing to do with it, says Gonzaga University professor Brian Henning. Wind and solar enjoy strong support from conservatives who "like the idea that we can generate our own energy, and be self-reliant," he adds, having recently helped Spokane, Wash., craft a 100% clean energy by 2030 goal.
US Army prepares soldiers for high-paying jobs in wind
August 23, 2018 [TriplePundit (8/23) , via American Wind Energy Association]
The US Army operates clean-energy training programs at several US bases and recently rolled out another at Fort Benning in Georgia to train departing soldiers for careers in wind energy. "We started out transitioning civilians to soldiers; now we want to transition these experienced soldiers to be civilians again with good paying jobs," says Deputy Garrison Commander George Steuber.
New report: Wind continues growing while costs continue falling
August 23, 2018 [Into the Wind blog (8/23) , via American Wind Energy Association]
Right on the heels of the second-annual American Wind Week, the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) released its latest Wind Technologies Market Report today. The report confirms a bright future for American wind power, thanks to continuing cost declines resulting from improvements in the cost and performance of wind power technologies; increased demand from corporate wind energy purchases; and state-level renewable energy policies.
Lessons from the most widely installed wind turbine platform in the world
August 22, 2018 [American Wind Energy Association]
With over 40 GW installed globally, the 2 MW platform has been thoroughly tested and understood, for nearly 20 years. Each evolution of the platform builds on lessons learned from over 18,000 installed turbines. To date, five platform upgrades have increased AEP by up to 40%. Staying true to one common nacelle, while adding flexibility in tower and rotor dimensions has yielded a flexible and reliable platform. Watch a video to learn more.

“Smallest transistor switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte”
[Science Daily, via Naked Capitalism 8-20-18]

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