Sunday, June 9, 2019

Week-end Wrap - Political Economy - June 8, 2019

Week-end Wrap - Political Economy - June 8, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

You read it here first

The Green New Deal has forced into public discourse the fact that solving the crisis of climate change is going to require trillions of dollars of new investment. A recent example: 

Ocasio-Cortez: $10 trillion needed for effective climate plan
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 6-6-19]
Freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that any plan to sufficiently address the climate crisis will need to cost at least $10 trillion. 
“I think we really need to get to $10 trillion to have a shot,” the progressive firebrand said in response to a question from The Hill in the Capitol. 
“I know it’s a ton," she added. "I don’t think anyone wants to spend that amount of money, it’s not a fun number to say, I’m not excited to say we need to spend $10 trillion on climate, but ... it’s just the fact of the scenario.”

If you had been reading this blog, Real Economics, in December 2014:
Dear Dems: Give me $100 trillion and I'll save your sorry ass
"$100 trillion to build a new economy" will be another test, but one that we need to impose over the coming two years. It can completely transform what issues are defined, and how, for the 2016 election. We need to get general public awareness of the need for "$100 trillion to build a new economy" - and how doable it actually is. Once we do that, it will be a relatively simple matter to determine if someone is serious about solving the problems we face. The next time we meet someone who is a leader in the Democratic Party, mention the fact that we need "$100 trillion to build a new economy" and watch carefully how they react. If they are hopeless neo-liberal water carriers for our would-be corporatist overlords, they will recoil in horror, or try to argue that such a huge amount is simply preposterous. Anyone who is stuck talking about programs of a few billion, or even a few hundred billion dollars, is simply completely uninformed about the problems we face - or just not willing to face reality - because reality is that we can no longer afford to let Wall Street play funny money games. We must figure out how to impose new laws and regulations that force banking and finance to serve the general welfare, not just private gain.
And about Trump and USA politics: if you had been reading this blog, Real Economics, in June 2014:
The best of times. The worst of times.
....what is needed to survive, we have already at hand. We have the science, and we have the technology. What we do not have is the political will to create crash programs to apply that science and technology, because that would require crushing our present rulers and leaders. Indeed, one half the formal political system in the USA has devoted itself to opposing science. And much of the other half has devoted itself to opposing technology. 
But what we lack most of all, is VISION. We do not have a coherent, plausible, positive vision. And without vision, the people will perish - another hard-learned lesson of human history the world's major religions warn us about. 
The 2008 Obama campaign showed us how powerful a vision of hope can be, no matter how much of a charade it might be. What do you think would be the electoral results if Democratic candidates starting telling people we are actually on the verge of a massive new economic boom? Because there is $100 trillion of work we need to do to solve the problem of climate change. This new boom will last for decades, just like the boom unleashed after World War 2 by meeting pent-up consumer demand and rebuilding Europe and Japan. I believe, in a few years or decades, the harshest and most important historical judgement of President Obama will be that he took office at a point where he could have led the nation and the world into a new golden age of capitalism, but instead chose to defend the status quo, and as a result the populist upsurge against the status quo veered right instead of left. (Bolding not in original 2014 posting.)

Strategic Political Economy

Corn That Won't Get Planted This Year Could Shatter All U.S. Records
Michael Hirtzer , Isis Almeida , and Dominic Carey, May 30, 2019 [Bloomberg]
Rabobank is predicting an unprecedented number of unplanted acres of corn, the most widely grown American crop. A Bloomberg survey of 10 traders and analysts indicates growers could file insurance claims for about 6 million corn acres they haven’t been able to sow, almost double the record in 2013.

Intense Rainfall Is As Damaging to Crops As Heatwaves and Drought, and Climate Change Is Making It Worse
[Yale Environment360, via Naked Capitalism 6-5-19]

Restoring balance to the economy

Warren’s Astonishing Plan for Economic Patriotism
The Massachusetts senator presents by far the most serious proposal to bolster American industry.
Robert Kuttner, June 4, 2019 [American Prospect, via Naked Capitalism 6-5-19]
Warren’s proposal does nothing less than turn inside out the globalist assumptions pursued by the past several administrations, Democrat and Republican alike. Where they have pursued more globalization of commerce as an end in itself (and as a profit center for U.S.-based multinational corporations and banks), Warren’s goal is to bring production and good jobs home. 
Even better, she knits it all together with a coherent plan, beginning with a new Department of Economic Development “with the sole responsibility to create and defend quality, sustainable American jobs.” 
The new Department will replace the Commerce Department, subsume other agencies like the Small Business Administration and the Patent and Trademark Office, and include research and development programs, worker training programs, and export and trade authorities like the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The new Department will have a single goal: creating and defending good American jobs.

Globalization didn’t just happen, Warren points out.
"America chose to pursue a trade policy that prioritized the interests of capital over the interests of American workers. Germany, for example, chose a different path and participated in international trade while at the same time robustly—and successfully—supporting its domestic industries and its workers."
By contrast:
Biden girds for clash with Trump over China
Politico, via Naked Capitalism 6-6-19]
Donald Trump’s campaign is itching to take on Joe Biden over his pro-free trade past and his comments downplaying the China threat — an issue Republicans see as especially potent in critical Rust Belt states where Trump is struggling and the former vice president has strength.... [Biden:] “Our workers are literally three times as productive as workers … in Asia. So what are we worried about?”
A Cross-Atlantic Plan to Break Capital’s Control 
[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 6-7-19]
Bernie Sanders’s support for worker ownership funds, announced last week, is the latest ambitious commitment to the new politics of democratic ownership. If implemented, this would be a vital institutional turn towards, in Sanders’s words, “an economy where workers feel that they’re not just a cog in the machine — one where they have power over their jobs and can make decisions.” 
Though the details of Sanders’s plans are still under discussion, the implications are clear. The plan would require businesses to contribute a percentage of stocks to a fund controlled by employees. In turn, the fund would pay a regular dividend to workers while making them a powerful voting bloc in corporate decision-making. 
By rewiring income and control rights at the company level, gradually dislodging ownership by capitalists (typically with control exercised through extractive financial intermediaries that act as their agents) and empowering labor, the funds would help reshape how the economy operates and for whom.
‘It’s a miracle’: Helsinki’s radical solution to homelessness
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-19]
When the policy was being devised just over a decade ago, the four people who came up with what is now widely known as the Housing First principle – a social scientist, a doctor, a politician and a bishop – called their report Nimi Ovessa (Your Name on the Door). “It was clear to everyone the old system wasn’t working; we needed radical change,” says Juha Kaakinen, the working group’s secretary and first programme leader,.... 
“We decided to make the housing unconditional,” says Kaakinen. “To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.” With state, municipal and NGO backing, flats were bought, new blocks built and old shelters converted into permanent, comfortable homes.... 
Housing First’s early goal was to create 2,500 new homes. It has created 3,500. Since its launch in 2008, the number of long-term homeless people in Finland has fallen by more than 35%. Rough sleeping has been all but eradicated in Helsinki, where only one 50-bed night shelter remains, and where winter temperatures can plunge to -20C.... 
Hardly any of the tenants come straight from the street, Haapa says, and those who do can take time to adjust to living indoors. But after a three-month trial, tenants’ contracts are permanent – they can’t be moved unless they break the rules (Rukkila does not allow drug or alcohol use; some other Housing First units do) or fail to pay the rent.
Some stay seven years or more; others leave after one or two. In 2018, six tenants moved out to lead fully independent lives, Haapa says. One is now a cleaner, living in her own flat; another studied for a cookery qualification during his five years at Rukkila and now works as a chef. 
Housing First costs money, of course: Finland has spent €250m creating new homes and hiring 300 extra support workers. But a recent study showed the savings in emergency healthcare, social services and the justice system totalled as much as €15,000 a year for every homeless person in properly supported housing.
Contrast the success of Helsinki in ending homelessness with this:

“Getting poorer while working harder: The ‘cliff effect'” 
[Boston Business Journal, via Naked Capitalism 6-7-19]
“Because so many American jobs don’t earn enough to pay for food, housing and other basic needs, many low-wage workers rely on public benefits that are only available to people in need, such as housing vouchers and Medicaid, to pay their bills. Earning a little more money may not automatically increase their standard of living if it boosts their income to the point where they lose access to some or all of those benefits. That’s because the value of those lost benefits may outweigh their income gains. I have researched this dynamic, which experts often call the “cliff effect,” for years to learn why workers weren’t succeeding at retaining their jobs following job training programs. Chief among the one step forward, two steps back problems the cliff effect causes: Low-paid workers can become reluctant to earn more money due to a fear that they will get worse off instead of better.”
Lambert Strether notes: "That’s not a bug, either. Complex eligibility requirements are much beloved by liberal Democrats."

Predatory Finance

The Dummy Company at the Heart of Deutsche Bank Money Laundering Probe
[International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, via Naked Capitalism 6-5-19]
Leaked records involving a company at the center of a Deutsche Bank money laundering probe expose a global cadre of money makers. The records concerning former Deutsche Bank subsidiary Regula Ltd. shine a light, too, on how one of the world’s largest banks helped shield the identities and machinations of the world’s rich and powerful. 
German police and tax inspectors have raided the homes and offices of German citizens, bankers, accountants and tax advisers as part of a criminal investigation. Authorities allege that Regula helped more than 900 wealthy Germans evade taxes and hide money from government coffers.“Healthcare CEOs again lead the way in pay” 
The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich 
[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism 6-7-19]

Health Care Crisis

[Journal of American Medical Association, via Naked Capitalism 6-7-19]
I think coming from the AMA, this is highly significant.
“Halfway measures are politically attractive but economically unworkable. The $11 559 per capita that the United States spends on health care could provide high-quality care for all or it can continue to fund a vast health-managerial apparatus—it cannot do both.” Makes one class aspect crystal clear. 
Physicians are understandably cautious about prescribing a radical cure for minor ills. However, current health policies have substantial shortcomings for many individuals, minor changes appear certain to fail, and the single-payer remedy may be less disruptive than often portrayed. 
Few argue with the need for reform. The United States has fallen behind other nations in measures of life expectancy and access to care. Drug prices in the United States, already twice those in Europe, continue to increase, compromising patient adherence to vital medications, such as insulin. Twenty-nine million US residents remain uninsured, and co-payments and deductibles force many individuals with insurance to choose between skipping care and incurring overwhelming debts.

Many physicians feel frustrated by mandates and restrictions of insurers and by electronic health records (EHRs) with designs driven by the logic of billing. New payment modalities, euphemistically labeled “value-based,” favor large systems at the expense of small practices and community-controlled hospitals and impose new layers of quality reporting and fiscal managers. However, these payment modalities appear to have done little to improve care or moderate costs, and physicians continue to bear responsibility for patients even as their authority in many health care settings erodes.
[Modern Healthcare, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-19] 
“The highest pay packages go to CEOs at healthcare companies. For the third time in four years, chief executives in the healthcare field led the S&P 500 in terms of total compensation…. [M]edian compensation of $16.1 million, up from $14.7 million a year earlier.”

Economics in the real world

St. Louis Fed Study Shows Rising Level of Financial Desperation Among the Poor, Hidden by Aggregates
Yves Smith [Naked Capitalism 6-3-19] important St. Louis Fed study, The Unequal Recovery: Measuring Financial Distress by ZIP Code by Ryan Mather and Juan M. Sánchez... sheds light on a topic that that readers regularly debate: why are there so many signs of distress in a supposedly robust economy? 
Some of the disconnect is due to rentier choke points, like rising housing costs, particularly in big cities, leading to more and more “affordable” housing being converted by gentrification or other means into upscale abodes, and ever-escalating medical costs, which creates medical bankruptcies, worry about seeking care, and too many people not getting treatments early. Another factor is misleading headline unemployment reports. Even though the press regularly brays about the strength of the job market, the high level of involuntary unemployment belies that. 
The St. Louis Fed teases out another way in which rosy aggregate data masks shaky foundations. Since 2015, the lowest income households have become more vulnerable to shocks, taking on more debt as wealth (to the extent they have it) is even more concentrated in housing. The level of distress in lower-income households has also increase, defying the official story of increasing prosperity.
Michael Hiltzik [Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-19]

“The vast majority of the dollars flowing to the agriculture industry via the bailouts is likely to go to farms with annual revenues of several million dollars. Most of them are major beneficiaries of federal crop support programs that steer billions in subsidies and low-priced crop insurance — including insurance that already covers some of their losses in the trade war.”

“Here’s how many stores need to close across the US before the retail apocalypse ends, according to analysts” 
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 6-7-19] 
“Auto parts: 60; clothing: 20,700; consumer electronics: 9,800; grocery: 7,310; home furnishings: 8,400; home improvement: 620; office supplies: 1,930; sporting goods: 5,900."
“Too much money (and too few places to invest it)” 
[Axios, via Naked Capitalism 6-7-19] 
 “A truly bizarre trend is having an impact on the economy — wealthy people and corporations have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it.” And: 
How we got here:
  • The Fed’s quantitative easing program pushed the cost of borrowing money to next to nothing for nearly a decade, allowing companies to splurge on debt for mergers and acquisitions and to boost revenue.
  • At the same time, globalization allowed them to reduce labor costs, meaning that gains effectively were returned as profit and used by public companies to boost stock prices.

Climate and environmental crises

Texas struggles to keep pace as thirst for water intensifies
[Fort Worth Star-Telegram, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-19]

India heatwave temperatures pass 50 Celsius 
[, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-19]

The Economic Cost Of Devastating Hurricanes And Other Extreme Weather Events Is Even Worse Than We Thought
[International Business Times, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-19]

Many of the world’s biggest companies, from Silicon Valley tech firms to large European banks, are bracing for the prospect that climate change could substantially affect their bottom lines within the next five years, according to a new analysis of corporate disclosures
Under pressure from shareholders and regulators, companies are increasingly disclosing the specific financial impacts they could face as the planet warms, such as extreme weather that could disrupt their supply chains or stricter climate regulations that could hurt the value of coal, oil and gas investments. Early estimates suggest that trillions of dollars may ultimately be at stake.... 
In 2018, more than 7,000 companies submitted such reports to CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project. And, for the first time, CDP explicitly asked firms to try to calculate how a warming planet might affect them financially. 
After analyzing submissions from 215 of the world’s 500 biggest corporations, CDP found that these companies potentially faced roughly $1 trillion in costs related to climate change in the decades ahead unless they took proactive steps to prepare. By the companies’ own estimates, a majority of those financial risks could start to materialize in the next five years or so.
Wind ban re-emerges in N.C. with modifications
[WRAL-TV Raleigh NC, via American Wind Energy Association 6-6-19]
Lawmakers in North Carolina have reintroduced a bill that would ban wind development near military sites, but this time for a period of three years. The state Senate Finance Committee approved the measure on Wednesday.

Information Age Dystopia

Concentration: “The Days of Getting a Cheaper Cable Bill by Threatening to Leave May Be Over” [Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 6-5-19] 
“‘It used to be when customers would call and said, ‘I’m thinking of cutting the cord,’ they’d throw all sort of promotions to keep them from leaving,’ said Craig Moffett, an industry analyst at MoffettNathanson LLC. ‘Now they’re saying, ‘Goodbye, it’s been fun, enjoy the broadband subscription.’ … cable executives are now focused on what they call “profitable” or “high-quality” video subscribers and less interested in cutting deals. At another investor conference in May, Comcast Chief Financial Officer Mike Cavanagh said he wants a subscriber who ‘really values video and our bundle despite the increases in prices,’ and has ‘the wallet for a fuller video experience.'”
YouTube demonetizes documentary filmmaker exposing alt-right racists because his documentaries include footage of alt-right racist symbols and slogans
[via Naked Capitalism 6-6-19]

Journalist and Educator Among Those Caught Up in YouTube’s Latest Attempt to Purge Online Hate Speech 
[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 6-7-19]
The Coalition Out to Kill Tech as We Know It
How politicians and scholars turned against big tech
[Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 6-6-19]
At a broad ideological level, two things have happened. First, the idea of cyberspace, a transnational, individualistic, largely unregulated, and free place that was not exactly located in any governmental domain, has completely collapsed. Second, the mythology of tech as the carrier of progress has imploded, just as it did for the robber barons of the late 19th century, ushering in the trust-busting era. While Big Tech companies try to establish a new reason for their privileged treatment and existence (hint: screaming “CHINA!”), they are vulnerable to attacks on their business practices that suddenly make sense.... 
Alongside the conservative-outrage machine, the biggest body blows that the tech industry has taken have come from disillusioned liberals who worked for those companies. While their specific critiques vary, most of them feel that the platforms aided and abetted the election of President Trump—that is to say, roughly the opposite of the conservative critique above. Many have come to expand their criticisms to the basic mechanisms of the technology industry, from the former Googler Tristan Harris, who works on “Time Well Spent,” to the Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who has called for the government to break up the company.
I remember about two years ago that there was an article about how shocked and dismayed Silicon Valley elites were that lots and lots of people did not love them, but actually loathed them and their companies. I have since tried to find that article. It resonated deeply with me because years ago I lost all tolerance for software installations and updates that never seem to actually achieve rock solid system stability, but which usually seem to involve just re-designing and moving around menu items. I especially hate Microsoft updates because they seem to be carefully designed to interrupt and suspend my PC work at the most inconvenient times. 

Schools Are Deploying Massive Digital Surveillance Systems. The Results Are Alarming 
[Education Week, via Naked Capitalism 6-7-19]

Amazon Unveils New Design For Its Delivery Drone
Bill Carey [Aviation Daily, via Aviation Week and Space Technology 6-6-19]
Online shopping giant Amazon on June 5 revealed its latest design for a delivery drone, rolling out a shrouded, multi-rotor aircraft capable of vertical and wing-borne flight.

Democratic Party leadership insists on suicide

There is hard data that shows that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate
Keith A. Spencer, June 2, 2019 [Salon, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-19]
“nominating centrist Democrats who don’t speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — e.g. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism’s ills, rather than capitalists — will win back those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a ‘bifurcated’ voting situation, e.g. many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing inbetween. Piketty’s paper is an inconvenient truth for the Democratic Party. The party’s leaders see themselves as the left wing of capital — supporting social policies that liberal rich people can get behind, never daring to enact economic reforms that might step on rich donors’ toes. Hence, the establishment seems intent on anointing the centrist Democrats of capital, who push liberal social policies and neoliberal economic policies.”
Here is the original Piketty paper, “Brahmin Left vs Merchant Right: Rising Inequality & the Changing Structure of Political Conflict (Evidence from France, Britain and the US, 1948-2017” (PDF), linked to at NC on April 4, 2018.
Why Is the DNC Stifling Climate Change Debate in 2020?
[GQ 6-7-19]
Perez's explanation doesn't make a ton of sense. He fails, for example, to articulate why focusing on an "existential threat" and discussing "all the issues" are mutually exclusive, especially given that the DNC has scheduled a dozen debates over the next ten months. Devoting one of these several presidential debates to the issue could effectively communicate the gravity of the situation.
Insurgent Democrats, Many of Them Women, Worry a New Party Policy Will Block Them
[New York Times 6-2-19]
A move by House Democratic leaders to thwart party members from mounting primary challenges to incumbents, even in safe Democratic districts, could have the unintended consequence of arresting the party’s shift toward a more female and racially diverse caucus, one of its most striking achievements of the last election....

But most insurgent Democrats set their sights on incumbents in safe Democratic seats, making the case that they are fresh faces who represent change. The new policy will most likely block candidates seeking to follow in the footsteps of Ms. Pressley, who is black, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who is of Puerto Rican descent, both of whom defeated veteran white male Democrats last year, Michael Capuano and Joseph Crowley. 
Of the 50 longest-serving House Democrats, two-thirds are white and about the same share are men. Insurgents are often female, often young and often nonwhite, all groups that are part of the Democrats’ base strategy....
“I’ve worked in Democratic politics for 30 years, and as long as I have been around, I have never seen the D.C.C.C. engage in a primary as an institution on behalf of an incumbent,” said Ms. Pritchard, whose views are shared by a growing group of Democrats in and outside Congress.
“Biden Campaign Admits Plagiarizing Part of Climate Plan From Fossil Fuel Groups” 
[Truthout, via Naked Capitalism 6-7-19]  
“Josh Nelson, vice president of the progressive organization CREDO Mobile, was the first to highlight possible instances of plagiarism in Biden’s plan, noting on Twitter that the section ‘about carbon capture and sequestration includes language that is remarkably similar to items published previously by the Blue Green Alliance and the Carbon Capture Coalition’ — two organizations backed by major fossil fuel companies and labor unions. ‘Membership of the Carbon Capture Coalition, where some of Biden’s language seems to have originated, includes Shell, Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, and Cloud Peak Energy,’ wrote Nelson, who tweeted side-by-side screenshots of language from the Carbon Capture Coalition and Biden’s plan.”
“Young voters have Buttigieg and Beto. So why do they prefer old socialists?”
Elizabeth Bruenig [Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 6-7-19] 
 “Older politicians have more opportunities to build track records, and those might be more important to the young than to voters of other ideologies and age brackets. Why? Strong left-leaning track records — shared by Sanders as well as Gravel — offer two major benefits. First, they bespeak a certain authenticity. When Sanders showed it was possible to rake in young votes with staunchly left policies, plenty of center-oriented Democrats began to show interest in things such as Medicare-for-all. Roast young lefties for naivete if you must, but they seem to realize that a fight such as universal health care is going to require somebody truly invested in the idea, who’s willing to take enormous flak over it and suffer a few defeats without giving up. In short, endurance counts. Johnnies-come-lately inspire much less confidence on that front…. But aside from authentic commitment, candidates with long track records suggest they have developed a personal politics with a deeper historical scope — they don’t think the problems in American life began when Trump was elected. Nor do they believe that, before that moment, America was already great. If your belief is that what’s rotten in American politics stems from capitalism itself, then those sudden explanations of what went wrong don’t make sense. The explanations that ring true go back decades….” 
If Democrats Pull Their Punches, Donald Trump Will Knock Them Out
[Nation, via Naked Capitalism 6-6-19]

Blue Dogs call on Democratic leaders to abide by pay-go rule 
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 6-6-19]

Disrupting mainstream politics

[Pew Research Center, via Naked Capitalism 6-3-19] 
“Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers all set records for turnout in a midterm election in 2018. Turnout rates increased the most for the Millennial generation, roughly doubling between 2014 and 2018 – from 22% to 42%. Among Generation Z, 30% of those eligible to vote (those ages 18 to 21 in this analysis) turned out in the first midterm election of their adult lives. And for the first time in a midterm election, more than half of Gen Xers reported turning out to vote. While turnout tends to increase with age, every age group also voted at higher rates than in 2014, and the increase was more pronounced among younger adults.”
How Democrats Should Respond to the GOP’s Red-Baiting
Remind them that many of the most popular US programs were once called “socialist.”
By Peter Dreier May 28, 2019 [The Nation]
In May, Vice President Mike Pence claimed that even Joe Biden is “advocating a socialist agenda” along with other Democratic candidates vying to challenge Trump. The socialists “want to take your pickup truck. They want to rebuild your home. They want to take away your hamburgers,” warned former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka at the March CPAC conference. “This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.” House Republicans have even formed an “Anti-Socialism Caucus,” chaired by Representative Chris Steward of Utah, to “defend individual liberty and free markets and highlight the dark history of socialism.” 
The right-wing-media echo chamber has adopted the same tactic, painting all Democrats with the same red brush. “It’s time to rise up and defeat the socialist left,” radio reactionary Rush Limbaugh told his listeners in February, warning that “liberalism is what led to Nazism, that liberalism is what led to the Soviet Union, that liberalism is what led to Cuba.” After Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced in February that she was redistributing her office budget in order to raise the salaries of her lowest-level staffers to $52,000, Fox News host Pete Hegseth described her action as “communism and socialism.”
....In March 2009, two months after Obama took office, National Review put his picture on its cover over the headline, “Our Socialist Future.” In 2010, Stanley Kurtz, a regular contributor to conservative publications and frequent guest on Fox News, published Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism; Newt Gingrich authored To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular-Socialist Machine; and Aaron Klein hit the bookstores with The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists. During the 2012 election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney attacked Obama for trying to make America “far more like Europe, with a larger, more dominant, more intrusive government”—all code words for socialism. Romney pledged to “stuff it down [Obama’s] throat and point out it is capitalism and freedom that makes America strong.”
....the Pew Research Center poll found that 49 percent of Americans under 30 looked favorably on socialism, two percentage points higher than the share of Americans under 30 who felt that way about capitalism. 
Luntz offered tips for fighting back and framing the issues that the Occupiers had raised. For example, he urged Republican politicians to avoid using the word “capitalism.” “I’m trying to get that word removed and we’re replacing it with either ‘economic freedom’ or ‘free market,’” Luntz said. “The public still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we’re seen as defenders of Wall Street, we’ve got a problem.”
FDR’s top economic adviser, Rexford Tugwell, wrote in his diary: “I do not think it is too much to say that…we were confronted with a choice between an orderly revolution—a peaceful and rapid departure from the past concepts—and a violent and disorderly overthrow of the whole capitalist structure.”

In May, Gallup found that almost three-quarters (74 percent) of Democrats, almost half (49 percent) of independents, and only 19 percent of Republicans would vote for a “qualified presidential candidate who is a socialist.”

It makes little sense for Pelosi and other party leaders to get defensive when Trump pins a socialist tail on the Democratic donkeys. It would be better to simply explain their vision and practical solutions for America, point out that popular ideas like land-grant colleges, Social Security, public libraries, child-labor laws, the Voting Rights Act, the minimum wage, the Clean Air Act, and Medicare were once called “socialist,” and remind voters that Trump inherited a real-estate empire built on government-backed middle-class housing, squandered his fortune through bankruptcies and mismanagement, used the White House to advance his family business, and cheated on his taxes and his wives. 
Or they could take a page from FDR. In a speech defending his New Deal goals, Roosevelt said: “A few timid people, who fear progress, will try to give you new and strange names for what we are doing. Sometimes they will call it ‘Fascism’, sometimes ‘Communism’, sometimes ‘Regimentation’, sometimes ‘Socialism’. But, in so doing, they are trying to make very complex and theoretical something that is really very simple and very practical.” 
When big-business leaders and conservatives attacked him as a radical, FDR boasted: “They are unanimous in their hate for me. And I welcome their hatred.”
Donald Trump Is The Most Honest US President Of All Time
[Caitlin Johnstone, via Naked Capitalism 6-6-19]
The headline may put you off, but this is actually a very hard hitting critique of the entire USA political process. And a deeply cutting swipe at the British royals as well. 
...No, when I say that Trump is the most honest US president of all time, what I mean is that he has a unique gift for exposing the face of the empire for exactly what it is, in all its depravity, all its deceitfulness, all its corruption, and in this case, all its jaw-dropping ridiculousness. I mean, look at this photo:
Really look at it. Have you ever seen anything so ridiculous? Who the fuck dressed him? And what’s going on with that freak in the red dress? And why are these rich assholes all walking in formation? Is it some kind of weird parade for people who’ve never bought their own groceries?
....Trump’s entire presidency has been like this. Blatant, tactless, and completely unmasked. Journalist gets literally butchered in an embassy by the Saudi government? Yeah well we don’t want to do anything about that because they’ve got an arms deal with us worth billions of dollars. He just comes right out and says it. When they want to stage a coup in Venezuela, they don’t limit it to CIA covert ops and behind-the-scenes manipulations; the whole administration is on Twitter saying they’re going to keep starving everyone with sanctions until the nation’s president is replaced with the guy they prefer. It’s all right there, right in your face.... 
His whole cabinet is basically human versions of the departments they represent. His Secretary Treasurer was a Goldman Sachs executive. His CIA Director literally tortured people. His National Security Advisor is an Iraq-raping Bush-era neocon. His Secretary of Commerce is a former Rothschild executive. His EPA Administrator is a former coal lobbyist. His Secretary of State came straight out of the CIA. It’s like he designed a convenient labeling system for everyone who’s unsure of what it is that each department in the executive branch of the US government actually does....
...It’s entirely possible that Trump will be ousted in 2020 by Joe Biden or by one of Joe Biden’s 397 ideological clones who are also in the race, and that will make a lot of people very happy. It will make them happy because they won’t have to look at the ugly face of Orwellian dystopia anymore, because an infinitely smoother and more charismatic leader will go back to hiding it for them. And then things will at long last go back to normal, the way they always were: no partisan divisiveness, no corrupt politicians, no racism in America, and brunch all day, every day. 
The most aggressive anti-Trumpists have no interest in real change, they just want things to go back to the way they were before Trump, which is actually just wanting to go back to the conditions which gave rise to Trump. They’re not interested in waking up, they’re interested in smoothing an uncomfortable wrinkle in their bedsheets so that they can go back to sleep.
Michael Wolff’s ‘Siege’ Is Like His Last Book — But Worse
Matt Taiibi [Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 6-5-19]
The book’s second chapter, “The Do-Over,” is an unabashed slurpy-slobbery portrait of Bannon, described as “a fixer, power broker, and kingmaker without portfolio” (read: a job?). A scene describing a Bannon encounter with fellow gasbag ex-Svengali Larry Summers is a depressing enough metaphor about America’s two reigning political ideologies that you’ll feel like eating a grenade.


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