Sunday, August 25, 2019

Week-end Wrap - Political Economy - August 24, 2019

Week-end Wrap - Political Economy - August 24, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Strategic Political Economy

Give No Heed to the Walking Dead
[The Scholar’s Stage, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19]
The People's Republic of China is wealthier than any rival America has faced. Its leaders are convinced of the malignance of the United States. Their ambitions are global, their ideology hostile, and their military forces optimized to "fight and win wars" with America and the democratic nations that surround it. The challenge is daunting—and it exists because of us. The Sino-American relationship of 2019 is the acrid fruit of "engagement." 
Engagement is dead. Yet like dead growth lumped to living branch, the men and women who crafted the disaster linger with us. In twitter whispers and podcast chatterings their murmurs grow. Engagement did not fail, we hear. It never was about remaking China in the first place. We never thought the Chinese would come to share our systems, values, or priorities. Engagement was about something else entirely.... 
Here is Bill Clinton, explaining to the American voters why the People's Republic deserves a seat at the W.T.O.:
By joining the W.T.O., China is not simply agreeing to import more of our products. It is agreeing to import one of democracy's most cherished values, economic freedom. The more China liberalizes its economy, the more fully it will liberate the potential of its people -- their initiative, their imagination, their remarkable spirit of enterprise. And when individuals have the power, not just to dream, but to realize their dreams, they will demand a greater say....

The broader problem with the Haas formula ("shape what China does") is that China's political behavior cannot be divorced from the economic and political structures that produce it. As China's newest white paper eagerly reminds us, demanding the PRC reform its SOEs is demanding that it transform the fundamentals of its government, of which those SOEs are a critical part. Asking them to dismantle mercantilist policies and halt IP theft is asking them to abandon the economic model (what Xi would call "the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics") that their social system (in the Marxist tinged theory of the CPC, China's social "superstructure") is built upon. Dialing down the ambitions and capabilities of the PLA would have meant dismantling a keystone of Party ideology, identity, and organization.
The Population Bust: Demographic Decline and the End of Capitalism as We Know It
Foreign Affairs, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19] Not paywalled.
Just as much of the world has come to see rapid population growth as normal and expected, the trends are shifting again, this time into reverse. Most parts of the world are witnessing sharp and sudden contractions in either birthrates or absolute population. The only thing preventing the population in many countries from shrinking more quickly is that death rates are also falling, because people everywhere are living longer.

The Failure of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

Business Roundtable Redefines the Purpose of a Corporation to Promote ‘An Economy That Serves All Americans’
[Business Roundtable, via Naked Capitalism 8-20-19]
Corporate America & the Rules of Capitalism
Barry Ritholtz, August 20, 2019 [The Big Picture 8-20-19]

The CEOs of nearly two hundred companies say it’s not just about shareholders anymore, it’s about stakeholders. Risk Reversal Advisors Principal Dan Nathan, Chairman of Ritholtz Wealth Management, Barry Ritholtz, and “Kochland” author Christopher Leonard join Stephanie Ruhle to discuss how corporate America is trying to change the rules of capitalism and whether we can believe them.
In shocking reversal, Big Business puts the shareholder value myth in the grave
[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 8-20-19] 

[Fortune) via The Big Picture 8-20-19]

Ian Welsh [ 8-21-19]
Alright, so Germany has now introduced a zero interest bond. That means, given inflation, people will get back less effective money than they started with. At this point, outside the US, the average interest rate is negative. 
As Stoller pointed out, that means that people with money can’t figure out anything productive to do with it which will make a profit. 
That means that capitalists and banks, including central banks, have failed. It is their function, in a Capitalist society, to allocate resources. Money represents resources: people, stuff and land.
Now if we lived in utopia, with no real problems, this would make sense, but we don’t. There are tons of real problems which need solving, lots of money floating around, and other capacity indicators show there are people and resources which are not being used, or which could be redeployed. 
So capitalism is failing to do what it’s supposed to do, and so are capitalists.... 
The point is that if investors can’t find anything to invest in, government has failed to tweak profits correctly. You shouldn’t get rich in land speculation unless is building stuff that should be built. You should get rich in alternative energy, but mostly you don’t. You should get rich in making homes that are healthy and energy neutral, but instead we keep building unhealthy and environmentally degrading housing. 
You should make money rebuilding infrastructure, or building high speed trains, or reducing carbon, or reforesting, or making fish and phytoplankton stocks recover. Yet you don’t, so these things which need to be done to, like, avoid a few billion deaths, don’t get done. That’s government failure. 
Capitalism does not work without effective government control, if it is the dominant economic mode in a society. 
So. We have lots of stuff that needs to be done. We have lots of resources and money which isn’t doing those things and indeed can’t find anything to do... 
This endless printing of money to keep the useless rich afloat when they serve no useful productive function, and are actively stopping productive activity from happening.
Tax them. Stop propping them up and let incompetents die. Destroy utterly those members of the ruling class who are actively destructive, like Private Equity. Alter the rules so that productive activity is profitable, and while you’re doing all that, just have governments do the most important stuff themselves, with negative real interest rate loans.
Our Leaders Kill For Their Own Benefit 
Ian Welsh [ 8-20-19]
Most people are terribly confused when it comes to understanding our leaders, whether corporate or political. They think that the sort of ethical or moral constraints which hold them back, hold back leaders. 
But being a leader in our society is about “extracting value” from ordinary people. 
Raising the price of insulin to $300, for example. Or launching a war against a country which is no threat to you. Or throwing people in jail for 20 years for minor drug offenses.
Our leaders don’t think the same way we do. Their function isn’t to make our lives better, their function is to make their lives better: and the lives of those people who can help them or the few people they care about.

Disrupting mainstream economics

Money as a Democratic Medium | The Color of Money: Banking and Racial Inequality (with Slides)
[Harvard Law Today, January 11, 2019]
According to [the] keynote talk by Mehrsa Baradaran of the University of Georgia Law School, the financial deck has been stacked against black people since the days of slavery. Drawing from her recent book “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap,” Baradaran’s talk traced a history that has denied equal financial opportunity to blacks, offering self-help homilies in its place.\ 
“The rhetoric of free-market capitalism was used against them, and self-help was offered as a decoy,” she said. “The promise of free-market capitalism is that it does not discriminate, and yet history reveals that markets do discriminate. For most of our history, blacks have been excluded from schools and trades, and their finances have not been protected by law. The color of money, for much of U.S. history, was white.”
She traced that history back to the slavery-era economy—in which slaves were depicted on Confederate bills—and to the establishment of the Freedman’s Savings Bank afterward. The government encouraged newly-freed blacks to invest in the bank, not pointing out that it hadn’t been government insured; the bank’s white manager in fact lost much of the money on railroad bonds. “Instead of getting land, the freed slaves got a bank,” Baradaran said. “The notes and the building still had government insignia, but it was really a glorified piggy bank. By the time the Freedman’s Bank failed, the disenfranchisement of the black population was complete.” Indeed, she said, many Southern blacks still distrusted banks because of the Freedman episode as recently as her research in 2014. 
The selling of black self-help rather than actual government assistance persisted well into the ‘60s and beyond. As the heyday of civil rights wound down, President Nixon championed black capitalism, but this largely amounted to lip service, said Baradaran. “To see how great a diversion this was, you have to look at the path not taken. George Romney pushed hard for integration; Nixon fought him every step of the way. There was a bipartisan bill for reparation through Treasury deposits, and he killed that. Instead he deposited millions of dollars into black banks with much fanfare; and he created the Office of Minority Business Enterprise, which cannibalized Johnson’s poverty program. Black capitalism was an anemic response to the needs of the black community, but it was an effective decoy.” 
More recently, she said, subprime loans were disproportionately given to the black community, so it was hit especially hard in the 2007-08 financial crisis. Yet the rhetoric of black capitalism has endured; most recently with the Treasury naming a wing after the Freedman’s Bank. “There are stubborn, longstanding myths that small community banks are the remedy in marginalized communities. I blame Thomas Jefferson for starting this myth and George Bailey for perpetuating it,” she said, naming the hero of It’s a Wonderful Life. “I propose we all boycott the movie next year.”
The Great Land Robbery: How Federal Policies Dispossessed Black Americans of Millions of Acres
[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 8-19-19]
Land and the labor markets, from 1865 ’til today. 

Economics in the real world

The New American Homeless 
[New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-19]
Outrageous rents would be less alarming if wages were increasing at a comparable rate. But the opposite is true. Nationwide, the hourly earnings of high-wage workers rose 41 percent between 1979 and 2013; those of middle-wage workers grew only 6 percent. The pay for low-wage workers, meanwhile, decreased by 5 percent. Contrast these figures to the 138 percent annual wage growth among the top 1 percent of earners. Factoring in the cost of housing only darkens the picture. Today, there is not a single county in the United States where someone making minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment. In Atlanta, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual Out of Reach report, the “housing wage” needed to pay for a modest two-bedroom unit is $21.27 an hour. (Georgia’s minimum wage is $5.15 an hour.) In Boston, a tenant earning minimum wage would have to log 141 hours a week to afford the same residence. In San Francisco, it’s 203 hours, or the equivalent of five full-time jobs. 
Confronted with housing costs that devour the bulk of their monthly incomes, some choose to move away. But where do they go? Across the nation, the housing crisis now radiates far beyond major urban centers, pushing up prices in neighboring towns and cities—and, even if cheaper accommodations can be found, relocation may require searching for a new job, or enduring a long commute, which involves additional expenses. But staying put is often equally fraught. Many families are forced to cut back on basic necessities—health care, utilities, food, clothing—and rely on whatever help might be available from local food pantries and nonprofits. As for government support, whether in the form of public housing or Section 8 vouchers to use in the private rental market: It’s nonexistent for the vast majority of low-income tenants. Since the mid-1990s, 250,000 public housing units throughout the country have been lost (many through demolition) without being replaced, and the voucher program, though shown in numerous studies to be a crucial lifeline, is drastically underfunded. Today, only one in four households poor enough to qualify for rental assistance actually receives it. In a country where vital aid is treated as a lottery, families struggling to pay the rent are, with few exceptions, left to fend for themselves.
Julie Dworkin, the director of policy at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, has called attention to the profound consequences of this neglect. Not only are families denied housing assistance from HUD and its local partners, but, as the federal agency’s figures make their way into the media, the true scale and nature of the crisis is also obscured. In 2016, Dworkin and her colleagues began conducting their own survey of Chicago’s homeless population, expanding it beyond the HUD census to include families doubled up with others. Their total was twelve times that of the Point-in-Time count: 82,212 versus 6,786. “The idea that these families aren’t ‘actually’ homeless because they’re not in shelters is absurd,” Dworkin told me. “Oftentimes the shelters are full, or there simply are no family shelters—in which case, all these people are essentially abandoned by the system.” She noted the myth that families with children living in doubled-up arrangements are somehow less vulnerable than those in shelters, when these conditions can be just as detrimental to a child’s education, mental and physical health, and long-term development. 

“Predatory precarity” 
[Interfluidity, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-19] 
“There are people at the top of the American food chain who are stupid rich, for whom questions of making ends meet and financial security are laughably distant. People like that, they are easy to deal with. If it was “us” (whoever the fuck we are) versus only them, politics would be easy. We’d have taxed the billionaires to pay their fair share a long time ago. But most of the people towards the top of the American food chain are not stupid rich, but stupidly rich. They “make” sums of money that by any fair reckoning, obviously in a global context but even in an American context, are huge. But they plow that affluence into bidding wars on incredibly (if artificially) scarce social goods. Nobody “needs” to live in Arlington (or my own San Francisco). No one’s kid ‘has’ to go to private school (or for the more woke among us, notionally public schools rendered exclusive by the cost of nearby housing).…  
....the people who are your predators financially are, in their turn, someone else’s prey. Part of why the legalized corruption that is the vast bulk of the (dollar-weighted) US economy is so immovable is that the people whose lobbyists have cornered markets to ensure they stay overpaid are desperately frightened of not being overpaid, because if they were not overpaid they would become unable to make all the absurd overpayments that are now required to live what people of my generation (and race, and class) understood to be an ordinary life. It’s turtles all the way down, each one collecting a toll and wondering how it’s gonna pay the next…  The result is a strange precariot, objectively wealthy, educated and in a certain sense well-intended, who justify as a matter of defensive necessity participation in arrangements whose ugliness they cannot quite not see. In aggregate, they are predators, but individually they are also prey, and they feel embattled.”

David Koch begins his exploration of Dante's Inferno

1974 Charles Koch Speech: “Anti-Capitalism and Big Business” and How the Powell Memo Did Not Go Far Enough
Koch Docs, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19] A trove.

How Wavering Democrats Bought Into Kochs’ Free Trade Scheme
[Truthdig, via Naked Capitalism 8-24-19]

“Kochland” Examines the Koch Brothers’ Early, Crucial Role in Climate-Change Denial
[The New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19]

Climate and environmental crises

[E&E News, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19]
When the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona shuts down later this year, it will be one of the largest carbon emitters to ever close in American history. The giant coal plant on Arizona's high desert emitted almost 135 million metric tons of carbon dioxide between 2010 and 2017, according to an E&E News review of federal figures. 
Its average annual emissions over that period are roughly equivalent to what 3.3 million passenger cars would pump into the atmosphere in a single year. Of all the coal plants to be retired in the United States in recent years, none has emitted more. 
The Navajo Generating Station isn't alone. It's among a new wave of super-polluters headed for the scrap heap. Bruce Mansfield, a massive coal plant in Pennsylvania, emitted nearly 123 million tons between 2010 and 2017. It, too, will be retired by year's end (Energywire, Aug. 12). 
And in western Kentucky, the Paradise plant emitted some 102 million tons of carbon over that period. The Tennessee Valley Authority closed two of Paradise's three units in 2017. It will close the last one next year (Greenwire, Feb. 14).
‘The Devil We Know:’ How DuPont Poisoned the World with Teflon 
[Organic Consumers, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19]

America’s agriculture is 48 times more toxic than 25 years ago. Blame neonics 
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 8-20-19]

[Grist, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-19] 
“For the first time in history, low water levels on the Colorado River have forced Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico to cut back the amount of water they use. It’s the latest example of climate change affecting daily life, but also an encouraging sign that people can handle a world with less: These orderly cutbacks are only happening because seven U.S. states and Mexico had agreed to abide by conservation rules when flows subside, rather than fight for the last drops….. A Bureau of Reclamation study of Colorado River levels, released Thursday, triggered the cutbacks. The Rocky Mountains finally turned white with heavy snow last winter, but despite a galloping spring runoff, drought persists and bathtub-ringed reservoirs in the Grand Canyon are low. In its study, the Bureau highlighted the unique circumstances: ‘This 20-year period is also one of the driest in the 1,200-year paleo record.'”

De-Industrialization Discontentment

Why New York City Is On the Verge of Disaster 
[Matt Stoller, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-19]
The storm was the immediate cause of the blackout, of course, but the storm took advantage of an electrical infrastructure weakened by years of poor investment choices. We know this because a few months after the storm, the Utility Workers of America, the union negotiating with Con Edison, released a report on the company’s operational practices, alleging that “Con Edison appears to operate its electric distribution system based on a policy of“run it until it fails.’” 
The details of Con Ed’s operations are ugly. The union noted a lack of redundancy in voltage equipment, smart meters paid for by the stimulus that were never turned on, and a lack of basic supplies. “Our members have worked on cable so old,” said the report, “that it has paper insulation, and on utility poles that were installed in the 1930s and remain in service today.” 
The company used to have a policy of keeping a “safety stockpile” of basic supplies on hand in the event of an emergency. No longer. So when Sandy hit, Con Ed ran out of utility ladders and utility cable. It had to rush order parts that did not work on Con Ed systems, including “entire truckloads of utility transformers” which the utility could not return “because of their specialized nature.”
[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-19] 
“Sanders’s plan calls for the end to “at-will” employment, aims to double union membership in his first term in office, and advocates for industry-wide collective bargaining. It also directly addresses criticism from those like former Vice President Joe Biden who argue Medicare-for-all, Sanders’s central health care policy, could be bad for unions…. ‘If there is going to be class warfare in this country, it is time that the working class of this country won that war,’ Sanders said at the AFL-CIO convention in Iowa Wednesday, where he unveiled the plan.” 
Lambert Strether observes: "The detail looks very strong. Must be a good plan, because The Jeff Bezos Daily Shopper is already trying to distort it..."

[inthesetimes, via Avedon's Sideshow 8-17-19]
In 1993, Fortune magazine put it this way: 'These fellows from McKinsey sincerely do believe they are better than everybody else. Like several less purposeful organizations—Mensa, Bohemian Grove, Skull and Bones, the Banquet of the Golden Plate—McKinsey is elitist by design.' [...] [...] 'We are now living with the consequences of the world McKinsey created,' writes a former McKinsey consultant in an expose´ for Current Affairs. 'Market fundamentalism is the default mode for businesses and governments the world over.' [...] As McKinsey comes under heavier scrutiny for its role in the crimes of governments and powerful corporations, any 'progressive' who worked there and wants to be taken seriously should have a rather critical perspective. Buttigieg has shown no such reflection. Instead, he calls his time at McKinsey his most 'intellectually informing experience'; he left only because it 'could not furnish that deep level of purpose that I craved.' Buttigieg has said he didn't follow the story of McKinsey's OxyContin push. On McKinsey's Saudi and South African government ties, he said: 'I think you have a lot of smart, well-intentioned people who sometimes view the world in a very innocent way. I wrote my thesis on Graham Greene, who said that innocence is like a dumb leper that has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.'"

"Why Private Equity Should Not Exist 
Matt Stoller [via Avedon's Sideshow 8-17-19]
....I'm going to explain what private equity is and why it is facing these attacks. I'll also go into a bit of history, how private equity, which used to be called the leveraged buy-out industry (LBO), was started by a Nixon administration official who oversaw the both the bankruptcy of New York City and the intellectual attack on antitrust in the 1970s. Finally I'll also discuss what it would mean to eliminate PE from our economy and politics....  
So what is private equity? In one sense, it's a simple question to answer. A private equity fund is a large unregulated pool of money run by financiers who use that money to invest in and/or buy companies and restructure them. They seek to recoup gains through dividend pay-outs or later sales of the companies to strategic acquirers or back to the public markets through initial public offerings. But that doesn't capture the scale of the model. There are also private equity-like businesses who scour the landscape for companies, buy them, and then use extractive techniques such as price gouging or legalized forms of complex fraud to generate cash by moving debt and assets like real estate among shell companies. PE funds also lend money and act as brokers, and are morphing into investment bank-like institutions. Some of them are public companies. While the movement is couched in the language of business, using terms like strategy, business models returns of equity, innovation, and so forth, and proponents refer to it as an industry, private equity is not business. On a deeper level, private equity is the ultimate example of the collapse of the enlightenment concept of what ownership means. Ownership used to mean dominion over a resource, and responsibility for caretaking that resource. PE is a political movement whose goal is extend deep managerial controls from a small group of financiers over the producers in the economy. Private equity transforms corporations from institutions that house people and capital for the purpose of production into extractive institutions designed solely to shift cash to owners and leave the rest behind as trash. Like much of our political economy, the ideas behind it were developed in the 1970s and the actual implementation was operationalized during the Reagan era.... 
PE firms serve as transmitters of information across businesses, sort of disease vectors for price gouging and legal arbitrage. If a certain kind of price gouging strategy works in a pharmaceutical company, a private equity company can roll through the industry, buying up every possible candidate and quickly forcing the price gouging everywhere. In the defense sector, Transdigm serves this role, buying up aerospace spare parts makers with pricing power and jacking up prices, in effect spreading corrupt contracting arbitrage against the Pentagon much more rapidly than it would have spread otherwise."

Disrupting mainstream economics - Modern Monetary Theory

The Economist Who Believes the Government Should Print More Money 
[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-19]
Note how bewildered the writer is at the idea of government spending unrestrained by austerity. But provides some interesting biographical background on Stephanie Kelton and Warren Mosler. 

Information Age Dystopia

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

[Wired 8-20-2019]
Population growth and environmental catastrophe mean that the very future of humankind is threatened. In the Netherlands, a group of scientists is working on an urgent challenge: feeding the 11 billion.... 
The base for these global ambitions is the quiet university town of Wageningen. This is a modest place, seemingly at odds with its reputation as a world capital of innovation in food and agriculture, where the whole chain of research is usually covered in-house – by the locality's more than 6,500 specialists and experts, from biochemical engineers to seaweed policy makers to tasting panellists who determine the deliciousness of experimental tomatoes.
Guided by AI, robotic platform automates molecule manufacture 
[MIT News, via Naked Capitalism 8-23-19] 

100% renewables feasible in US with policy support
[The Conversation (US), via American Wind Energy Association 8-24-19]
The US can source all of its power from renewables by building out wind, solar and other energy sources in locations where the right resources are available, writes David Timmons of the University of Massachusetts Boston. Policymakers and the public must embrace the transition as a solution for curbing carbon emissions, he writes.
NRDC unveils tool for comparing energy costs
[North American Windpower online, via American Wind Energy Association 8-24-19]
The Natural Resources Defense Council has released a state-specific tool that users can use to project the levelized cost of electricity from wind, solar, coal and other energy sources. "This tool will provide important additional data to help shape the planning process for meeting our energy needs on a local, state or regional level," says Power Sector Director Sheryl Carter.
Sen. Sanders' $16.3T, 10-year Green New Deal emphasizes renewables
[The Washington Post (tiered subscription model) (8/22), Reuters, via American Wind Energy Association 8-24-19]
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., unveiled a $16.3 trillion, 10-year Green New Deal on Thursday that would help the US decarbonize its grid by switching to 100% renewables by 2030. "We are going to invest massively in wind, solar and other sustainable energies," he says.
[IEEE, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-19] 

Air Force Develops Steel Alloy for 3D Printing
[Machine Design Today 8-22-19]
A steel alloy developed at the Air Force Research Laboratory, called AF-9628, has the strength and toughness needed for aerospace parts.
10-Atom Thick Heat Shield Keeps Electronics Cool
[Machine Design Today 8-22-19]
Atomically thin materials developed by Stanford University researchers could create heat-shields for cell phones or laptops that would protect people and temperature-sensitive components.
Who’s Winning the Robot Race?
[Machine Design Today 8-20-19]
More than 2.5 million robots will be put to work this year. Which country is employing the most?
Teaching Robots to Build and Use Tools
[Machine Design Today 8-16-19]
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed robots that have the ability to reason about shape, function, and attachment of unrelated parts.
BNSF, Wabtec Advancing the Future of Railroad Motive Power
[Railway Age 8-20-19]
In a wide-ranging interview with Railway Age in December 2018, BNSF’s then-Executive Chairman Matt Rose had this to say about the future of locomotive propulsion technology, “We’ve got to look at alternative fuels for our locomotives. We tested LNG, and we don’t see the spread between diesel and natural gas wide enough to justify us making that investment, and it’s a significant investment. For us, it’s probably $8 billion to $10 billion. We don’t see the returns of doing that. So we’ll open the next chapter of our book—battery operated locomotives."

Democratic Party leadership insists on suicide

“Progressives Are Winning the 2020 Democratic Primary, and Losing to Biden” 
[Paste Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-19] 
“Majorities of the under-35 crowd simply look at politics in a completely different light than majorities of the over-35 crowd, as demonstrated by these two poll responses below. Biden’s support is grounded entirely in completely subjective and undefinable measures like “electability” and “personal characteristics,” while the majority of both Bernie and Warren’s support is rooted in their aggressive policy positions—which again, are the farthest to the left of standard Democratic politics than any primary contender in Gen Z’s, millennials’ or Gen X’s lifetimes. On a majority basis, young people simply outright reject the politics of Biden’s generation. There’s no other way to read this kind of polling.” And: “Leftists who want to evangelize the cause should be wary of using the famed ‘centrist’ slur against folks just trying to find someone new to like, as current polling proves that these are the people who will choose the Democratic nominee...."
"The Democratic Party May Finally Be Emerging From the Shadows of 1980
Charles Pierce [Esquire, via Avedon's Sideshow 8-17-19]
I occasionally talk about the most singularly dismal episode in my experience hanging around politicians and political events, and it is not the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, nor is it the events that occurred between the beginning of November, 2016 and the end January, 2017. It isn't even Betsy DeVos's confirmation hearing, although that's a real contender. No, the episode in question occurred in 1982, when I was just a young alternative journo, and I attended something called the Democratic Midterm Issues Convention. It was at that event that you could see what was coming for the next 30 years or so, and what you saw wasn't pretty.... was becoming clear that the real money in politics—from Wall Street and from the remaining industrial oligarchs — had sluiced over to the Republicans, especially the money from the extraction industries in the west and the textile manufacturers in the South. Being the party of the poor and disenfranchised never paid well, but now it wasn’t paying at all, and the powers of the party decided to re- establish the Roosevelt coalition by poaching new Republican ideas. Black voices, and women’s voices, and the less than bellicose foreign-policy voices left over from the antiwar movement, were mercilessly squashed at this three-day performance of political Pygmalion. The guy presiding over the event, a banker type named Charlie Manatt, actually stopped one renegade outburst by shushing loudly into his microphone, like a fourth-grade nun with a media buy....
For me, that was where it all began—the relentless drive of the Democratic Party to court people whose hearts it had altogether lost, and to suck up all the money from plutocrats who hated what the party stood for, but were rich enough to hedge their bets.
 Biden: ‘There’s an awful lot of really good Republicans out there’
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19]

Disrupting mainstream politics

Trump 2020: Be Very Afraid 
Matt Taibbi [Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 8-20-19]
History will judge us harshly for this, and will look with particular venom at Trump’s political opponents in both parties, who over the years were unable to win popularity contests against a man most people would not leave alone with a decent wristwatch, let alone their children.

Trump’s original destiny was the destruction of the Republicans as a viable entity in modern American politics. Then he ran a general election like he was trying to lose, and won. Now his legacy is the spectacular end of America’s fragile racial consensus.
Memo to mainstream journalists: Can the phony outrage; Bernie is right about bias
[Salon, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19]
I said above that there’s “almost never a memo or order from top management” to newsroom journalists. In normal times, the media system works smoothly without top-down directives. But in times of crisis, such as during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq — when I was a senior producer of MSNBC’s primetime Phil Donahue show — there may well be orders and memos. 
As the invasion neared, top management at MSNBC/NBC News ordered us to bias our panel discussions. If we booked one guest who was antiwar on Iraq, we needed two who were pro-war. If we booked two guests on the left, we needed three on the right. When a producer proposed booking Michael Moore, she was told that three right-wingers would be required for balance. (I thought about proposing Noam Chomsky as a guest, but our stage couldn’t have accommodated the 28 right-wingers we might have needed for balance.) 
....When the Donahue show was terminated three weeks before the Iraq invasion, internal memos that had circulated among top NBC News executives actually leaked. (God bless whistleblowers!) One memo said that Phil Donahue represented “a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. . . . He seems to delight in presenting guests who are antiwar, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” The memo described a dreaded scenario in which the Donahue show would become “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”

The History of Neoliberalism 

Every Penny a Vote (Review of Quinn Slobodian, The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism,
[London Review of Books, via Naked Capitalism 8-18-19] 
This review indicates that Slobodian's book may be very useful in furthering understanding of how oligarchical Austro-Hungarian culture that shaped the creation of inherently anti-democratic economic neoliberalism, though the reviewer himself seems to have missed the point.
Neoliberalism is often conceived as a system of self-regulating markets, shrunken states and crudely rational individuals. Early neoliberals, however, didn’t believe in markets’ self-correcting properties. Instead, as Quinn Slobodian argues in Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, they were concerned above all with establishing governments, laws and institutions in which markets could be embedded in order to make them work as they should – not only at a national but at a global level. This approach was a response to the fragmentation of empires that began after the First World War, and the popular demands for redistribution and self-determination that surged through the nation-states that took their place. When these demands impinged on the free trade order, neoliberals opposed them as a form of juridical trespass: imperium, the authority of territorial states, must not breach the rule of dominium, the boundless sway of private property. In tracing this dynamic, Slobodian draws an intellectual genealogy of the ‘neoliberal world economic imaginary’ from interwar Vienna to 1990s Geneva, and from the furious debates over economic planning that followed the fall of the Habsburg Empire to those that generated the EEC, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the WTO.... 
The Austrian School of economics, in which [Mises] and Hayek were trained, had supplied the monarchical state with royal tutors and finance ministers for three generations. Defeat in the First World War brought the empire crashing down, shorn of three-quarters of its territory and four-fifths of its population. The socialist government of the First Austrian Republic, which took office in February 1919, introduced unemployment insurance, the eight-hour working day and other social reforms. Such measures didn’t go much beyond the reforms brought in by the New Liberalism in Britain before the First World War, but for Mises they were ‘Bolshevism’, and would ‘lead Vienna to starvation and terror within a few days’. ‘Plundering hordes would take to the streets,’ he warned, ‘and a second bloodbath would destroy what was left of Viennese culture.’.... 
[Walter Lippmann’s 1938 colloquium in Paris] is the conciliatory moment at which histories of neoliberalism often begin. By starting earlier and in Vienna, Slobodian shows that the common periodisations don’t hold up: the notion that neoliberals were, by and large, moderate in tone and inclined to compromise, only to lose their way in the 1970s and 1980s, is chimerical. The foundational intellectual work was radical, and took place before the Second World War.
It should be stressed that this formative period of neoliberalism drew upon nakedly oligarchical principles of political and economic hierarchy. Accepting Lionel Robbin's invitation to teach at the London School of Economics, the reviewer writes, "Hayek took to his new home, with its comforting social hierarchies and imperial responsibilities; it was ‘like stepping into a warm bath where the water is the same temperature as your body’."

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