Sunday, July 5, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 5, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 5, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Pitchfork-wielding protesters descend on wealthy Hamptons estates
[Page Six, via Naked Capitalism 7-2-20]
More than 100 drivers and about 200 marchers paid a visit to the homes of some of the world’s wealthiest people, including ex-New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. 
“Tax the rich, not the poor!” the protesters chanted outside Bloomberg’s $20 million Southhampton mansion, with some calling the failed presidential candidate a “looter.”
Protesters, several of whom came in from the Big Apple, demanded that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo raise taxes on the state’s 118 billionaires to make up for a steep revenue shortfall amid the coronavirus pandemic. 
The group is taking issue with Cuomo’s pitch to cut 20 percent in state funding from schools, hospitals and housing agencies. They noted that while the virus outbreak has deeply impacted low-income people and communities of color, the wealth of US billionaires has surged.
“Enough is enough — it’s time for New York state to raise taxes on the rich instead of cutting services for working people,” said Alicé Nascimento, director of policy and research for New York Communities for Change, which helped organize the action. Organizers also included the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, with about 40 medallion cabs taking part. The cabbies were already in a debt crisis before the virus emerged, and have been hit hard by the pandemic.
“Oklahoma voters approve Medicaid expansion at the ballot box”
[Oklahoman, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-2-20] 
“State Question 802 passed by 6,488 votes, making Oklahoma the fifth state expand Medicaid through a ballot initiative. The question will enshrine Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma’s constitution — effectively preventing Oklahoma’s GOP-controlled Legislature or Republican governor from limiting or undoing the expansion.
[Counterpunch, July 1, 2020]
In tackling police violence and other social inequities rampant throughout the world today, we must address the underlying problems and not give overdue focus to the symptoms of the problems. For instance, we already know that class and not race is what determines who is affected most by institutional injustices, from the police murders of George Floyd to Tony Timpa to the the mass incarceration rates of the poor. Nathaniel Lewis demonstrates that after controlling for class, race is not “statistically significant” and that “class appears to be a larger factor than usually reported when studying racial disparities.” And from this query, other questions must necessarily emerge to include our involvement in having asked certain questions and not others and in having kowtowed to what Adolph Reed calls “race reductionism” at the heart of this issue.

It is in capitalism’s interest that we are all standing about the public square screaming about statues we don’t like rather than clamor for real reform of our governments. Indeed, much of the theory emanating from American higher education of the last thirty years has obtusely avoided discussing class while instead addressing representation, not participation. Just as the left has abandoned discussing class in favor of focussing upon symbolism and representation, political action of recent years has centered on the most superficial changes from language to public imagery. The actual stuff of inequality which engages people’s ability to pay bills, to eat, and to pay rent, has been unsurprisingly absent from both academia and the recent calls to get white people to atone for their sins.
For instance, why is the liberal soft-left not demanding answers from politicians such as Joe Biden who signed onto the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 leading to the mass-incarceration of mostly black men, and putting them in prison for longer? Or why the criminal justice system in the US is locking up so many poor women? Why are American liberals getting behind a presidential candidate who tells African Americans that they aren’t “black” if they don’t vote for him while not seeing how such positive racism still amounts to racism as usual?
....As protestors topple statues of Civil War generals and abolitionists alike, this might be a good moment for us to pause and think that perhaps the first problem in naming racism might begin with reflecting upon our embrace of “race” as a signifying real. Moreover, we need to deeply ponder if race might just be the side-show which is keeping us from addressing what are primarily class issues. As troubling as our country’s legacy is having been built on slavery, the decimation of the country’s indigenous population, and unbridled capitalism, the one common factor of the repression of humans in these situations was not decided by their “race” but was most definitely decided between those who held the money, the guns, and the power and those who didn’t.
Europe in 1989, America in 2020, and the Death of the Lost Cause
David Blight [The New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 7-2-20] 
In 1868, Edward A. Pollard, the former editor of a Richmond newspaper, in his book “The Lost Cause Regained,” urged “reconciliation” with conservative Northerners, as long as it was on Southern terms. “To the extent of securing the supremacy of the white man,” he wrote, “and the traditional liberties of the country . . . she [the South] really triumphs in the true cause of the war.” Such an achievement would take years, but it did come. When a former Confederate officer, John T. Morgan, addressed a meeting of the Southern Historical Society, in 1877, he framed the preceding nine years as the “war of Reconstruction.” The South, he maintained, had just won this “second war,” and therefore no one “need inquire who was right or who was wrong” in the first war. This was never easy for Union veterans to swallow, but it was how white supremacy became an integral part of the process of national reconciliation.

The 3 Weeks That Changed Everything: Imagine if the National Transportation Safety Board investigated America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
James Fallows, June 29, 2020 [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-20]
.... a biosecurity expert at Georgetown University Medical Center who has been extensively involved in pandemic-response planning, told me this spring: “Absolutely nothing that has happened has been a surprise. We saw it coming. Not only did we see it, we ran the models and the gaming exercises. We had every bit of the structure in place. We’ve been talking about a biohazard risk like this for years. Anyone who says we did not see this coming has their head in the sand, or is lying through their teeth.”
....The system the government set up was designed to warn not about improbable “black swan” events but rather about what are sometimes called “gray rhinos.” These are the large, obvious dangers that will sooner or later emerge but whose exact timing is unknown. Did the warning system work this time, providing advance notice of the coronavirus outbreak? According to everyone I spoke with, it certainly did. A fascinating unclassified timeline compiled by the Congressional Research Service offers a day-by-day and then hour-by-hour chronology of who knew what, and when, about developments in central China....
During the Obama administration, the U.S. had negotiated to have its observers stationed in many cities across China, through a program called Predict. But the Trump administration did not fill those positions, including in Wuhan. This meant that no one was on site to learn about, for instance, the unexplained closure on January 1 of the city’s main downtown Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a so-called wet market where wild animals, live or already killed, were on sale along with fish and domesticated animals... the Trump administration had removed dozens of CDC representatives in China....
In cases of disease outbreak, U.S. leadership and coordination of the international response was as well established and taken for granted as the role of air traffic controllers in directing flights through their sectors. Typically this would mean working with and through the World Health Organization—which, of course, Donald Trump has made a point of not doing. In the previous two decades of international public-health experience, starting with SARS and on through the rest of the acronym-heavy list, a standard procedure had emerged, and it had proved effective again and again. The U.S, with its combination of scientific and military-logistics might, would coordinate and support efforts by other countries. Subsequent stages would depend on the nature of the disease, but the fact that the U.S. would take the primary role was expected. When the new coronavirus threat suddenly materialized, American engagement was the signal all other participants were waiting for. But this time it did not come. It was as if air traffic controllers walked away from their stations and said, “The rest of you just work it out for yourselves.”
....In addition to America’s destruction of its own advance-warning system, by removing CDC and Predict observers, the Trump administration’s bellicose tone toward China had an effect. Many U.S. officials stressed that a vicious cycle of blame and recrimination made public health an additional source of friction between the countries, rather than a sustained point of cooperation, as it had been for so many years.
A military official told me, “I have wondered, as a thought experiment: If the outbreak had been in Tennessee rather than Wuhan, would the outcome for the world have been worse, better, or the same?” This person said that he thought the disease might have spread even more rapidly. Why? “I think it would have been harder to convince Trump to lock things down here, than to throw a ban on China.”
Fallows is not as thorough as an NTSB inspection, that will examine the design and manufacture of an aircraft, not just the details of a crash. He entirely overlooks the cultural roots of the "limited government" ideology, which should be traced back to its roots in the anti-Hamiltonian opposition of the Vriginia slave holders led by Jefferson and Calhoun, and the creation of movement conservatism and libertarianism by rich reactionaries intent on reversing the shift in power from capital to labor achieved by Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. The problem is not Trump. The real problem is the cultural shift that created the putrid petri dish in which he could gestate and emerge. 

[Business Live (South Africa), via Naked Capitalism 6-30-20]
....This is not a comparison between SA and the US; it is an observation of two experiences — travelling in SA and in the US through airports, which are major vectors for the spread of the virus. From this experience you immediately realise why the virus may have gone wild in the US, which has the tools to contain such a pandemic. 
The answer is not poverty. It’s not inequality. It’s really the politicisation of the medical response and, in particular, the wearing of masks. Trump continues to not wear a mask, apparently fearing it will project weakness and defeat, according to CNN. In all three US airports I travelled through, I saw the results of such ignorant leadership. It was mainly men who didn’t wear masks, spitting in each other’s faces as they shouted out their bravado. 
“The Think Tank Gap Really Hurt Our COVID-19 Response”
[Mike the Mad Biologist, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-2-20]
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it’s becoming more apparent that using a paradigm generated by the American Enterprise Institute might not be the best way to proceed. Unfortunately, all of the think tanks, including the Democratic aligned ones, appear to be working from the same framework (i.e., kinder, gentler AEI plans)…. The problem is that the AEI plan is fundamentally affected by policy constraints. There are certain policies that a group like AEI can not and will not consider, and those policy constraints affect the range of policy responses…. [On the left] the overall goal was to use massive federal spending to place significant swathes of the U.S. economy into what multiple commentators, including Paul Krugman, referred to as a ‘medically induced coma.’ And not for a month either, but for as long as it took…. Since an AEI-backed plan that would result in massive federal intervention in the economy is an impossibility, we’re left with second-best options of relative improvements leading to partial reopenings. When massive federal intervention is off the table, then we’re left with these other metrics, such as decline for a couple of weeks followed by hoping for the best, because there’s no way to support the economy long enough to reach a meaningful low level of prevalence… That’s unfortunate because a low prevalence strategy is good public health policy and good economic policy. On the public health side, the best way to not get infected is to not come in contact with someone who is infected. While that sounds like something Yogi Berra would have said, it does have the virtue of being true.”
“By Denying Aid to States, the GOP Is Aiding the Coronavirus” 
Eric Levitz [New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-2-20]
“By withholding aid to states, Republicans made it extremely painful for cities to implement responsible public-health policies in the middle of a pandemic…. America’s hasty reopening is doubtlessly attributable to a variety of cultural and political factors. But for many U.S. cities, erring on the side of public health — by keeping the economy restricted for a week longer than absolutely necessary — would have meant jeopardizing their capacity to maintain funding for schools and basic social services. Republicans could have empowered state and local officials to make decisions about reopening on the basis of what was best for public health. Instead, they engineered fiscal scarcity that forced states to choose between prudence and solvency. Which may have been the point. The president and his advisers pressured states to reopen quickly, so as to expedite the onset of economic recovery. Instead, our austerity-induced haste has bought us a new wave of outbreaks and a deeper recession.”

The Pandemic

[Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-20] 

New research explores how conservative media misinformation may have intensified the severity of the pandemic
[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 6-28-20]

The data is in: Fox News may have kept millions from taking the coronavirus threat seriously [Washington Post, via The Big Picture 7-2-20]

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 6-28-20]

The Global Death Toll Now Tops 500,000
[NYT, via Naked Capitalism 6-29-20] 

“Universal Health Care Supports Thailand’s Coronavirus Strategy” 
[NPR, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20] 
“While the pandemic has raged in the U.S. and Europe, Thailand has been able to control its epidemic with a caseload among the lowest in the world – just 58 deaths. Thai epidemiologists say the country’s universal health care system played a major role…. Dr. Pongpirul says the fact that the taxi driver sought medical attention early on, that he wasn’t put off by having to pay for something he couldn’t have afforded, made a huge difference in helping them control the virus.”
A travesty’: North Carolina grapples with reopening as Covid-19 cases surge 
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-20]

A new dilemma for Trump’s team: Preventing super-spreader churches
[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 6-29-20]

Why Meatpacking Plants Are Superspreaders
[Der Spiegel, via Naked Capitalism 6-29-20]

Economic Armageddon

Goldman Sachs did the math and a national mask mandate to slow the spread of coronavirus would save this much in U.S. economic growth
[MarketWatch, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-20]

[Economic Policy Institute, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-20]

As 45 million Americans lost their jobs, U.S. billionaires made $584 billion.
[ABC, via Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-30-20]

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

A nice graph that summarizes how the price paid for the information economy was deindustrialization and financialization of USA
Click for larger image.
[Dimensional, via The Big Picture 6-29-20]

The Supreme Court Is Still Repeatedly Ruling in Favor of the Ultra-Wealthy
David Sirota [Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 6-29-20]

The U.S. Is Lagging Behind Many Rich Countries. These Charts Show Why. 
[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-20]
The United States is different. In nearly every other high-income country, people have both become richer over the last three decades and been able to enjoy substantially longer lifespans.
But not in the United States. Even as average incomes have risen, much of the economic gains have gone to the affluent — and life expectancy has risen only three years since 1990. There is no other developed country that has suffered such a stark slowdown in lifespans.
Government Sachs: Why Google, YouTube, Uber and the rest of corporate America are donning the costume of progressivism
Michael Lind [Tablet, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20] 

Powell and Mnuchin Agree to Work with a Proposed “Department of Reconciliation” to Deal with Effects of Slavery and Segregation
Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 1, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

Citigroup Has Made a Sap of the Fed: It’s Borrowing at 0.35 % from the Fed While Charging Struggling Consumers 27.4 % on Credit Cards
Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 2, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

The Pillage of India 
[New York Review of Books, via Naked Capitalism 6-29-20]
June 11, 2020
The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire
by William Dalrymple (Bloomsbury, 522 pp., $35.00)
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
by Shashi Tharoor (Melbourne: Scribe, 294 pp., $17.95)

The one percent

Ghislaine Maxwell, longtime Jeffrey Epstein associate, arrested for recruiting and abusing girls in sex-trafficking ring CNN

Ghislaine Maxwell played ‘critical role’ in helping Jeffrey Epstein groom underage victims, US investigators say Sky (furzy)Ghislaine Maxwell, handler of pedophile Epstein, arrested
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-2-20]
Craig Murray @CraigMurrayOrg
Part of me want Ghislaine Maxwell locked up for a very long time. Part of me wants her to cop the plea deal of the century and spill the full story on some of the world's most powerful men. Most of me, however, expects she is going to get suicided like her boss.

Information Age Dystopia

[Tim Bray, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20]
“Why break it up? · There are specific problems; I list a few below. But here’s the big one: For many years, the astonishing torrent of money thrown off by Google’s Web-search monopoly has fueled invasions of multiple other segments, enabling Google to bat aside rivals who might have brought better experiences to billions of lives…. Financially, I think Google’s whole is worth less than the sum of its parts. So a breakup might be a win for shareholders. This is a reasonable assumption if only because the fountain of money thrown off by Web-search advertising leaves a lot of room for laziness and mistakes in other sectors of the business.” 
Lambert Strether added: "Well worth a read, and from a solid and well-respected tech insider."

[Electronic Frontier Foundation, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-20]

Neoliberalism requires a police state 

Corporate Backers of the Blue: How Corporations Bankroll U.S. Police Foundations
[, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-20]
If police departments already have massive budgets – averaging 20% to 45% of a municipal budget – why do these organizations exist? Police foundations offer a few unique benefits to law enforcement.

First, these foundations can purchase equipment and weapons with little public input or oversight. The Houston Police Foundation has an entire page on its website showcasing the equipment it purchased for the police department, including SWAT equipment, LRAD sound equipment, and dogs for the K-9 unit. The Philadelphia Police Foundation purchased long guns, drones, and ballistic helmets. The Atlanta Police Foundation helped fund a major surveillance network of over 12,000 cameras.
In Los Angeles, the police used foundation funding to purchase controversial surveillance software from Palantir. If the LAPD purchased this technology through its public budget, it would have been required to hold public meetings and gain approval from the city council. By having the foundation purchase it for them, the LAPD was able to bypass that oversight.

Climate and environmental crises

Nearly twice as many U.S. properties may be at risk of flooding as previously thought.
[New York Times 6-30-20]
New calculations estimate that 14.6 million properties are at risk from what experts call a 100-year flood, far more than the 8.7 million properties shown on federal government flood maps. Cities as diverse as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Buffalo, N.Y., and Chattanooga, Tenn., show a large gap in the risk assessments. In Chicago alone, 75,000 properties have a previously undisclosed flood risk. The First Street Foundation, which compiled the data, also created a website where people can check their own address.
South Pole warming three times faster than rest of Earth: study 
[PhysOrg, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-20]

How green sand could capture billions of tons of carbon dioxide 
[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-20]

Fueled by High Temperatures and Ample Land, Locusts Swarm Italy 
[LinkTV, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-20]

How climate change misinformation spreads online 
[Carbon Brief, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-20]

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Yale captures first ever video of brain clearing out dead neurons 
[New Atlas, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-20]

A Decade of Sun YouTube, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-20]
Dan K: “Holy crap — NASA compressed 10 years of solar observations into a one-hour long, buttery smooth time lapse.”

Take a Flight Over Korolev Crater on Mars 
[Universe Today, via Naked Capitalism 7-4-20]
These stunning videos, created from imagery gathered by orbiting spacecraft, can give us a sense of what it would be like to fly in an airplane on another planet. This latest flyover video from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, provides a stunning view of one of Mars’ most eye-popping craters.

Progressive Policies into the Breach

Harry Hopkins was a genius....
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-20]
Jon Schwarz @schwarz
I had no idea Carl Reiner was on a path to being a sewing machine repairman until his brother told him about a free New Deal acting class. What a different country we could have if we wanted to spend our money on stuff like that instead of death machines. Carl Reiner, Multifaceted Master of Comedy, Is Dead at 98 
Will Biden find his Harry Hopkins? Is he even trying to?

Democratic Party leadership insists on suicide

“Biden campaign staffs up from Obamaworld” 
[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-30-20] 
“In the past few weeks, four former staffers who worked for Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett joined Biden’s campaign…. Karine Jean-Pierre, Julie Chavez Rodríguez, and Ashley Allison all joined within one week starting May 20, in senior adviser roles. Yohannes Abraham joined the Biden campaign’s transition team in late June. All are women or men of color. All were longtime Obama White House staffers and worked with Jarrett in different capacities in her roles including senior adviser and directing public engagement and intergovernmental affairs…. Amid questions around Biden’s age and what that means for who he selects as a running mate, these hires show how the campaign is positioning a younger generation of former Obama aides to land the plane in November.... Parrt of Biden’s core campaign message is around his government competency. One Obama alum tells Axios: “By lifting up these particular individuals, he’s giving the rest of us a window into who’s going to help run the show in the White House, and I think that’s engendering more confidence in him.”
Lambert Strether added: "So, as I’ve been saying, you’re not really voting for Biden; you’re voting for the Obama Alumni Association. Based on past performance, expect the next recovery to be like this, but worse, because the initial conditions are worse...." 

No Harry Hopkins here.

“The woman Biden isn’t considering for vice president, but should” 
[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20] 
Lee was the only member of Congress to vote against the AUMF. “In a better world, Lee’s prescience would already make her a contender for the bottom of the Democratic ticket. Her foresight contrasts with Biden’s many foreign policy lows, including a vote for the Iraq War and a proposal to federalize Iraq that Iraqis hated. (In no policy area is Biden more fortunate to be facing a complete incompetent.) That Lee isn’t on Biden’s list, while someone like former national security adviser Susan E. Rice is, speaks volumes about the hold the pro-intervention, pro-endless war national security establishment continues to exert over much of our politics.”
Charles Booker, Jamaal Bowman And The 7 Competing Camps In Black Politics 
[FiveThirtyEight, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-4-20] 
I have tried to order the camps by size, from largest to smallest. They are:
  1. The Younger (Under Age 60) Establishment
  2. The Older (60 And Above) Establishment
  3. The Younger Anti-Establishment
  4. The Obamaites
  5. The Older Anti-Establishment
  6. Trump-Skeptical Conservatives/Republicans
  7. Pro-Trump Conservatives/Republicans
“House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate” 
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-3-20] 
“The House Armed Services Committee has voted against limiting presidential authority under the Insurrection Act, the law President Trump threatened to invoke to deploy active-duty troops in response to protests against racial injustices. The amendment, offered by Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), failed largely along party lines in a 25-31 vote. Several moderate or vulnerable Democrats voted against the amendment: Reps. Kendra Horn (Okla.), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M.), Jared Golden (Maine), Elaine Luria (Va.), Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.) and Gil Cisneros (Calif.). Last month, Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act at the height of the protests, saying he would deploy active-duty troops if governors did not “dominate” demonstrators.nThe 1807 act creates an exception to the general prohibition on using the U.S. military to enforce domestic laws. It was last used by former President George H.W. Bush at the request of California’s governor to quell the 1992 Rodney King riots.”
Rudy Giuliani calls Black Lives Matter ‘a Marxist organization’ 
[McSweeney’s, via The Big Picture 6-28-20]

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