Sunday, August 16, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 16, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 16, 2020
by Tony Wikrent 

The pandemic

Do Masks Work Or Not?? Proving Whether Masks Stop Covid-19 Transmission with Uncle Rob [YouTube, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-11-20] 
If you know someone who insists wearing masks does not work, or COVID is a hoax, get them to watch this, And remind them they have responsibilities, not just free-dumbs.   

Lee Nackman, August 13, 2020
Lee Nackman is president of the Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party
This is a two-step proposal to save America: (1) Defeat the virus by a serious lockdown and (2) help people through it by giving them plenty of money to meet their needs (and possibly more) during the lockdown.

It gives money directly to the people and it gives every working-age person the same amount regardless of whether or not they “need” it. This keeps the program simple, free of excessive bureaucracy, and fair. It costs a lot but delivers a lot. It puts decision-making about what businesses to support in the hands of the people who know best, not in the hands of lobbyists and campaign contributors. Both Democrats and Republicans should like parts of it.

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-12-20] 
“Farmers routinely make changes to their acreage intentions as the calendar advances, substituting in different crops if the weather mucks up their original plans. But leaving the ground bare is new territory for U.S. farmers who typically plant fencerow to fencerow, trying to squeeze profit out of every available acre. The most recent acreage data from the government showed corn and cotton plantings in particular were far below initial expectations, with corn seedings in June dropping the most from March in 37 years. The coronavirus pandemic caused many farmers to give up on their corn crop before it was even in the ground.”

“How The Pandemic Humiliated Critics Of Medicare for All” 
[Walker Bragman, Too Much Information, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-14-20] 
 “When the novel coronavirus first arrived in the United States, it spurred on remarkable message discipline among America’s political class. The consensus that emerged on both sides of the aisle dictated that no matter what happened, Americans ought to be glad they do not live in a country with socialized medicine…. [N]ow, just a few months later, these arguments completely and utterly fail. New infections are still surging in the U.S. while countries with national health care programs have long since gotten a handle on the virus. On Tuesday, the U.S. reported more new COVID cases in a single day than Italy, France, and the U.K. reported last month combined, and roughly 45 percent of their total deaths.”

Strategic Political Economy

"The Reason Americans Don't Trust Experts — Economists
[hipcrimevocab, via Avedon's Sideshow]
Specifically, the fact that economists told middle America since at least the 1980s that free trade would be good for everyone in America, and that anyone who said otherwise was an ignorant rube who didn't understand basic economic 'science.' The economists who incessantly proffered this view were 'experts' from the most prestigious schools in America—Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Georgetown, the University of Chicago, and the like. They claimed it was a settled argument, and that economics had 'proven' it beyond the shadow of a doubt through equations as surely as we had proven the movements of the stars and planets. Even the way they framed the argument backed this up. They invoked the 'Law' of comparative advantage, suggesting that this was a law of the universe on par with those of physics or chemistry. Anyone who disputed it might just was well believe that water runs uphill or the earth is flat, they claimed (although they weren't above invoking a little magic on occasion) [...] Businesses that had been the cornerstones of communities for many generations began to disappear left and right. They either lost out in the newly globalized struggle for profits and went under; moved most of their operations overseas to take advantage of cheaper labor; or were bought out in the accompanying wave of financialization and were 'restructured.' In each and every instance, these businesses—formerly the sources of prosperity for so many Americans—were gone, never to return. This happened throughout the eighties and nineties."

So, given the experience of the average American on the ground that I described above, is it really any wonder that experts began to lose their credibility? The average American looked around them and saw with their own two eyes what was happening right in front of them. They saw the increasing joblessness, homelessness, and poverty. They saw how their neighbors were struggling to make ends meet. They saw the boarded up storefronts, the tent cities, the crumbling infrastructure, the payday loan stores, the aggressive police, the people living in their cars, the people working for peanuts at Amazon and Wal-Mart, the foreclosures, the opioid overdoses, the suicides, and on and on and on.

....America became staggeringly unequal. An entire infrastructure of poverty developed consisting of payday loan stores, car title loan stores, cash-4-gold stores, blood banks, urgent care clinics, Dollar Stores, pawn shops, and other predatory businesses. Cash-strapped small towns instituted aggressive policing tactics to compensate for lost tax revenue, including issuing very expensive tickets for every minor infraction (which often disproportionately targeted minorities).... 

And what did the professional economists continue to tell us? That none of it was happening! There was nothing to worry about, they insisted. After all, the statistics informed us that everything was fine. Throughout it all, economists assured us that free trade was good for everyone, full stop, and both political parties agreed with that assessment. This was the unassailable word of the so-called experts—the very smart economic “scientists” with high IQs and fancy degrees.

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 14, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]
Since May, the nonprofit group funded with Koch’s fossil fuels money, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), has been mobilizing to defeat the House stimulus bill known as the HEROES Act. In a letter sent to members of Congress, AFP Chief Government Affairs Officer Brent Gardner wrote that AFP wants to see the bill killed and specifically mentions it does not want to see a bailout of the Postal Service.

Today, Aaron Gordon at Vice is reporting that he’s gotten his hands on internal documents from the Postal Service which show that orders have come down from above to destroy approximately 500 mail sorting machines – which cost millions of dollars. Witnesses have told Gordon that they’ve seen the machines “destroyed or thrown in the dumpster.” Gordon’s latest report follows yesterday’s news that mail service has been slowed down in multiple parts of the country....
Gordon’s latest bombshell at Vice comes on the heels of another outstanding piece of journalism in July by Lisa Graves of True North Research for In the Public Interest. Graves traces the long history of Charles Koch and his now deceased brother, David, to privatize the U.S. Postal Service and the insidious means that were used to try to bring that to fruition.

“Small Businesses Are Dying by the Thousands — And No One Is Tracking the Carnage”
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-12-20]
“Big companies are going bankrupt at a record pace, but that’s only part of the carnage. By some accounts, small businesses are disappearing by the thousands amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and the drag on the economy from these failures could be huge. This wave of silent failures goes uncounted in part because real-time data on small business is notoriously scarce, and because owners of small firms often have no debt, and thus no need for bankruptcy court. Yelp Inc., the online reviewer, has data showing more than 80,000 permanently shuttered from March 1 to July 25. About 60,000 were local businesses, or firms with fewer than five locations.”

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics 

The physician as a neoliberal subject – A qualitative study within a private-public mix setting
[Social Science & Medicine, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-20]
  • Neoliberalization influences how physicians perceive their role, practice & patients.
  • Perceived roles go from serving the common good to an entrepreneur of oneself.
  • The Physician-Entrepreneur chooses healthier patients to avert risk.
  • Physicians' professional ethos is in tension with neo-liberal subjectivity.
  • Researchers should examine how subjectification relates with institutional context.

“‘Horrible sequence of mistakes’: How bullet train contractors botched a bridge project” [Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-10-20]
A series of errors by contractors and consultants on the California bullet train venture caused support cables to fail on a massive bridge, triggering an order to stop work that further delayed a project already years behind schedule, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by The Times under a public records request show the steel supports snapped as a result of neglect, work damage, miscommunications and possible design problems.

The problems on the Road 27 bridge reveal project management hitches that have dogged the bullet train for years. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has five separate layers of consultants and contractors on the bridge. Any one of them could have identified a long series of errors, but it appears no one did so....

The bridge is part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan for a 171-mile, $20.4-billion bullet train operation from Merced to Bakersfield.
Lambert Strether added: "Stories like this fill me with rage and despair. China built a 10,000km high-speed rail network in ten years. We can’t even build 171 miles of high speed rail from [family blogging] Merced to [family blogging] Bakersfield. We can’t even build a bridge that doesn’t collapse. Same deal on the other Coast: We can’t build a new tunnel under the Hudson for the Northeast Corridor when we know the existing tunnel is going to fail. Good thing there aren’t similar problems with all that expensive weaponry we’ve sold ourselves and our “allies.”

What’s wrong with the mail
[Recode, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-20]
Good reporting on the details of the USPS’s current plight, but seriously under-emphasizes the initial, and bipartisan, act of sabotage: The unique requirement for prefunding pensions, without which the USPS would be profitable (assuming that’s important).  
Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 12, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 11, 2020  [Wall Street on Parade]
The report, “How Do U.S. Global Systemically Important Banks Lower Their Capital Surcharges?,” was written by Jared Berry, Akber Khan, and Marcelo Rezende.

We decided to evaluate this claim for ourselves, using the quarterly derivative reports provided by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the regulator of national banks. The data was appalling. The largest Wall Street banks not only dropped their level of derivatives by trillions of dollars in the fourth quarter, but they restored those derivatives by the end of the following first quarter.
Note table below - yes, JP Morgan has $2.764 TRILLION in assets with $54.947 TRILLION in exposure to financial derivatives. 

Restoring balance to the economy

A California appeals court just ruled that Amazon is legally liable for defective products sold on its site by third parties
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 8-14-20]

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 8-10-20]

Climate and environmental crises

[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 8-13-20] 
“The evidence is now clear enough that it can be stated unequivocally: It would be worth freeing ourselves from fossil fuels even if global warming didn’t exist. Especially now that clean energy has gotten so cheap, the air quality benefits alone are enough to pay for the energy transition. This conclusion has been reaffirmed by the latest air quality research, presented at a recent hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform by Drew Shindell, Nicholas professor of earth science at Duke University (and a lead author on both recent IPCC reports)… Shindell’s testimony reveals that the effects of air pollution are roughly twice as bad as previously estimated…. Importantly, many of the benefits can be accessed in the near term. Right now, air pollution leads to almost 250,000 premature deaths a year in the US. Within a decade, aggressive decarbonization could reduce that toll by 40 percent; over 20 years, it could save around 1.4 million American lives that would otherwise be lost to air quality.” 

Democratic Party leadership insists on suicide

So, Nancy Pelosi's spoiled little kid is a member of the DNC:
Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-11-20]
Christine Pelosi @sfpelosi
Preparing to defend our Democratic ticket against the horseshoe of far left White sexists and far right White evangelicals who share a deep disdain for women in power. 
I'm glad people did not hold back in responding to this crap:
Molly Hodgdon @Manglewood
·Aug 9
Replying to @sfpelosi
You mean the far left White sexists who admire, respect, and signal boost these women every single day? Those sexists?

Goody Weaver Cavorting With The Revolution @goodyweaver
Replying to
Ah yes... the left that just ushered in Cori Bush, gave Rashida Tlaib a landslide, and supported AOC, Ilhan Omar, & Tulsi Gabbard, loves Nina Turner, Briahna Joy Gray, Jill Stein, Marianne Williamson, and Susan Sarandon. It's almost as if it's about policy... 
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-12-20]
Rania Khalek @RaniaKhalek
Kamala Harris as VP pick is a big win for imperial feminism.
Next I wanna see more WOC ICE agents, prison guards, slum lords and drug queenpins. Girl power

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-20]
For all the warranted celebration of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez co-chairing a task force on climate policy, Biden has not yet agreed to follow its recommendations.

Meanwhile, several of Biden’s informal advisers and confidants on energy policy are veterans of the Obama administration’s “all of the above” strategy, which embraced fossil fuel development and technologies like fracking while publicly trumpeting clean energy commitments. These individuals oversaw the BP oil spill and the violent repression of the Dakota Access pipeline protests (a set of tactics which President Donald Trump is now emulating to put down peaceful demonstrators) and then went to work for oil and gas companies or law firms, investment companies, and think tanks funded by the fossil fuel industry.....

Former Obama climate policy chief Heather Zichal....

Jason Bordoff, who served as a climate adviser to the National Security Council and the Council on Environmental Quality under Obama....

Obama’s secretary of energy, Ernest Moniz,
Wall Street’s route into Biden’s climate policy may run through Brian Deese, a former senior Obama aide who now works for BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager.

[The Conversation, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-20]
Only 47% of those Black Americans under 30 years old that we surveyed plan to vote for the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden. That’s roughly the same percentage who have anything positive to say when asked what “one or two words come to mind” about the former vice president.

Cathy Cohen, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago who studies Black youths’ political views, summed up this attitude in a recent podcast: “They’ve seen the election of Black mayors, they’ve seen the election of the first Black president, and they’ve also seen that their lives have not changed.”

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-12-20] 
“Financial advisory firm Signum Global is already telling its clients that the choice of Harris reinforces the notion that the Democratic ticket is more moderate than progressive.”
“College Democrat at Center of Attack on Alex Morse Hoped to Launch Career Through Richard Neal” [The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-12-20] 
“With the allegations short of details or any student claiming to be a victim, the focus has shifted to the origin of the letter. The man serving as chief strategist for the UMass Amherst College Democrats, Timothy Ennis, recently completed a class with Neal, who teaches a journalism course. Ennis, according to two members of the College Democrats chapter, was open about his hopes of working for Neal in the future. Meanwhile, an aide with the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, in which the journalism program sits, alerted the school’s administration of evidence that the recently surfaced allegations against Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse “are politically motivated,” according to communication reviewed by The Intercept. Spokespersons for the administration did not respond to requests for comment.” 

“College Democrat Chats Reveal Year-Old Plan to Engineer and Leak Alex Morse Accusations” 
[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-13-20] 
“The leadership of the University of Massachusetts Amherst College Democrats began discussing an operation they believed could sink the campaign of Alex Morse for Congress as far back as last October, a plan they then helped engineer and which came to fruition on Friday… Timothy Ennis, the chief strategist for the UMass Amherst College Democrats, admitted in the chats that he was a ‘Neal Stan’ and said he felt conflicted about involving the chapter of the College Democrats in a future attack on Morse. ‘But I need a job,’ concluded Ennis. “Neal will give me an internship.” At the time, Ennis was president of the chapter, a post he held from April 2019 to April 2020, when he was term-limited out. Leaders of the College Democrats group went beyond merely plans to leak. They also explicitly discussed how they could find Morse’s dating profiles and then lead him into saying something incriminating that would then damage his campaign.”

“SCOOP: Hospitals Bankroll The Democrat Who Lets Them Send Patients Surprise Bills” 
David Sirota, [Too Much Information 8-12-20] 
“The American Hospital Association’s (AHA) political action committee has spent more than $200,000 on digital ads to boost [Democratic Rep. Richard Neal’s] reelection campaign as he faces a spirited primary challenge, according to campaign finance records. AHA is one of the most powerful forces in Washington D.C. working to keep health care costs outrageously high. The trade group, which represents more than 5,000 hospitals and brings in more than $130 million annually, has lobbied against reforms to end surprise medical billing, against plans requiring hospitals to make their prices public, and against the single-payer Medicare for All proposal to eliminate for-profit health insurance. AHA’s political action committee, AHAPAC, spends millions each election cycle to support federal candidates, but this cycle it has shelled out far more to support Neal than it has spent in any other race. The $200,000 worth of pro-Neal ads the group has sponsored are the only independent expenditures AHAPAC has made in the 2019-20 election cycle. As chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Neal controls all legislation that has a tax component, including most major health care bills.” 
Cuomo Is Protecting His Wall Street Donors From Democratic Tax Bills
[TMI, via Naked Capitalism 8-12-20]

Disrupting mainstream politics

Why Cori Bush Succeeded: And what her victory means for progressive politics and the Congressional Black Caucus
[American Prospect 8-6-20]
Second, Bush had a battle-hardened set of insurgent campaigners behind her, capitalizing on a massive mistake by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats. The DCCC created a “blacklist” last year that barred campaign organizations and consultants who work for primary challengers to incumbents from working on any DCCC-sponsored campaigns. While this was supposed to starve primary challengers of talent, it had the opposite effect: creating a pool of progressive campaigners who solely work on these types of races, learning from their experiences and growing in knowledge and sophistication.

Justice Democrats and Fight Corporate Monopolies made significant media buys on Bush’s behalf, giving her that boost over Clay on TV and radio. Sunrise Movement, who also endorsed her, led a phone-banking blitz. Matriarch, an organization supporting progressive working women that Bush co-founded, provided budget and messaging and campaign filing support, some of the nitty-gritty of politics, as well as building grassroots infrastructure. 

The Wikipedia War That Shows How Ugly This Election Will Be: An editing battle over Kamala Harris’s race is a sign of what’s to come.
[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 8-14-20]
Last year, in an explicit echo of birtherism, the right-wing troll Jacob Wohl claimed that “Kamala Harris is NOT eligible to be President” because her parents had not been legal residents of the United States for at least five years before her birth. (There is no such requirement.) The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. retweeted (and then deleted) a Black “alt-right” figure saying, “She’s not an American Black. Period.” Researchers found evidence suggesting that tweets questioning Harris’s heritage were part of a coordinated campaign “to wedge the issue of who counts as a black person in America.” (In the 2016 election, Russian-linked accounts repeatedly posed as Black Americans on social media. So have alt-right and white-supremacist groups. Last month, Facebook removed a Romanian network of accounts masquerading as Black Trump supporters.)

[Niskanen, via The Big Picture 8-15-20]
For as long as we’ve had reliable data on the matter, evidence tells us that when it comes to public policy, Americans lean significantly to the left. And yet, the party of the right continues to win elections, control the institutions of governance, and enact major elements of its (relatively unpopular) policy agenda. This begs the question: What do Republicans know about political power that Democrats don’t?
I am also struck by how ineffective liberals are at building the institutions necessary to stand up a political movement. Where is the liberal version of the Federalist Society? ALEC? Americans for Tax Reform? Club for Growth? CPAC? What has the left built to advance its agenda that equals the NRA? Or the extensive Koch web—which in turn, breeds right-wing activists in college, advances their work in graduate school, and embeds them in high-level political networks throughout the nation?
This lack of seriousness about political strategy starkly manifests itself in agenda-setting. Regardless of what the campaign that brought them into office was about, conservatives invariably attend to policy initiatives designed to cripple Democratic power. Right-to-work statutes, public-employee contracts, campaign finance regulation, the promotion of conservative judges: all are top priorities for a right that understands the long-term political advantages that accrue from hobbling muscular Democratic constituencies and the future scope of liberal lawmaking.
Finally, liberals too often confuse the critical matter of political meta-narratives with marketing and communications. Conservatives overcome the public’s tilt to the left by campaigning on a compelling, easy-to-understand mythos about American identity and its foundation in liberty, which (the right argues) is sacrificed by excessive government power. It’s a powerful creed that resonates deeply with American character, and it is reinforced by a network of conservative organizations grounded in institutions that govern people’s lives (churches, workplaces, recreational clubs, etc.).
Trump moves to outflank Biden and neoliberal Democratic establishment
gjohnsit, 08/14/2020 []
Instead of learning from that mistake Democrats have doubled down. They've made an obvious and unmistakable display of rejecting young leftists. They seem to take pleasure in humiliating any leftist voter and mocking their values.

Well guess what? Someone noticed. And that someone is President Trump. It's no coincidence that Trump has made a flurry of the executive orders that are all targeted at values young leftist voters hold close to their hearts.

While at the same time the Democratic establishment is telling those voters "we don't want you, we don't need you, and we will not represent you, but if we lose it will be your fault."

Trump ordered to continue deferring federal student loan payments through the end of the year with no interest accrued. It's only 3 months, but it's a big deal that the Dems couldn't be bothered with.
Trump signed an executive order to extend enhanced unemployment benefits at a reduced rate of $400 per week. It's mostly unworkable in it's current form, but he gets more credit than Congress.

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