Sunday, November 8, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 8, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 8, 2020
by Tony Wikrent



The 277 Policies for Which Biden Need Not Ask Permission 

[The American Prospect, via Naked Capitalism 11-5-20]


  • We found 277 policies that can be enacted through executive branch powers in the Biden-Sanders unity task force document.
  • 48 of the policies, or 17 percent, are rollbacks of Trump-era policy changes.
  • Immigration (78 policies), Climate Change (54 policies), and the Economy (54 policies) have the most potential executive actions.

Strategic Political Economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-20]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-20]


Which is the Real “Working Class Party” Now? 

Matt Taibbi, November 5, 2020

Defying years of muddle-headed media analyses, Trump underperformed with white men, but made gains with every other demographic. Some 26 percent of his votes came from nonwhite Americans, the highest percentage for a Republican since 1960. The politician who became instantly famous — and infamous — by saying of Mexican immigrants, “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” performed stunningly well with Latino voters.

Even more amazing was Trump’s performance among Black voters. The man whose 2016 message to “the blacks” was very nearly a parody of long-ago New York mayoral candidate Mario Procaccino’s pledge that “My heart is as black as yours” must have found a new way to connect. Trump doubled his support with Black women, moving from 4% in 2016 to 8%, while upping his support among Black men from 13% to 18%. Remember, this was after four years of near-constant denunciations of Trump as not just a racist, but the leader of a literal white supremacist movement….

Trump’s numbers with the LGBTQ community were a stunner also, jumping from 14% to 28%. In September, a dating app for queer men called Hornet ran a survey that showed 45% support for Trump among gay men.

Trump lost the election because of his handling of the pandemic, the top issue for 41% of voters, who chose Biden by a nearly 3-1 margin. But among people whose top concern was the economy — 28% of the electorate — Trump won an incredible 80% of the vote.

All of this points to a dramatic change. Trump may not have done much, politically, to deserve the support of Black, Latino, LGBTQ, and female voters. But the Democrats’ conspicuous refusal to address economic inequality and other class issues in a meaningful way created an opening….

Now, Trump is likely to leave the White House, but he created a coalition that some Republicans already understand would deliver massively in a non-pandemic situation. As Missouri Republican Josh Hawley put it the night of the election, “We are a working-class party now. That’s the future.”

What happens from here is a race to see which political party can make the obvious dumb move faster. Will the Democrats, emboldened by the false high of a Biden victory, blow off the clear need to revamp their economic messaging before 2022, when they risk losing both houses of congress?

Or will the Republican opposition give away the Trump coalition just as fast, by choosing Mitch McConnell’s donor list over Hawley’s insight?

A Multi-Ethnic, Working-Class Conservatism 

[American Compass, via Naked Capitalism 11-6-20]

Lambert Strether notes: “It will be interesting to watch conservatives attempt to become the workers’ party without actually empowering them.”

What Democrats Should Learn From the Spate of Socialist Wins on Election Day 

[In These Times, via Naked Capitalism 11-6-20]

But demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ism, pop­u­lar­ized by near-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.), had a much bet­ter night. The Demo­c­ra­t­ic Social­ists of Amer­i­ca (DSA), an orga­ni­za­tion that boasts near­ly 80,000 mem­bers nation­wide, endorsed 29 can­di­dates and 11 bal­lot ini­tia­tives, win­ning 20 and 8 respec­tive­ly. There are now demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ist cau­cus­es in 15 state­hous­es, includ­ing Mon­tana…. All four mem­bers of ​“The Squad” — a pro­gres­sive bloc in Con­gress that includes Demo­c­ra­t­ic Reps. Rashi­da Tlaib (Mich.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ayan­na Press­ley (Mass.) — were reelect­ed to the House. (Tlaib and Oca­sio-Cortez are DSA mem­bers and endorsed by the orga­ni­za­tion.) Pro­gres­sives also added two more DSA-endorsed mem­bers to their squad: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep.-elect Jamaal Bow­man in New York, and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep.-elect Cori Bush, the first ever Black Con­gress­woman in Missouri.

10 Major Unions & over 100 Black Clergy Call for General Strike if Trump Steals the Election 

Mike Elk [via Naked Capitalism 11-3-20]

And we’re going to find out in the next four years if they’re also willing to use this weapon to pressure Biden….

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-20]


The Pandemic

“COVID-19: US federal accountability for entry, spread, and inequities—lessons for the future

[European Journal of Epidemiology, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-20]

“In this article we assess the impact of missteps by the Federal Government in three specific areas: the introduction of the virus to the US and the establishment of community transmission; the lack of national COVID-19 workplace standards and enforcement, and lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for workplaces as represented by complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which we find are correlated with deaths 16 days later (ρ = 0.83); and the total excess deaths in 2020 to date already total more than 230,000, while COVID-19 mortality rates exhibit severe—and rising—inequities in race/ethnicity, including among working age adults.” • Well worth a read; it takes a systemic view.

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Republicans, Not Biden, Are About to Raise Your Taxes 

[New York Times 11-1-2020]

The Trump administration has a dirty little secret: It’s not just planning to increase taxes on most Americans. The increase has already been signed, sealed and delivered, buried in the pages of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

President Trump and his congressional allies hoodwinked us. The law they passed initially lowered taxes for most Americans, but it built in automatic, stepped tax increases every two years that begin in 2021 and that by 2027 would affect nearly everyone but people at the top of the economic hierarchy. All taxpayer income groups with incomes of $75,000 and under — that’s about 65 percent of taxpayers — will face a higher tax rate in 2027 than in 2019….

By 2027, when the law’s provisions are set to be fully enacted, with the stealth tax increases complete, the country will be neatly divided into two groups: Those making over $100,000 will on average get a tax cut. Those earning under $100,000 — an income bracket encompassing three-quarters of taxpayers — will not.

At the same time, Trump has given his peers, people with annual incomes in excess of $1 million dollars, or the top 0.3 percent in the country, a huge gift: The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated the average tax rate in 2019 for this group to be 2.3 percentage points lower than before the tax cut, saving the average taxpayer in this group over $64,000 — more than the average American family makes in a year.

Bonuses before bankruptcy: Companies doled out millions to executives before filing for Chapter 11. 

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 11-1-20]

Major brands like Hertz and J.C. Penney issued six- and seven-figure payouts before asking bankruptcy courts to shield them from creditors during restructuring — often before erasing thousands of jobs — court and regulatory documents show 

Progressive Policies into the Breach

“Why has Antitrust Law Failed Workers?” (PDF)

[Cornell Law School, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-2-20]

“In the last several years, economists have learned about an antitrust problem of vast scope. Far from approximating the conditions of perfect competition as long assumed, most labor markets are characterized by monopsony—meaning that employers pay workers less than their productivity because workers lack a credible threat to quit and find a higherpaying job in the same market. Yet while antitrust law regulates labor monopsony in the same way as it regulates monopoly on the product market side, antitrust litigation against employers is rare. We document both the magnitude of labor monopsony and the paucity of cases and argue that this “litigation gap” exists because antitrust case law, which has developed through product-side litigation, is poorly tailored to labor-side problems.”

And the proposals:

We make four proposals. First, employees should be permitted to bring section 1 [“Parallelism”] claims against employers based on parallelism. Second, employees should be given more latitude to bring section 2 [“anticompetitive means”] claims against labor monopsonists. Third, the FTC and Justice Department should incorporate labormarket analysis into their review of mergers, and private claims by employees against merging firms should also be strengthened. Fourth, employers should not be permitted to foreclose antitrust class actions by including arbitration clauses in employment contracts.

The 90-year-old strategy that could end the US unemployment crisis 

[Quartz, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-20]

FDR’s Works Progress Administration: direct employment by government to get shit done — now considered lefty radicalism by the centrists determined to drag us down with them. 

A Guaranteed Monthly Check Changed His Life. Now He Sends Out 650.

[New York Times 11-6-20]

Michael Bohmeyer’s website, “My Basic Income,” has given randomly selected people almost $1,200 a month for a year to see if it improves their lives. His answer: Yes.

….Enjoying life is no trivial matter for the slight, serious Mr. Bohmeyer, whose experimental, grass-roots platform has thus far given more than 650 randomly-selected people 1,000 euros a month, around $1,165, for a year, no strings attached, just to test a thesis. Namely, that what people need to thrive in a rapidly changing world is not more money, but more security, and that an unconditional basic income — a monthly sum to cover living expenses that, if implemented, would be paid by the government and received by everyone — could enable this.

The idea has resonated in Germany, a wealthy country that spends about a third of its G.D.P. on a robust social welfare system. In the six years since Mr. Bohmeyer first called for donations “My Basic Income” has raised about €8 million, thanks to 140,000 or so private donations of sums as low as a couple of euros a month.

“Voters approve amendment supporting Florida minimum wage increase”

[Tampa Bay Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-4-20]

“With all precincts reporting, Floridians have approved an amendment to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026. With 10.48 million votes counted, 60.8 percent of Floridians voted ‘yes’ on the measure, just barely crossing the 60 percent threshold that constitutional amendments need for approval. Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who spent millions trying to get the amendment passed, said ‘God answered my prayers.’ ‘Tonight the people of Florida gave the working poor a forever raise,’ Morgan said in a text message. ‘This was not a political issue, it was a moral issue.'”

This Upcoming European Legislation Could Reshape the Internet

[Motherboard, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-20]

European Union lawmakers are currently in the process of drafting a legislative package designed to rework how internet platforms are regulated, rein in tech giants like Google and Amazon, and strengthen user rights. It’s called The Digital Services Act, and some experts believe that it has the potential to change the internet forever.

Few details of the project—which is set to be officially proposed by the European Commission by the end of the year—are set in stone. But, a leaked draft proposal reportedly obtained by The Financial Times and three committee recommendation reports from the legislature paint a picture of a sweeping and ambitious set of reforms…. “There’s definitely groundbreaking stuff in there,” Natali Helberger, a professor specializing in information law and a researcher at the soon to be launched Digital Services Act Observatory, told Motherboard over Zoom.

Climate and environmental crises

“Trump strips protections for Tongass forest, opening it to logging”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-20]

“The Trump administration on Wednesday lifted protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, a move that will expand logging in the nation’s largest old-growth forest. A notice posted in the Federal Register exempts the forest from the so-called roadless rule, a Clinton-era prohibition on road construction and timber harvesting on many Forest Service lands. Under the Trump administration’s changes, the nearly 9.4 million acres of inventoried roadless land in the Tongass would once again be considered suitable timberlands.”

The Unannounced Death Of The Green New Deal: Part 2 – An Object Of Projection 

[The Wrong Kind of Green, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-20] 

Part 1

“GOP Climate Denier Prevails In Critical Texas Energy Regulator Race”

[Huffington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-4-20]

“Jim Wright, a hardcore climate change denier and owner of an oil-field services company, is projected to win the race to be Texas’ next energy regulator, preserving the Republicans’ quarter-century hold on the Texas Railroad Commission and defeating a better-funded Democrat. The race for the open slot on the three-seat commission ― which, despite its name, oversees the Lone Star State’s vast oil, gas and mining industries ― had been widely seen as Democrats’ best chance to win a statewide election there in nearly three decades…. ‘Today, I don’t think the technology truly exists. It was an idea. It caught on and hey, we’re going to save the planet because our icebergs aren’t going to melt anymore. You haven’t convinced me at all of that,’ Wright said on the podcast ‘Digital Wildcatters.’ ‘I don’t see the research that proves that. Again, my own theory is, I think the Earth continues to evolve just like we have for millions of years, and we’re gonna go through different times.'”

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Geothermal energy is poised for a big breakout: “An engineering problem that, when solved, solves energy.”

[Vox, via The Big Picture 11-2-20]

To batteries and beyond: Compressed air, liquid air and the holy grail of long-duration storage 

Utility Dive, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-20]

Energy descent as a post-carbon transition scenario: how ‘knowledge humility’ reshapes energy futures for post-normal times 

[ScienceDirect, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-20]

Many studies have concluded that the current global economy can transition from fossil fuels to be powered entirely by renewable energy. While supporting such transition, we critique analysis purporting to conclusively demonstrate feasibility. Deep uncertainties remain about whether renewables can maintain, let alone grow, the range and scale of energy services presently provided by fossil fuels. The more optimistic renewable energy studies rely upon assumptions that may be theoretically or technically plausible, but which remain highly uncertain when real-world practicalities are accounted for. This places investigation of energy-society futures squarely in the domain of post-normal science, implying the need for greater ‘knowledge humility’ when framing and interpreting the findings from quantitative modelling exercises conducted to investigate energy futures. Greater appreciation for the limits of what we can know via such techniques reveals ‘energy descent’ as a plausible post-carbon scenario. Given the fundamental dependence of all economic activity on availability of energy in appropriate forms at sufficient rates, profound changes to dominant modes of production and consumption may be required, a view marginalised when more techno-optimistic futures are assumed.

Psyche, an asteroid believed to be worth $10,000 quadrillion, is observed through Hubble Telescope in new study 

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 11-5-20]

new study published Monday in The Planetary Science Journal takes a closer look at this mysterious asteroid, using data from the Hubble Telescope. Located between Mars and Jupiter, Asteroid 16 Psyche is one of the most massive objects in the asteroid belt in our solar system, and with a diameter of about 140 miles, it is roughly the same length as Massachusetts (if you exclude Cape Cod).
    The exact composition of Psyche is still unclear, but scientists think it's possible the asteroid is mostly made of iron and nickel. It's been hypothesized that a piece of iron of its size could be worth about $10,000 quadrillion, more than the entire economy on our planet.

    Information Age Dystopia

    Five Ways to Address Online Speech Problems Without Gutting the Law That Created Today’s Internet 

    [(Slate, via The Big Picture 11-2-20]

    President Trump and former Vice President Biden agree on one thing: They don’t like Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

    The Senate Race That Could be Pivotal for America—and Wikipedia 

    [Wired, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-20]

    An excellent inside look at the problems created by Wikipedia’s willful blindness and libertarian ideology. 

    “NYC wants national plan to require all businesses to accept cash”

    [New York Daily News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-2-20]

    “Erica Ford, CEO of Life Camp Inc., is calling on the city’s congressional delegation to push through a law requiring that cashless businesses accept paper money…. In January, the City Council passed a law similar to what Ford is calling for on the national level. It prohibits stores, restaurants and other retailers from refusing paper money or coin. The law was backed by Councilman Ritchie Torres, who is expected to join the Congressional delegation next year. It goes into effect next month.”

    Collapse of Independent News Media

    Matt Taibbi talks with Chris Hedges about the deep decay within the American press and its consequences.

    [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-20]



    America’s Press and the Asymmetric War for Truth  

    Jay Rosen [New York Review of Books, via The Big Picture 11-7-2020]

    The Republican Party—now committed to minoritarian rule, not democracy—needs fictions to sustain its power. And that means a collision with honest journalism....  

    The Republican Party is increasingly a minority party, or counter-majoritarian, as some political scientists put it. The beliefs and priorities that hold it together are opposed by most Americans, who on a deeper level do not want to be what the GOP increasingly stands for. A counter-majoritarian party cannot present itself as such and win elections outside its dwindling strongholds. So it has to be counterfactual, too. It has to fight with fictions. Making it harder to vote, and harder to understand what the party is really about—these are two parts of the same project. The conflict with honest journalism is structural. To be its dwindling self, the GOP has to also be at war with the press, unless of course the press folds under pressure….

    “Republican behavior in recent years suggests that they share the antebellum South’s determination to control the nation’s direction as a minority,” Brownstein writes. That’s why they went to such lengths to deny Obama a Supreme Court pick and sacrificed everything to get Amy Coney Barrett on the Court. “It’s evident in the flood of laws that Republican states have passed over the past decade making it more difficult to vote. And it’s evident in the fervent efforts from the party to restrict access to mail-in voting this year.” (Add to that list: interfering with the census; crippling the Post Office.)….

    ...An observation I have frequently made in my press criticism is that certain things that mainstream journalists do are not to serve the public, but to protect themselves against criticism. That’s what “he said, she said” reporting, the “both sides do it” reflex, and the “balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon” are all about….

    But as Brian Beutler of Crooked Media wrote last week, some things have changed:

    Decades of right-wing smears have driven the vast majority of conservative Americans away from mainstream news outlets into a cocoon of right-wing propaganda. Those mainstream outlets have responded [by] loading panels and contributor mastheads with Republican operatives or committed movement conservatives; chasing baseless stories to avoid accusations of bias; adhering stubbornly to indefensible assumptions of false balance; subverting the truth to lazy he-said/she-said dichotomies. None of it can or will appease their right-wing critics, who don’t mean to influence the media, but to delegitimize it. None of it has drawn Fox News viewers and Breitbart readers back into the market for real news.

    The right has its own media ecosystem now. As the GOP becomes more devoted to white nationalism and voter suppression, it makes less sense for the public service press to chase that core audience or heed its complaints about bias. Beutler and I are making the same point to mainstream journalists: these are people on the right who want to destroy your institution; it’s time you started acting accordingly.

    A Guide to Non-Paywalled Finance and News Sources to Share 

    Jay Palter [via The Big Picture 11-4-20]

    The case for why current paywall subscription models are the wrong approach to monetizing news and insight. At the end, I am also going to suggest a bunch of publications that have not deployed paywalls – yet. And these are sites that you should be actively using as sources for your news sharing.

    Disrupting mainstream politics

    Will the Democrats Ever Make Sense of This Week? 

    Osita Nwanevu, November 6, 2020 [The New Republic ]

    Incidentally, issue polls, frequently derided as unreliable, are looking pretty good this week. Progressives have spent the last few years touting positive figures on support for marijuana legalization and a $15 minimum wage as evidence that their priorities, taken separately, are significantly more popular than Democratic candidates. On Tuesday night, marijuana legalization and a $15 minimum wage significantly outperformed Biden…

    ...the assumptions underpinning Democratic identity politics aren’t coming away from the campaign unscathed. The notion that minority representation and visibility and rhetoric about Trump’s bigotry would sweep not only Trump but Trumpism and the GOP away seems to have taken a real beating, particularly given, again, the gains Trump made among voters of color….

    ...To the extent that the pandemic was a major policy issue, voters likely went to the polls less with a real command of Biden’s plans on the coronavirus than with a general sense that he would manage the situation more capably and responsibly than Trump has. This is the dynamic Biden bet on from the outset—that voters in both the Democratic primary and the general election would be animated less by a policy agenda than by an urgent desire to put a seemingly good and sensible person in the White House. 

    Now We Know: Trump’s 2016 Win Was No Fluke

    Capital Spectator, via The Big Picture 11-5-20]

    Perhaps the biggest shock is that despite weak leadership (to put it charitably) on coronavirus management in the White House, the track record didn’t matter to half of voters…. According to GZero Media, the economy was the top voter issue in 2016 and remains so in 2020. 

    ht tp://

    GRAPH - TOP ISSUES, 2016 v. 2020

    The Pandemic Forced Joe Biden to Think Bigger. Meet the Economists Who Got Him There.

    [Mother Jones, via The Big Picture 11-6-20]

    Ben Harris, policy director of the Hamilton Project, a neoliberal think tank within the centrist Brookings Institution that had been founded by Robert Rubin…. He took a job at Brookings working under William Gale, a Brookings fixture who had briefly served as an economist in George H. W. Bush’s administration. Their research focused primarily on taxes and budgets; their conclusions often warned of the nation’s unsustainable fiscal deficit while calling for tax increases, often on high earners….

    By the end of 2014, unemployment had retreated from its Great Recession peak, but as the recovery unfolded, Biden had two chief concerns. One was stagnant wages—a side effect, Biden believed, of weakened worker power. Another had to do with a troubling corporate trend: Public companies that had received massive infusions of taxpayer funds at the dawn of the financial crisis were now using their earnings to buy back their stock, a strategy that improved share prices and passed that value onto investors, not workers…. When Biden weighed whether to enter the 2020 race, Harris was among a small group of former aides he consulted, and Biden brought Harris on as an informal economic adviser as soon as the campaign kicked off....

    Heather Boushey, the president and CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a left-leaning economic think tank spun off from the Center for American Progress.

    Boushey’s upbringing in the 1970s Seattle suburbs was an object lesson in the middle-class squeeze. Her father was a union machinist who built for Boeing; her mother worked as a bookkeeper to make ends’ meet. When Boeing laid off Boushey’s father in the early 1980s, her mother told her middle school-aged daughter that her swim team membership, $100 a month, might be on hold until her father resumed work. 

    ….She joined Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign as one of its first informal policy advisers. Clinton’s first major economic address of the campaign—delivered at the New School, Boushey’s alma mater—touched on Boushey’s greatest hits: A decline in workforce participation among women, childcare, and paid family leave. Throughout the campaign, Boushey would raise her argument that equality and economic growth go hand in hand to defend Clinton against attacks from her opponent, Bernie Sanders, whose own run prized redistribution above all else…. As the 2020 race heated up, Boushey’s advice was consulted by nearly all of the candidates, but once the pandemic hit, her ideas became urgent. “There’s kind of two core ideas that have animated a lot of Heather’s work: One is about gender and the economy, and one is about inequality in the economy more broadly,” says Michael Linden, a founder of the Groundwork Collaborative, a left-leaning economic think tank. “Both of those are ridiculously relevant right now.”

    ….In the campaign’s final stretch, Harris has continued to work closely with Jake Sullivan on the development of economic-related policy. Boushey led an outside advisory group of hundreds of economists shaping how Biden might turn his campaign platform into executable policy. Bernstein has joined the transition’s advisory board. The economic briefings have continued, but on an ad-hoc, not daily, basis. On a campaign that’s been conducted largely over Zoom and email, it’s impossible to gauge what influence any one person is havingand that influence can vary from day-to-day. A broader group of regulars—including Austan Goolsbee, former Clinton and Obama NEC chair Gene Sperling, and AFL-CIO economist Bill Spriggs—also weigh in on policy details. Jeff Zients, another Obama NEC chair and a wealthy investor with deep business ties who now co-chair’s Biden’s transition team, also has the candidate’s ear on economic matters. And, of course, there’s a tight-knit team of longtime political advisers who touch every decision Biden makes….

    Democrats have uniformly gotten over whatever sticker shock plagued the 2009 recovery—especially since Congress already passed $2.2 trillion in stimulus earlier this year. The deficit hawks have been relatively assuaged by the fact that interest rates—the key ingredient to making a bad debt worse—have remained low, and they accept the ongoing recession will only be remedied by a massive cash infusion. What a President Biden would hope to pass in January probably looks a lot like the $3 trillion program the House Democrats passed in June.

    It’s what comes after this stimulus that might trigger a fight within the party, with friction between those in Biden’s ranks pushing for bolder policies and those more cautious about the political impacts. 

    “Biden Influencers”

    [Baron Public Affairs, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-2-20]

    “Baron applied Influencer Analytics to provide a snapshot of the most significant policy experts and other leaders likely to be influential on economic issues should Democrats capture the White House in November. Baron also previously conducted Influencer Analytics on the Trump Administration… Baron’s process has been tested and refined, with recent projects for clients including Fortune 50 companies, business coalitions, and large privately-held firms. These projects involved gathering more than 100,000 reference citations by policy makers and other opinion leaders.” 

    According to Influencer Analytics, the following policy experts have the most influence on Biden advisors:

    • Michael Linden – Groundwork Collaborative
    • Jason Furman – Harvard Kennedy School
    • Jared Bernstein – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
    • Heather Boushey – Washington Center for Equitable Growth
    • Heidi Shierholz – Economic Policy Institute
    • Gene Sperling – Sperling Economic Strategies
    • Ernie Tedeschi – Evercore ISI
    • Justin Wolfers – University of Michigan
    • Martha Gimbel – Schmidt Futures
    • Matt Stoller – American Economic Liberties Project


    2020’s Biggest Losers: Probably Trump, Definitely Schumer

    Harold Myerson, November 5, 2020 [The American Prospect]
    As Democrats fail to take the Senate, their leader’s performance merits some scrutiny.

    It’s the big picture that reveals Schumer’s failure. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on his anointed Senate candidates in hopes of picking up the four seats required for a majority, the Democrats will likely end up picking up between three and none. And make no mistake: Schumer anointed virtually all of the party’s Senate hopefuls.

    As Bob Moser detailed in our pages in March, for many years now, Schumer has routinely selected a preferred Democratic candidate from a field of aspirants, funneling so much money to that candidate that opponents tend to drop out. Schumer’s choices are invariably centrists on the Democratic spectrum: Kansas’s Barbara Bollier, who lost by 12 points on Tuesday to Republican Roger Marshall, was until recently a Republican. M.J. Hegar, who fell by ten points to John Cornyn in Texas, voted in the Republican presidential primary as recently as 2016…. handpicking candidates and driving their primary opponents from the field, he ensures that Democratic nominees aren’t really field-tested before they go up against Republican opponents. Schumer’s candidates all fit a milquetoast, don’t-make-waves stereotype that’s good for bossing them around inside the Senate Democratic caucus, but maybe not so much for inspiring people to vote. If you can discern any policy that this group actually ran on, let me know.

    It’s Time for an Overhaul of House Democratic Leadership

    Alexander Sammon, November 5, 2020 [The American Prospect]

    ….on a night where Democrats were forecast to pick up as many as 20 seats in the chamber, not a single GOP incumbent has been defeated. The only two Democratic pickups thus far can be chalked up to court-mandated changes to congressional district maps in North Carolina….

    That nightmarish result has Democrats pointing fingers as to who shoulders the blame. According to Politico, in a bold show of personal responsibility, “[s]everal centrist Democrats blamed their more progressive colleagues, saying moderates in Trump-leaning districts couldn’t escape their ‘socialist’ shadow.” 

    ….The failures of Democratic leadership have been profound, running what should have been a Democratic advantage into the ground. But the leadership class who came up with and pursued that strategy is made up entirely of centrists, who have spurned progressives at every turn, claiming to know better, forcing them to watch quietly as senior-ranking moderates managed nothing in terms of legislation over the past two years and orchestrated a disastrous campaign strategy. That should be evidence enough that Pelosi, Bustos, and her centrist acolytes who managed to survive election night should be relieved of their leadership positions. Progressives, meanwhile, didn’t lose any members from their ranks and now make up a larger percentage of the caucus than ever, have the only credible claim to leadership positions, and should do everything in their power to take them over ahead of what will be much more challenging terrain in 2022.

    Cuomo Blames de Blasio as Strains Mount Over N.Y. Democrats’ Showing

    [New York Times, November 5, 2020]

    ‘Dumpster fire’: House Democrats trade blame after Tuesday’s damage

    [Politico, November 4, 2020]

    Democrats were already engaging in rapid-fire finger-pointing about who is to blame for Tuesday’s embarrassing showing, with the private angst likely to spill out into the public in the coming days as the full House landscape becomes known. Several centrist Democrats blamed their more progressive colleagues, saying moderates in Trump-leaning districts couldn’t escape their “socialist” shadow.

    Others argued that the DCCC had been far too bullish in seats the party was realistically never going to pick up — citing races such as Arkansas’ 2nd District — while missing the looming disaster in South Florida, where incumbents Shalala and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell were ousted. Several Democrats said the party operation was not focused on a cohesive, proactive message that went beyond simply opposing Trump, who proved to remain popular in many districts.

    “The 2020 Election Result Completely Discredits The Democratic Leadership” [Current Affairs, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-5-20]

    “Let’s be very clear: the Democratic Party screwed this election up massively. Trump actually did better than he did in 2016 in areas with high COVID-19 deaths. Union members in Ohio appear to have gone for Trump, and most of the people who saw the economy as the top issue voted for Trump, even though this should theoretically be the issue on which the Democratic Party is strongest. ”

    [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-5-20]


    [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-5-20]


    Voting Rights Roundup: Supreme Court poised to upend federalism itself to gut voting protections

    Stephen Wolf for Daily Kos Elections, October 23, 2020

    It has been a cornerstone of American federalism for more than two centuries that when state courts make decisions based solely on state constitutional grounds that don't conflict with federal law—as is the case here—those decisions are insulated from federal review. However, Republicans argue that the U.S. Constitution's Elections Clause giving the "legislature" in each state the power to set the "times, places, and manner of holding" federal elections means that only the legislature itself may exercise that power, not those tasked with setting or interpreting state laws, such as state courts.

    In other words, Republicans are arguing that state courts—as well as voter-initiated ballot measures and potentially even governors—lack the power to set election laws when they disagree with the legislature. Such a notion would shatter the principle of judicial review at the state level. In a state such as Pennsylvania, where the GOP holds gerrymandered legislative majorities despite Democrats winning more votes in 2018, it would cement minority rule by removing any real check on ill-gained legislative power. This outcome would eliminate any real recourse that voters have to end gerrymandering when lawmakers won't act.

    The last few months have seen the U.S. Supreme Court and federal judges appointed by Republicans repeatedly rule against voting rights. This Pennsylvania case is an ominous indicator that right-wing judges will go to new extremes to eviscerate voting protections to entrench the GOP in power for the foreseeable future. Should Democrats overcome these barriers next month and win the presidency and Senate, they will likely soon face the difficult choice of either reforming the structure of the courts or watch voting rights wither away under an unrelenting judicial assault.

    We Can’t Follow Obama Back to Brunch 

    David Sirota, Daily Poster, November 2, 2020

    ….Obama’s Flint speech went further. Echoing a previous refrain from Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, it was a call to resurrect Brunch Liberalism whereby large swaths of the American left disengage and defer in much the same way it did during the Obama administration, to disastrous effect.

    Though it is now forgotten history, the history is clear: After years of mass protest and activism against the George W. Bush administration, many liberal activists, voters and advocacy groups went to brunch after the 2008 election, fell in line and refused to pressure the new administration to do much of anything. Those that dared to speak out were often berated and shamed….

    But disengagement won’t be fine for the rest of us. As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently said: “After we work to command victory in November, I need folks to realize that there’s no going back to brunch.”

    AOC is right to sound that alarm, because going back to brunch could create the atmosphere for a new administration that brushes off calls for bold action on health care, climate change, wages, union rights and corporate regulation. Worse, it could let the new president follow through on his promises to donors that nothing would fundamentally change and that there is no forthcoming legislation to change corporate behavior.

    That would enlarge all the crises bearing down on our society — and potentially create the backlash conditions for another Trump, but worse.

    “Bernie Sanders slams the Democratic Party for becoming the ‘party of rich, coastal elites’ and ignoring working-class people for many years in message to Joe Biden”

    [Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-2-20]

    [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-6-20]


    [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-2-20]


    Obama Lost Us Two Generations of Down Ballot Races



    [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-4-20]



    “Six Takeaways From Election Night”

    David Sirota [Daily Poster 11-4-20]

    “Trump won 81 percent of the vote among the third of the electorate that listed the economy as its top priority. Even more amazing — Trump and Biden equally split the vote among those whose priority is a president who ‘cares about people like me.'” Also: “Democrats raised roughly a quarter billion dollars for senate races in Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas and Alabama — and their candidates all appear to have gone down to defeat by 10 points or more.”

    [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-4-20]


    Will the Supreme Court Overturn the Election Result?

    [The American Prospect 11-6-2020]

    No, says Harvard law professor Michael Klarman, who spoke with Prospect co-editor Robert Kuttner….

    ….If the Democrats were to take back control of the Senate in 2022, what would democratic re-entrenchment measures look like?

    MK: Democratic legislatures should make voter registration and voting easier. Registration can be made automatic for all citizens when they turn 18 and for older citizens when they interact with government agencies. Same-day voter registration significantly enhances turnout without increasing fraud, contrary to the baseless charges of Republicans. Felon disfranchisement, which has enormous racially disparate effects, should be ended. Election Day should be made a holiday. Gubernatorial elections should take place at the same time as presidential elections, when voter turnout is much higher and is more demographically representative.

    The number of early-voting days, polling places, and voting machines should be increased, so people need not wait in long lines to vote. Absentee ballots should be available without excuse. Onerous identification requirements should be eliminated because they reduce turnout on the pretext of reducing fraud. Partisan gerrymandering should be ended. Public financing of elections would help reduce the influence of money in politics until the Court’s atrocious campaign finance decisions are overturned.

    Such measures would go a decent way toward making the American political system more representative of the American people. However, there is a significant chance that the most conservative Supreme Court in a century would invalidate all or many of these measures, at least insofar as they purport to regulate state elections, on federalism grounds.

    The Dark Side

    The Dangerous and Invisible Hand in the 2020 Election: Charles Koch’s i360
    Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 5, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

    As Congress and 17 intelligence agencies of the U.S. government have investigated Russia engaging in interference in U.S. presidential elections, here is what has been going on right under the nose of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Justice Department and all those intelligence agencies: one of the largest privately-owned companies in the world, Koch Industries, which has a massive financial interest in being allowed to continue to pollute the environment with its fossil fuels businesses, is allowed to simultaneously run a political campaign funding network as well as a political data mining and voter targeting operation on an unprecedented scale. The Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, billionaire Charles Koch, sits atop this political juggernaut and has been given far too much cover by mainstream media….

    The Delayed Reporting of Pennsylvania’s Vote Was Strategically Orchestrated by Trump Republicans
    Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 4, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

    It was the Republican State Legislature in Pennsylvania that earlier this year refused the request by counties to be allowed, because of the pandemic, to begin counting the mailed-in ballots prior to election day. As of this morning, more than 1.4 million, timely received, mailed-in ballots remain to be counted in Pennsylvania.

    After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that mailed-in ballots that are postmarked before or by election day can be received in the mail up to three days later and still be counted, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania sought to overturn that decision at the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined to take up the matter, stating that “there is simply not enough time at this late date to decide the question before the election.”

    The delay in receiving mailed-in ballots in Pennsylvania and other states may have been intentionally engineered by Trump’s Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, who is being sued in D.C. Federal Court by the NAACP. 

    Fox News President 

    [London Review of Books, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-20]

    The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – and Divided a Country, Gabriel Sherman

    Brian Stelter’s new book, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth (One Signal, $28)

    Donald Trump’s COVID Comeuppance 

    Simon Johnson [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-20]

    A hat tip to Johnson: this is a masterful recounting of Trump’s pattern of failure and ability to “shift the blame to others.”

    The US COVID-19 crisis fits the pattern of President Donald Trump’s career with its serial bankruptcies. Trump has badly mishandled the crisis, but while the United States will be living with the adverse consequences for many years, Trump will walk away – perhaps as soon as this week – blaming everyone but himself….

    Trump was born rich – and much of the money he made on his own was the tainted fruit of “tax dodges in the 1990s,” according to a New York Times assessment of his tax records. His career has been a train of default and failure: Atlantic City casinosTrump UniversityTrump Mortgage, Trump Steaks, Trump Magazine, Trump: The Gameand so on. The available evidence suggests that by the early 2000s, Trump had little remaining net worth.

    Most likely, this is the reason that Trump has never released his tax returns. He was not very successful as a businessman, except as a serial duper of creditors and other investors.

    NC L 11-1-20

    A Dem Presidency means The Return of the Blob Vineyard of the Saker. Pepe Escobar.

    What Would A Democratic Presidency Really Change? Moon of Alabama

    Deep divisions at home will go on weakening America regardless of who is elected Independent. Patrick Cockburn.

    Five Supreme Court rulings that signal what to expect next MIT Technology Review

    WATCH: Convoy of Trump supporters’ trucks surrounds Biden-Harris campaign bus to ‘escort it out of Texas’ RT (The Rev Kev)

    Democrats Cancel Rallies after Trump Train Swarms Biden Bus, Sparking Safety Fears

    March to Alamance polls ends with police using pepper-spray on protesters, children News & Observer

    Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party Suspension Is About Crushing the Left Jacabin

    Jeremy Grantham: America Needs a New Marshall Plan. This is the solution to America’s biggest problems. The GMO co-founder offers a plan to combat Covid-19, climate change, and income inequality. (GMO), via The Big Picture 11-3-20]

    The Black Nebraska Lawmaker Who May Have Delivered the Presidency to Joe Biden 

    [American Prospect 11-6-20]

    A Possible Majority: A political history of the present moment.

    Jedediah Britton-Purdy  [Dissent, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-6-20]

    Britton-Purdy is a professor at Columbia University Law School since 2019. Previously, he taught at Duke Law School 15 years. He teaches and writes about environmental, property, and constitutional law as well as legal and political theory. He is a regular contributor to Jacobin, Dissent, and on the editorial board of The American Prospect.

    “[I]t is essential to orient radical politics toward a possible majority, and that if we are not doing that, in this country, we are doing something other than politics.”

    The past decade has brought the greatest revival of left energies in half a century, if not longer. The past year has also seen the rout of the left in the Democratic presidential primaries, ensuring a near-term future of dissent and supplication more than ruling. This situation makes the choices of the next years particularly important. Will they point toward accepting a marginal, gadfly role, with power in a few city governments (which are, sadly, mostly not very powerful themselves) and a visionary flank of legislators who rarely control key votes? Or will they continue to press toward the goal, not just of the Bernie Sanders campaign itself, but of the activists and energies that gathered around it: to build a majority that can wield power?

    ….Pursuing majorities is especially frustrating in the United States because antidemocratic features of the political system make a political majority sharply different from a demographic or even electoral majority. The Electoral College, the Senate, gerrymandering, and disenfranchisement all stanch majorities, while the Supreme Court can thwart them even when they become effective. I’ve argued elsewhere that a democratic agenda in the United States should include constitutional reform and full enfranchisement for everyone who makes their lives here. But in any version, to get there, we have to go through the institutions we have. Political power is a thoroughly artificial thing, and votes are where you get it if you are not the financial industry, a retail empire, or big oil. (We are not.)

    There are many perfectly good ways of thinking about politics, or practicing ethics, or pursuing institutional influence, that do not involve trying to bring a political majority into being to exercise power. Many of these might be corrupted, or at least confused, by a democratic political orientation. That last orientation, however, has to be primary when we are doing politics in a quasi-democratic polity like the United States. If we cannot explain how we are going after that majority, we should entertain the possibility that we are not engaged in democratic politics at all….

    Billy Bragg, a product of the final years of anti-Thatcher laborism who survived as a movement poet without a movement, was by then singing about “a socialism of the heart.” He echoed Czech president Václav Havel, a dissident playwright imprisoned under communism, who wrote, “Though my heart may be left of center, I have always known that the only economic system that works is a market economy.” Figures like Havel had resisted authoritarian regimes that most observers expected to last through their lives and longer. Almost necessarily, they had worked without a plan beyond what Havel called “living in truth”—being, like punks and some pop stars, against lies and violence, although at greater personal risk and expecting no definite reward. Their quixotic persistence and unexpected victory seemed testament to a magical version of politics: the world’s powers really might bend, or break, before the speaking of truth. Pronounce the right words, and the walls would fall.… 

    Samuel Moyn has aptly called “the last utopia”: With socialism seemingly ruled out, the minimalist liberty of human rights—the negative protection of every person from state abuse—was the only radicalism that still seemed viable. Human rights embodied the same ethical-cum-aesthetic politics as the dissident playwrights and punk radicals. It was about the truth one spoke to power….

    ...If there was no political critique of capitalism, just a socialism of the heart, then there was, really, no truth to speak against the market’s decentralized and quasi-voluntary forms of power. Markets were just there, a morally neutral form of power, an implicit truth. The American conceit of that time was that the rest of humanity was waiting to become us, to shake off the accretions and abuses of history and become just people, unmodified—like us, but maybe with different outfits or spices. And such people would, beyond doubt, live in a marketplace, as pervasive and invisible as the air. They would also live in plenitude. The American supermarket was the cornucopia at the end of history, the promise of abundance that supposedly had pulled the East inexorably across the borders to the West. It was, maybe, the other last utopia, the promise of scarcity’s end....

    9-11, war

    Besides war, the world was to be saved from Hillary Clinton’s consultant-heavy politics, a reprise of her husband’s “triangulation” toward post-partisanship between 1992 and 2000, premised on the certainty that winning elections was a game with definite, fixed rules, which an expert could master. Obama’s campaign renewed a different feeling: that mobilized people could remake the rules, even become—sometimes, to some degree—different people through politics. We were, he said in effect, more, better, something else than this country we found ourselves in; and, in a bit of imaginative alchemy, we who carried this unrealized possibility in ourselves also were America. “We are the ones we have been waiting for,” he assured us (cribbing from Alice Walker)—a brilliant phrase of imprecise political meaning but exact emotional aim.

    Treading the back roads of South Carolina for Obama in the days before he dominated in its primary, it really did feel as if the campaign had rediscovered something buried for decades: that an election could be the arena for a movement, and that in a movement citizens could face one another and ask what kind of country they wanted to share….

    In hindsight, the first Obama campaign had the spirit, the feeling, of democratic transformation without the substance of a transformative program or a strategy for building power beyond winning the presidential election. In those ways it was another magical politics, one too keyed to the incantations of its charismatic cynosure. It was, by the same token, too inattentive to the loss of majorities in state legislatures, the Republican gerrymandering that followed after 2010, and the retreat of the Democratic electorate to the cities and some suburbs. In power, Obama, an institutionalist and small-c conservative by nature, drew toward the technocratic authority of generals, bankers, and economists, along with hardball political fixers of the Rahm Emanuel variety. Reports from people who dealt closely with his administration describe a pervasive contempt for idealists and “the left,” an attitude emanating from the president, who regarded himself as a thoroughgoing realist. It may be that the only thing Obama shares with his successor in the White House is contempt for those who are too easily gratified by his spiel.

    But the political energy that Obama had conjured took new forms at the margins of power. As Obama pulled rhetorically toward an American center that sometimes only he seemed able to see, new movements announced a sense of crisis and possibility. In different registers, Occupy Wall Street, North Carolina’s Moral Mondays movement (now the national Poor People’s Campaign), and Black Lives Matter all insisted that conditions were very bad for distinct, but overlapping, reasons: oligarchy (Occupy), a far-right takeover of a divided state’s government (Moral Mondays), and police killings (Black Lives Matter). Such movements always arise from many causes and years of uncelebrated organizing, but they had in common a radical hope placed in politics. Starting from the premise that things were worse in the country than Obama allowed, they all asked more of it than he permitted himself to do….

    Obama’s first campaign, like Trump’s, was a movement that promised to reclaim America. It, too, produced a government that could not contain or channel the energies that had brought it there. From the best of us to the worst, no one knows what to do with these irruptions of remake-the-country energy, but it is hard to succeed without them. What defeated Hillary Clinton, besides the misogyny and anti-Obama animus that Trump rallied, was her deafness to that political music—the same that Obama had used to stop her in 2008—and palpable desire to pass through the formalities of election to the business of administration. By turns high-minded and brutish, the last two presidencies, these American opposites, are aspects of a revival of political energies that is irrepressible but inchoate. It is the most dangerous and the most hopeful thing….

    There is a caesura in the new millennium between people who adopted Obama as a charismatic near-prophet and, even disenchanted from that dream, still see him as embodying the country’s best possibilities, and those, a little younger, for whom he was always the voice of a comfortable adult world that had no idea how bad things had become. The younger group might like and even admire him, but they do not expect him, or his epigones, to set things right….

    Although stories about how “the internet changed everything” are such truisms that one instinctively doubts them, I have trouble imagining the movements of the Obama years emerging as they did without it. Dissent was no longer isolating….

    Occupy has been distilled in memory to the slogan “We are the 99 percent.” 

    ….The 2016 Sanders campaign did more for social democratic politics than any other effort or event in this country for at least fifty years, and more likely for something closer to a century. It did so in a political landscape that, in 2015, presented no obvious social base for such a politics. No long game of labor or left organizing supported an electoral strategy far to the left of the Democratic mainstream. Hence Sanders’s campaign began as a classic protest run, with hardly a thought of upending Clinton’s richly bolstered expectation of the nomination. The movement that gathered around him would not have taken the form it did without his candidacy, but in many ways it took Sanders as its occasion, rather than his conjuring it. The underappreciated leading indicator in 2016 was that Sanders, a politically marginal maverick from a small state, was among the most-followed politicians on social media. His clarity and forcefulness on economic inequality and political oligarchy made him a gathering point for a new climate of opinion that was emerging from mutual affirmations of radicalism…. 

    The left will need, too, to work out relations—not necessarily one relationship—between its internationalist disposition and the fight for national majorities that is, and is likely to remain for our lifetimes, the main arena of constructive politics. Those majorities, and their states, are the actual agents of any fundamental transformation. No such agents exist for a democratic, egalitarian politics on an international scale. A left politics that rejects national sentiment as such, or refuses on principle the idea that a state should often put its own people’s welfare first, will cut itself off from the workings of politics. There are perfectly respectable reasons to advocate a more radical internationalism, but such advocacy tends to be a retreat from politics here and now, back toward the more testimonial moralism of “truth to power.”

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