Sunday, January 10, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 10, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 10, 2021

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

“In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates; every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob…. The sincere friends of liberty who give themselves up to the extravagancies of this passion are not aware of the injury they do their own cause.” — The Federalist No. 55, [13 February 1788], by James Madison or Alexander Hamilton. Example below:

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The American tragedy of our time is that the Republican Party is not republican at all. The Republican Party is, to be honest, anti-republican.

Leftists are ignoring some priceless wisdom by dismissing the republic’s founding as merely one group of rich patricians replacing another group. If we ditched liberalism and returned to (small "r") republicanism we could curb capitalism because any large concentration of wealth would be suspect and have to be broken up, just for being large: 

A free People are kept so by no other Means than an equal Distribution of Property; every Man who has a Share of Property having a proportionable Share of Power; and the first Seeds of Anarchy, which for the most part ends in Tyranny, are produced from hence, that some are ungovernably rich, and many more are miserably poor; that is some are Masters of all Means of Oppression, and others want all the Means of Self-defence. — Cato's Letter No. 3, Thomas Gordon (November 19, 1720)​​​​​​​


“In Wake Of Prop 22, Albertsons Shifting In-House Delivery Jobs To Gig Work” [HuffPo, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-8-20]

“One of the largest grocery chains in the U.S. has decided to end much of its in-house delivery service, outsourcing the work to third-party companies like DoorDash that rely on independent contractors to drop off food to customers on the cheap. Unions representing workers at Albertsons say the chain’s decision will end up degrading good delivery jobs by putting the work on a “gig” model. Independent contractors tend to bear many of the costs of employment, providing their own vehicles and covering wear and tear, while forgoing traditional work benefits like health coverage and a retirement fund….. While Albertsons did not cite the new California law known as Proposition 22 for the decision, several major California markets will be impacted by the policy change. Prop 22 makes it easier for companies like DoorDash to classify their drivers as independent contractors.” 

Lambert Strether noted the failure of the California liberal Democrat establishment, including Kamala Harris, to fight Prop 22.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 3, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 3, 2021

by Tony Wikrent


How the Police Killed Breonna Taylor 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-31-20]

“The Times’s visual investigation team built a 3-D model of the scene and pieced together critical sequences of events to show how poor planning and shoddy police work led to a fatal outcome.”

A stunning visualization of the police raid, including footage of investigation interviews with officers. The ineptitude uncovered is gross and flagrant. Only the most biased and pro-authoritarian can fail to see the incident as a massive over-reaction by police who were on some sort of psychological thrill ride based on being able to actually shoot at a live target. 


The Georgia Senate Race

Perdue’s Time as Dollar General CEO Marked by Charges of Wage Theft, Race and Sex Discrimination

[Capital and Main, via LA Progressive 12-31-2020]

Dollar General, which he ran between 2003 and 2007, rests on a business model of offering low-cost goods at rock-bottom prices while paying workers poorly. The stores, ubiquitous in low-income neighborhoods, are generally understaffed and have become magnets for crime, according to a recent investigation. The corporate dictum that wages remain at 5% of gross sales “placed us at the bottom of a low-paying industry,” Cal Turner Jr., the son of Dollar General’s founder, told ProPublica.

Perdue presided over a more than 30-fold increase in the number of employee lawsuits filed against the company, according to a Capital & Main review of court filings. While he worked at the firm, 2,494 individual employment cases were filed charging the company with gender and racial discrimination, rampant wage theft, failure to provide medical leave and other workplace violations. In the four years leading up to Perdue taking the helm, 76 employment cases were filed in federal court.

In a just society — such as christianists claim to desire — corporate leaders like Purdue would have been curbed, broken, bankrupted and punished by the legal system, not elevated to the highest public offices in the republic. 


Strategic Political Economy

Neoliberal Champion Larry Summers Opens Mouth, Inserts Both Feet

Matt Taibbi, December 28, 2020

Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, director of the National Economic Council under Barack Obama, president of Harvard, and Chief Economist at the World Bank, wrote a post-Christmas editorial for Bloomberg entitled, “Trump’s $2000 Stimulus Checks are a Big Mistake.” ...The genesis of this Summers article is a perfect tale in microcosm about how America’s intellectual elite manages to lose elections to people like Donald Trump. It’s a two-step error. First, they put people like Summers in charge of economic policies. Then, they let them talk in public….

Of course, these same people often believe in jaw-droppingly enormous levels of public aid. Think of the $20 billion in taxpayer funds that went to rescue currency traders in 1995 (presented in the media as a bailout of “Mexico”), the massive IMF bailouts of Asia and Russia in the late nineties, and especially the multi-trillion-dollar Fed-fueled rescues of the finance sector both after 2008, and now (“We’re not going to run out of ammunition,” explained Fed chief Jerome Powell). Other examples include giving companies like Goldman, Sachs 100 cents on the dollar on debts owed them by AIG in that bailout, or the $3.625 billion private intervention to save one crackpot hedge fund called Long Term Capital Management in 1998.

The operating principle in most of those cases was that financial institutions must not be allowed to take crippling losses, even if those losses were the fault of the companies in question, because such a decision might trigger (pick one or more) “a chain reaction,” “catastrophic losses throughout the system,” “graver economic consequences,” the “spread” of investor “flu,” etc., etc.

The thinking of these experts changes, however, the instant the question shifts to rescuing individuals affected by something like the 2008 crash, or the current pandemic. Suddenly we learn that resources are scarce, and the commitment of public money to rescue mere People With Problems risks “moral hazard.”