Category Archives: Neoliberalism

Disaster Economics: Part 2

pitchfork

Notes from the podcast Pitchcock Economics

 

“Disaster Economics” 23 March 2020

  • This crisis brings into focus the damage of forty years of neo-liberal politics. These policies have been corrosive.
  • The effect of a crisis reveals how well the society was prepared in the first place. If, when a hurricane is coming, the society lived in houses that were already built to withstand a hurricane and have good plumbing, the effect of the hurricane is not so disastrous.  For us, it’s like we have been living in tin huts.
  • Decades of wage suppression have left people living on the edge of financial survival.
  • If you cannot survive a $400 emergency, if you don’t have the reserves to last over a $400 emergency, you are going to have to go back to work, no matter what the risks. If people go back to work, they are going to destroy the social distancing measure effect.
  • Over the past 40 years, the richest 1% got richer. The poorer got poorer.
  • By Mid-March 18% of the workforce will lose their jobs or suffer reduced hours due to the epidemic. We could see 20% unemployment.
  • Even on the Democratic side, politicians are steeped in neoliberalism.
  • As the Republicans have been saying, they want a government so small it could be drowned in a bathtub. Well, that’s what we now have, a government that is unprepared to deal with a crisis like this.  We have underfunded all the collective capacity of the government to deal with a situation like this.  We have done so to maintain a society whose entire organizational structure is designed to make rich people richer.
  • One example of this that is particularly pertinent at the moment is massive hospital consolidation which has left us without the adequate health care capacity to deal with a pandemic. While this consolidation has made private equity guys rich, it has not benefited the rest of us..
  • The U.S. has one of the lowest per capita percentages of hospital beds in the developed world. In Italy, where there is an unmitigated disaster, they have significantly more capacity in their hospital system.
  • While it’s more “efficient” when 70% – 80% of your hospital beds are filled at any one time. In a crisis, you need more beds.  When you don’t have them you are in a situation like we are in now, where we’re choosing who gets health care and who doesn’t.  We are forced to choose who will live and who will die with people who would otherwise survive.
  • Grover Norquist said that his goal (and the goal of the Republican Party) was to establish a government that was small enough to be drowned in a bathtub.
  • But, there is no alternative to collective capacity. You can’t buy own ventilators. You can’t prepare for pandemic on your own. You can’t establish your own CDC, develop your own vaccines.
  • (Note: Quote from Mario Cuomo saying that government is like family, sharing resources between those who have and those who have not).
  • China was able to respond quickly to the crisis because they have a well established collective capacity. We, on the other hand, are still struggling just to establish social distancing.
  • We are still not testing. Only way to control this pandemics is to test and isolate those infected, but we are not doing this.
  • (Note: The notion of American exceptionalism is one of the things that blocks us from taking effective action. The assumption is that we are Americans, we won’t be affected like the rest of the world, we can go back to work in the middle of a pandemic and not be hurt.)
  • McConnell and the whole gang of libertarian idiots, at least said that they believed we would all be better off on our own, without government.
  • But, the airlines asking for a $60 billion bailout. During the past decade the airlines have had high profits, but they didn’t use those profits to prepare. They did CEO raises and share buy backs.  And now they are waiting, demanding that the government bail them out.
  • The airline industry spent $800 billion on share buy backs last year. That’s one year.  They could have chosen to pay their workers more.  But, they have established no cushion for disaster.   This is an economy where  corporations assume that any upturn is going to last forever.  “They thought it was going to go on forever.”
  • Boeing is a good example of corporate irresponsibility. Their 737 max has been grounded for a year due to incompetence.  But, during that time last year Boeing was borrowing money to buy back stock.  Going into debt, borrowing money to return “value” to shareholders.  This at a time when they were facing biggest internal management crisis in their history.
  • “The shareholders should be wiped out.” They allowed an incompetent company to run itself into the ground.  But, rather than the investors absorbing the hit, the government is going to bail them out.
  • It should be part of the bill that no company gets a bail out without giving citizens preferred stock. The government could create a joint stock company, and everyone with a social security card, would be a co-equal share holder. This would be like a Sovereign Wealth Fund.  Citizens would own the stock, not the government.  Preferred stock means that the holders are given preference over all other stock holders.  They get paid first if there’s a liquidation.
  • Individuals would own stock in any company accepting a bailout.
  • Vast majority of these companies are going to thrive, and instead of old shareholders being bailed out, middle class citizens would own shares along with the old shareholders.
  • This is a fair way to recapitalize these companies.
  • When you retire, you get your share.
  • And, by doing it this way, we would have seats on the board.
  • This is one way of turning lemons into lemonade
  • The vast majority of wealth in this country is owned by a minority. We could make this the new disaster capitalism.  For the past 40 years economic and other types of disasters have been used to disempower regular people, to disenfranchise and impoverish them.  We can re-empower regular people by making new rules in this crisis.
  • We can change the rules. We can set rules for those companies that are requiring bail outs.  We could require, for example, that labor be on boards of these companies.  Other countries do this.
  • We can make rules that these bailout companies have to keep their employees employed. We are not bailing you out so you can downsizes lay off people.
  • We could require that companies have to offer $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave. If these companies need the money they will have to take the rules. Otherwise they don’t have to take the money.
  • Crises like these make vivid past policy failures – the fact that there is no national policy on paid sick leave.

We should:

Make the tax structure make more progressive, raise the taxes on capital gains and dividend, to same level as ordinary income.  I

Increase highest tax level for those making above $1 million to 50%

There is an insane amount of money available to meet the challenges of society if we just make the tax system fair.

Have a national health care system that disintermediates private insurers – from health care transactions.

Implement common sense labor reforms, national paid sick leave, raise minimum wage, increase wages for bottom 60%.

Establish expanded unemployment programs.  The length and the amount of unemployment should be increased.

 

Disaster Economics: Part 1

pitchfork

The more useless the corporate news media becomes, the more essential it is to find good, informative podcasts.

Today, I listened to a podcast from Pitchfork Economics called “Disaster Economics.”  It’s worth 100 hours of listening to the gossip of Nicolle Wallace, the geek coronavirus obsession of Rachael Maddow, or the endless inspirational anecdotes of CNN.

Pitchfork Economics Podcast

Discussion notes:

The hope is that this crisis will force a reexamination of forty years of neoliberal policies.  Republicans and libertarians have fought for years to make government small enough to (as Grover Norquist once said) strangle in a bathtub.  Well, now that’s what we’ve got, and it’s ill equipped to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Even knowing that this type of pandemic was possible, the government scaled down and down government agencies like the CDC and failed to adequately prepare for a crisis.  Trump eliminated pandemic planning units of the government and trivialized the problem even when he was repeatedly warned about it.

Neoliberal policies have led to a situation where, for example, this country has the lowest per capita percentage of hospital beds in the advanced industrialized world.  The massive hospital consolidation which has been allowed to occur, may have made running particular hospitals more “efficient.”  Hospitals, for example, make more money when they have 70% to 80% of their hospital beds full all the time.  And, this makes private equity guys happy, but when there is a crisis, the country is not prepared.

We must use this crisis to make regular people more empowered.  For 40 years, capitalists have used disasters to disempower people.  We must use them to seize back the power we have to determine our own futures.

There’s No Country on Earth Like It

Mitch McConnell

I can’t see that there’s anything in this stimulus bill that prevents it being a slush fund give-away for big business.  Because of objections, there is now talk of an Inspector General and a panel to over see the distribution of the funds, but no assurance that these funds, for example, won’t to directly into the Trump properties and businesses.

This is outrageous.  What I am expecting is to see somebody like the snake-in-the-grass Chris Coons to come out with some kind of watered-down, meaningless “compromise” that will allow Republicans to steal billions.

I’m disgusted with the Democratic Party, as usual.

On top of everything else, why isn’t somebody from the Democratic Party, somebody who has some moral authority, somebody who is willing to fight for regular people, not out in public every day, explaining how this crisis is being used as a giant rip-off for the 1%?

This is a country that has degenerated into a situation where it is considered a serious proposal to allow poor, working class and elderly people to die in order to protect the stock market for the wealthy.

“Capitalism will handle it.” Right.

burr, richard

Interviewed on CNN today, a Republican member of congress dismissed the widespread alarm among the medical profession about the shortage of masks and other protective equipment for use combating the corona virus.  “Capitalism,” he said “will handle it.”

But, the corona virus crisis is a textbook example of the failure of capitalism to handle the corona virus crisis and the other underlying crises that have plagued this society for decades.

Republicans are illustrating hourly exactly what is wrong with free-market capitalist solutions to problems created by free-market capitalism.

Let’s just look at one example.

PROFITEERING

  • On 20 March 2020, it was reported that four senators (Burr, Leoffler, Inhofe and Feinstein) were selling off stock after receiving briefings about how serious the impact of the corona virus was going to be.
  • Burr and Loeffler went public with statements seeking to calm the populace about the threat of the pandemic while they were busily selling stock to cushion the blow for themselves.
  • Burr’s case was especially egregious. Burr, as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, received briefings that included the country’s most classified information about the security threat of the virus.
  • And, Burr (in a recorded talk to his wealthy donors on February 27, 2020) warned of the serious implications of the outbreak at a time when he was seeking to calm the fears of the general population by telling them that the Trump administration had everything in hand. While reassuring the general public, to his wealthy donors, Burr was comparing the corona virus to the “1918 pandemic.”
  • Burr maintained that he was using only publicly available information, but he would, wouldn’t he? He also claimed that the event at which he informed party insiders was not an event for his wealthy donors.
  • NPR, however, reported that it had obtained a copy of the RSVP list for the event and that it included dozens of invited guests representing companies and organizations from North Carolina. The companies or their political committees donated more than $100,000 to Burr’s election campaign in 2015 and 2016 (NBC News)
  • The same day Burr was giving this speech, Trump was telling reporters that the corona virus was “going to disappear.” (NBC News)
  • In early February, Burr, co-wrote an op-ed for Fox News in which he said “the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.” In mid-February he started to unload the stocks.  The unloading was about a week before the markets started to plunge (NBC News 3/20/20).
  • One of the stocks Burr unloaded was shares in Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, which has now lost two-thirds of its value according to ProPublica. Burr dumped shares of another hotel chain, Extended Stay America. (NBC News 3/20/20)
  • It is Democrats who are calling for investigations, and also a Democrat (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) who is calling for Burr’s resignation and a law preventing legislators from owning stock.
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter that as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Burr “got private briefings about Coronavirus weeks ago. Burr knew how bad it would be. He told the truth to his wealthy donors, while assuring the public that we were fine. THEN he sold off $1.6 million in stock before the fall. He needs to resign.” (NBC News 3/20/20)
  • We know about these stock sell-offs only because of a law requiring the legislators to report their stock dealings. Why not a law prohibiting them from owning stock while serving?

Sources

Gregorian, Dareh (3/20/20) “Burr, other senators…” NBC News.

MSNBC sad

I have tried my best not to look at the television today.  Last night was just so infuriating.  The celebratory champagne-uncorking of MSNBC pundits over their chosen candidate, Joe Biden, finally, finally winning a primary, was just revolting.  Above you can see the facial expressions that characterized the coverage when Bernie won.

I was, however, pleased to see that Chris Matthews was not included in the  coverage last night.  I thought that perhaps (oh how naïve I am) that Matthews had been left out because of his outrageous attacks on Bernie Sanders.  But, evidently, even though similar attacks were enough to get the pundit Jason Johnson fired, they were not enough to get the serial offender Chris Matthews fired.  This is a true tragedy for all of us.

Matthews managed to escape being called to task over 1) likening Bernie’s win in Nevada to the Nazis invading France, 2) saying that Bernie would happily preside over Matthews being shot in Times Square, and 3) that Bernie would be the last person to stop and help if you were stranded on the side of the road.  But, he has been removed from the air temporarily because he has been accused of inappropriate behavior with yet another woman.

According to the Hill, GQ columnist Laura Bassett accused Matthews of sexual harassment.  In an opinion piece published Friday, Bassett claimed that Matthews told a network makeup artist to “keep putting makeup on her” and asked “Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?”

Bassett evidently wrote about the behavior, which occurred four years ago, previously but wasn’t confident enough to mention Matthews’ name.  She said, however, that a number of women knew immediately who she was talking about.

Bassett wrote:

“In 2016, right before I had to go on his show and talk about sexual-assault allegations against Donald Trump, Matthews looked over at me in the makeup chair next to him and said, ‘Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet,'” Bassett wrote. “When I laughed nervously and said nothing, he followed up to the makeup artist. ‘Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her.”

“Another time, he stood between me and the mirror and complimented the red dress I was wearing for the segment. ‘You going out tonight?’ he asked. I said I didn’t know, and he said — again to the makeup artist — ‘Make sure you wipe this off her face after the show. We don’t make her up so some guy at a bar can look at her like this,'” Bassett also wrote.

Any woman who has even casually watched Matthews’ show recognizes this behavior.  I try to avoid Matthews, but I can remember him conducting a weird voyeuristic and coercive direction of the camera on a woman one night.  He kept telling the cameraman to come in closer and closer on the woman’s face.  This started while the woman was talking.  He finally made it into some joke, like they all do, but it was creepy, just creepy, disrespectful and juvenile.

According to Antony Leonardi and Mike Brest in the Examiner (2/2920), Matthews:

  • has been known to “rate female guests on a numerical scale based on appearance;
  • has been reprimanded for comments directed to a subordinate that led to a separation-related payment;
  • was caught on camera joking about a “Bill cosby pill” which was a reference to a date rape drug.

Matthews also referred to Sarah Palin and Salley Yates as “attractive.”

At this point in time, I don’t particularly care what’s gotten him off the air.  I’m just grateful, but his behavior especially towards Sanders is just part of a larger network wide attempt to destroy one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination.

Also participating in this campaign have been Chuck Todd, Brian Williams, Nicolle Wallace, Joy Reid (who has been carrying this on since at least 2016) and now Rachael Maddow who participated in the general laughter of the panel when Brian Williams mocked the Sanders campaign last night.  All of these people are complicit.  Chris Hayes and Maddow have for the most part stayed out of the overt attacks indulged in by the likes of Joy Reid, but Maddow, as I said joined in the contempt for Sanders expressed by the panel last night and Chris Hayes has spent time repeating every negative trope about Sanders saying that this is what “people are saying.”  People may be saying a lot of things but that doesn’t mean you have to repeat them on your television program.

But, I have no doubt that Chris Matthews will be at it again tomorrow night.  He will perhaps apologize AGAIN, for his behavior, but I doubt they will fire him.

MSNBC has shown its true colors since Bernie Sanders demonstrated he was a viable candidate.  The anchors mentioned above plus innumerable guests have slandered, mocked, distorted, ridiculed and generally propagandized in an effort to destroy Sanders’ campaign.

I am 69 years old and I have never, ever seen an entire news network participate in such an overt effort to distort the political process.  If we survive as a democratic country, something I rather doubt at this point, this course of coverage engaged in by MSNBC will be studied and written about as a deplorable exercise in media interference in an election.

MONDAY THOUGHTS…MSNBC IS TRASH

morning joe in pajamas

  • When I turned on the television this morning, the first thing I saw on Morning Joe was a clip of Sanders explaining to CNN that he couldn’t say exactly what Medicare for All would cost. Scarborough, of course, played this clip as an excuse to mock Sanders.  When the camera came back to Scarborough, he had on what can only be described (by my partner) as a “shit eating grin.”  Scarborough then started to repeat phrases like: “radically change the economy,” “radically overturn” and create a revolution.
  • Scarborough made the ridiculous statement that Sanders would “radically change the economy in a way that it hasn’t been changed since the republic was formed…”
  • The dreadful, opportunistic bobble headed Mika said that Sanders was “threatening to tear the party apart.”
  • Journalism my ass.  This is not journalism.  It is propaganda designed to promote favored candidates and destroy others.
  • In 2016, Morning Joe started almost every program with a clip of Donald Trump on the campaign trail. They gave him millions (billions?) in free advertising.  Joe Scarborough and the dreadful Mika helped Trump get elected and they were at Mara-shitgo after the election.  They asked his permission to use certain questions in an interview (we know this only because they were taped doing so) and only broke with Trump because he threatened and then outed their adulterous affair.
  • Joe Scarborough, like Jennifer Rubin and other former Republicans have destroyed their own party.  They willingly helped build a structure that launched an administration hell bent toward establishing authoritarianism in this country.  Now they are telling the Democrats what to do and who to nominate.
  • But, it’s not just Joe and the dreadful Mika.
  • MSNBC has conducted an all-out campaign against Bernie Sanders.  The coverage took a downward dive and a more overtly contemptuous and attacking tone in the past couple of months as they saw that Sanders was indeed viable.
  • MSNBC’s coverage of the results of the Nevada caucuses on Saturday was an outrageous point in that downward spiral.
  • On Saturday night, I sincerely thought Nicolle Wallace and Joy Reid were going to start crying.
  • The only reason I now watch MSNBC is to document the outrageous campaign against Sanders.  In 69 years of living, I have never, never, seen a news organization put on such an overtly expressed attack on one candidate.
  • The day before the Nevada caucases, one of the MSNBC commentators, Jason Johnson, who has had on every panel, 24/7, for weeks, did a radio interview in which he called the black women who work for Sanders an “island of misplaced black girls.”  None of these people would say anything, anything like this about the women who worked for any other candidate.
  • Then, that same night, Chris Matthews likened the Sanders victory to the invasion by the Nazis of France.  But, this was just the latest comment by Matthews smearing Bernie Sanders.  He has been doing it for at least a year.
  • Tonight, Matthews apologized, APOLOGIZED, for his “misplaced analogy.”  As I say over and over again, there are things you cannot apologize for.  Saying what you mean is not something you can apologize for, and Matthews has meant every mean, contemptuous, slanderous thing he has ever said about Sanders.
  • Matthews earlier this year implied that Sanders would stand and watch Matthews be executed in Times Square.  I hate to clue him in, but Matthews isn’t important enough to execute.  But anyway, Matthews also pulled out of his ass a statement that Sanders would be the last person to stop for someone who was in distress by the roadside.  This is journalism?  What kind of journalism?  These are the kinds of things that idiots say in a bar.
  • Why, why do we have to listen to people like this?  Matthews in 2016 made a joke with Clinton about “roofies.”
  • Matthews interrupts, talks down, and generally treats with contempt most of the women on his show.  But, MSNBC continues to employ him.
  • MSNBC cannot apologize for their coverage of Sanders over the past four years, especially the past few months and especially Saturday night.
  • MSNBC came out tonight with a statement saying they were going to look for more progressives to put on their shows.  Really?  It must be hard to find them while they have under contract so many overpaid and ignorant circle-jerk “strategists” and Clinton mean-girls like Adrienne Elrod and Neera Tandem.

Enough of that.  Another thing:

  • Everybody seems to be going wild because Sanders said that not everything about Cuba is negative.  Well, duh?  DUH?  Can people use their brains here?
  • Cuba has the highest rate of literacy in Latin America.
  • At least when I was there, everybody had access to free education and health care.  The government subsidized books and they cost almost nothing.  Everyone had access to language training.  Everybody had shoes, jobs, an income.  They had a thriving, fascinating theatre culture.  Musicians got a salary. No, not everything about Cuba is negative.
  • But, the elite would rather live in a bubble.  And the corporate media, part of that elite, refuses to cover reality.
  • I was contracted to write a freelance article years ago when I went to Cuba. When I wrote an article talking about the advances in education in Cuba, the Times Educational Supplement said that it was “too positive.”  They would not print the article.  This was almost 40 years ago.  The slander against Cuba has been going on for a long time.  The coverage of Cuba is characterized by the same kind of distortion that goes on about Bernie and about Democratic Socialism.
  • I am sick of the corporate media and I’m sick of MSNBC.  They are terrified of a Sanders victory.  The “progressive” MSNBC is more hateful about Sanders because  MSNBC is full of people who will never be able to get near the White House if Sanders is elected.
  • The DNC “strategist”/pundit class would rather help Trump win four more years than risk their cushy jobs and privileged positions.
  • I am sick of them and of mealy-mouthed commentators (Chuck Rosenberg, Joyce (even though I love her) Vance. At least Rachal Maddow has started to tell people that this is a crisis.  We are not on the edge of a crisis.  We not in a situation of concern.  We are in a red alarm, democracy going down the drain crisis.
  • If you are not setting your hair on fire, you don’t understand what is going on.

A final comment:

Biden is running an ad campaign asking why Bernie Sanders wanted to primary Obama.  Biden is trying to imply that Sanders “didn’t have the back of the first African American” president.  Biden is blatantly trying to call Sanders a racist.  Well, let’s see why Sanders might, just might have thought about a challenge to Obama.  Maybe because Obama richly deserved to be challenged?  Maybe because it’s a democracy?  But, no, it must be racism.  I can’t even come up with one reason to challenge Obama except, oh yeah, how about stumbling all over himself putting Wall Street in his cabinet and then refusing to prosecute those responsible for the financial crisis?  But, then again, I’m one of those “vicious” Bernie Bros.  (Adrienne Elrod actually accused me of that and then blocked me.)  I’m proud, proud of that.

Night.

  • IMG_1547

Alternative Podcasts: Sheer Intelligence

Robert Scheer interviews Max Blumenthal about the “lesser of two evils” approach centrists in the Democratic Party have been pushing for decades.

The Clinton Machine Will Do Anything to Stop Bernie

https://www.kcrw.com/culture/shows/scheer-intelligence/the-clinton-machine-will-do-anything-to-stop-bernie

NOTES: