Category Archives: politics

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.

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:

 

 

 

Pease Listen to Bernie and Stop Listening to MSNBC

morning joe in pajamas

MORNING THOUGHTS

 

MSNBC is no longer a news channel.  It is a channel where the corporate Democratic strategists talk to each other and try to convince the rest of us that what they want to be true is true.

 

Morning Joe was devoted today to everything about every candidate in New Hampshire except the front runner, Bernie Sanders.

 

Early in the program, MSNBC posted a chart showing Sanders as the front runner and his steady line as the front runner in New Hampshire.  So, was the conversation about Sanders?  Of course not.  It was about Buttigieg and Klobuchar.  According to the panel, the campaigns of Klobuchar and Buttigieg were taking off.  They are the “candidates on the move.”

 

John Heileman had to try to make Sanders’ steady lead sound like it was a negative.  He said that Sanders was in the lead, but he was just “sitting there.”

 

Scarborough (who helped Trump get elected) talked about Biden being in the “second tier” in the polls.  If, he added, you BELIEVE IN THE POLLS.  Morning Joe and the panel have been touting polls for months showing Biden leading, but all of a sudden, when he’s in fourth or fifth place, Joe has to add “if you believe in the polls.”

 

(Note: I would just like to add that Scarborough and the dreadful Mika were at Mara-la-go AFTER the 2016 election.  Their break with Trump came after he outed their adulterous affair.)

 

O.K.  then, we have the panel trying desperately to rehabilitate Biden, just like always.  They tried to make excuses for Biden’s lack of ability to raise money at the grassroots.  Well, one said, he is old school.  He “can’t raise money online.”  Adrienne Elrod (one of the Clinton mean girls who is still incapable of expressing anything but contempt and resentment at Bernie Sanders because he dared DARED to run against Clinton) had to add that Biden didn’t really “plan to run well” in Iowa, i.e., he didn’t really try.  (This is the best excuse she could come up with?)

 

Elrod then adds that Biden also doesn’t expect to run well in New Hampshire, already trying to dampen expectations before the primary.  Talking about the Biden campaign, she says “they want to move on.”  Want to move on?  Where the hell to they expect to move on to?  Where do they expect to win?  This is the man that @MSNBC pundits have been telling us was the front runner for months.

 

Then, MSNBC shows us a Biden campaign ad (when was the last time they showed us a Bernie campaign ad?) and say that the problem is that Biden isn’t being allowed to be Biden.  In the ad, Biden contrasts what are supposed to be his best contributions to history, with the most trivial things Buttigieg has ever done.  The panel argues that this ad and these little episodes with Biden, where he acts like an entitled ass, are to be blamed on his campaign not letting him be himself.  The Dreadful Mika has to add that Biden would never respond with contempt and derision if he was in a room with a former Mayor (like Buttigieg) who was touting his accomplishments.  Jesus. We are supposed to believe that the ad made by his campaign, approved by him is “not Biden.” Those little episodes (pointing fingers at the chest of voters, telling one she’s a liar, acting like a pathetic old man pretending to be a hard ass) are not Biden.  That’s ignorant.  Those episodes are Biden.  That’s what he is, a resentful, entitled, defensive old man who thinks he’s owed being president.  (Remind you of anybody?)

 

Then, Morning Joe announced their guests for the morning, James Carville, David Plouffe, Klobuchar and Bennett.  A progressive is in the lead in New Hampshire.  Any Progressives?  Hell no, a show full of people who despise Bernie Sanders and everything he stands for.

 

Then, we must hear about Bloomberg and how he is “driving Trump crazy.”  What evidence is there for this?  Who’s ass do they pull this stuff out of?  Everybody on the panel agrees.  Oh, they slobber, Bloomberg is “tougher” than Trump, “richer” than Trump.  Bloomberg’s money will be the “great equalizer” in the race.  When was a rich man running against another rich man ever considered a “great equalizer?”  Joe Scarborough obviously enjoys bragging about how much more money Bloomberg has than Trump.

 

(Note:  This is where we are folks.  The obvious delight with which Scarborough describes Bloomberg’s wealth just tells you everything about him.)

 

Elrod says that Bloomberg is “still the most electable” candidate for many Americans.  Again, who’s ass did she drag that out of?  What evidence is there for that?  She would rather choke than say such a thing about Bernie even though there is much more evidence that the same statement about Bernie.

 

The panel ended with a discussion of the “fear” that the populace has about the current crop of candidates.  What they are communicating is that they have a deathly “fear” of Bernie Sanders.  All of them know that Sanders and his people would never let them get near the White House if he was elected.  That’s what they are scared of.

 

I can’t watch MSNBC anymore.  The only reason for watching is to document the almost complete slide into corporate Democratic promotion as the Party and the party elite face the terror of people, real people, exercising their rights and fighting for their rights.

 

Turn over to CSPAN and you can watch Bernie giving a speech in New Hampshire. The reason the corporate media doesn’t ever show you Bernie unless they have to is that they are terrified people will see what a real candidate is like, a candidate who believes in what he is saying, a real person, fighting, perhaps giving his life, to fight for regular people, for the changes that will give regular people an opportunity to take some benefit from a society they contribute so much to.  Please listen to Bernie Sanders.  Please stop listening to MSNBC and CNN.

Scheer Intelligence Podcast: The Housing Crisis, the Real Culprits (More of Them) Clinton, Bush, Obama

mnuchin

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/bipartisan-profiteers-who-demolished-american-dream/id1054586928?i=1000459492107

Review of Home Wreckers

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/22/kamala-harris-attorney-general-california-housing-053716

 

 

 

Morning Impeachment Thoughts: Feckless Democrats, Moral Outrage, Raising Money

Morning Impeachment Thoughts

  • I am obviously not a member of congress. Nor am I an expert on Congressional rules, but I think this impeachment debate is a terrible showing for the Democrats.
  • The Republicans are giving impassioned speeches. Democrats are reading scripted statements.  I really don’t know what they are thinking.
  • Every event in this impeachment is a public hearing, an opportunity to sway people and explain why Trump should be impeached. All three major cable news networks are carrying this live and the Democrats can’t even show up.  The chamber is largely empty.  What kind of message does that send?  What are they doing?  What is more important than doing everything you can possibly do to carry the nation along in this process?
  • I know this will not be a popular sentiment, but I don’t even think Jerry Nadler should have left yesterday’s rules debate. I don’t think any family emergency is more important than the future of the country.  Raskin is not good at debate. He is diffident, defensive, pleading.  We need a fighter, someone who relishes fighting for the rule of law and justice.
  • Oh God, now Chris Matthews is arguing that nobody is watching this impeachment hearing. That is certainly not true at our house.  I have watched every minute of it and have probably written 700 pages of notes since the whistleblower came forward.
  • Back to the Democrats being feckless. Most of the Democratic representatives cannot even read a prepared statement and make it sound like they mean it.  Where is the passion?  Where is the moral outrage?  Where is the anger that Donald Trump and the Republicans have brought us here?  This tactic of claiming “sadness” over impeachment is truly terrible.  We are not sad to be impeaching Trump.  We are furious, indignant, fist pounding morally outraged.
  • Speaking to a Republican talking point, it doesn’t make any difference if every Democrat in the country is Jack the Ripper and wanted to impeach Trump since before he was elected, Donald Trump extorted an announcement designed to smear a political enemy with tax payer money. End of story.  The motivations of the Democrats are irrelevant.  WHY DOESN’T SOMEBODY F…ING SAY THAT?
  • What this morning’s performance demonstrates to me is that most people are in Congress because they can raise money. They are certainly not there because they are good at public speaking.  They are not there because they are capable of expressing moral outrage on the behalf of the people.  In fact, I am wondering if any of them actually believe in anything.
  • If they truly believe in the Constitution and the rule of law, they don’t sound like it. Either they are incapable of feeling a genuine emotion or they are incapable of expressing one.
  • In any case, we can and should do better than this.