Sunday, October 29. 2017
Just the bare bones this week.
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: 4 stories that mattered this week: Congressional
Republicans passed a budget; More sexual harassment shoes dropped;
Retiring Republicans blasted Trump; Opioid abuse is officially
an emergency. Other Yglesias posts:
There's less than meets the eye to the Trump stock rally: "German,
French, and Japanese stocks are all doing way better."
Lou Dobbs's Trump interview is a masterpiece of sycophancy and
nonsense: "precisely because the softball format leads to such easy
questions, Trump's frequent inability to answer them reveals the depths
of his ignorance better than any tough grilling possibly could."
Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, and John McCain need to start acting like senators,
Trump and a key Senate Republican are fighting on Twitter.
The real stakes in the tax reform debate:
Democrats have grown more critical of inequality in recent years with
Barack Obama proclaiming economic inequality to be the "defining
challenge of our time." Energy in the party shifted even-further-left
and fueled an unexpected level of support for Bernie Sanders and an
unprecedented level of skepticism about the basic fundraising model
of American politics.
Even more surprisingly, in the GOP camp Donald Trump ran hard to
the right on culture war issues while also promising a more egalitarian
form of economics -- promising to be a champion of working class
But in office, while Trump has continued to obsessively feed the
culture war maw, he is pushing a policy agenda that would add enormous
fuel to the fire of inequality -- enormous, regressive rate cuts flying
under the banner of "tax reform."
Yglesias touts a report by Kevin Hassett, head of the White House
Council of Economic Advisers, as "crucial because it's honest," but
even "honesty" doesn't help much when you're extraordinarily full of
Hassett's contention, in essence, is that the best way to benefit the
American worker is to engage in a global version of this subsidy game.
Instead of targeted subsidies for new investments from one particular
company, he and Trump want to offer a broad subsidy to all investment
profits -- old profits and new profits, real returns on productive
investments and returns on monopoly rents -- in the hopes of maximally
catering to investor interests. By catering to the interests of the
global investor class in this way, he thinks, we can do so much to
boost the growth of the American economy that almost everyone will
end up better off.
Even if "almost everyone will end up better off" by cutting the
taxes that rich people pay, that doesn't mean that tax cuts are "the
best way to benefit the American worker." Direct redistribution to
workers would be much more efficient. So would less direct approaches
such as increasing labor's leverage. But the supposition that "almost
everyone will end up better off" is itself highly suspect. The only
way giving the rich more money "trickles down" is when the rich spend
it to increase demand (which they don't do much of, although that does
account for a few jobs here in Wichita building private jets) or when
the rich invest more in productive capacity. The problem here is that
even at present -- before Trump's tax cuts kick in -- the rich have
more money than they know how to productively invest. A big part of
the problem here is that by sucking up money that working folks and
the government would be spending, their hoarding reduces aggregate
demand, and as such reduces the return on investments in productive
capacity. This effect is so large one has to wonder whether tax cuts
generate any tangible growth at all, much less growth so substantial
that "almost everyone benefits."
Yglesias goes further and notes that "Doug Holtz-Eakin, a well-regarded
former Congressional Budget Office director and current think tank leader,
believes that eliminating the estate tax will create lots of jobs." The
piece cited was written for the American Family Business Foundation, a
political front group founded to promote repeal of estate and gift taxes,
and is typical of the hackwork Holtz-Eakin has made a career out of.
Trump's latest big interview is both funny and terrifying: Before
the Lou Dobbs interview, this one with Maria Bartiromo, also of Fox
Business Channel. Subheds include: "Trump doesn't know anything about
any issue"; "Bartiromo keeps ineptly trying to cover for Trump"; and
"Trump gets all kinds of facts wrong."
Over the course of the interview, Trump also claims to be working on
a major infrastructure bill, a major welfare reform bill, and an
unspecified economic development bill of some kind.
Under almost any other past president, that kind of thing would be
considered a huge news-making get for an interviewer. But even Fox
didn't tout Bartiromo's big scoops on Trump's legislative agenda,
because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as
to believe that him saying, "We're doing a big infrastructure bill,"
means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big
infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly
and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says
something unusually inflammatory.
Dean Baker: The problem of doctors' salaries.
Julian Borger: Trump team drawing up fresh plans to bolster US nuclear
Alastair Campbell: The time has come for Theresa May to tell the nation:
Brexit can't be done: Fantasy from Tony Blair's former director of
communications, but the facts are sound enough, just the political will
is weak. Campbell has also written:
My fantasy Corbyn speech: 'I can no longer go along with a ruinous
Alexia Fernández Campbell: Nurses returning from Puerto Rico accuse
the federal government of leaving people to die.
Danica Cotto: Puerto Rico Says It's Scrapping $300M Whitefish Contract:
Not clear how a 2-year-old company from Interior Secretary's Ryan Zinke's
home town managed to win a $300M no-bid contract, but the more people
look into it the more suspicious it seems. For instance:
Whitefish Energy contract bars government from auditing deal. For more:
Ken Klippenstein: $300M Puerto Rico Recovery Contract Awarded to Tiny
Utility Company Linked to Major Trump Donor; also
Kate Aronoff: Disaster Capitalists Take Big Step Toward Privatizing
Puerto Rico's Electric Grid.
Thomas Frank: What Harvey Weinstein tells us about the liberal world:
I'm not sure you can draw any conclusions about political philosophy
from someone like Weinstein, who more than anything else testifies
that people with power tend to abuse it, regardless of their professed
values. Still, this is quasi-amusing:
Perhaps Weinstein's liberalism was a put-on all along. It certainly wasn't
consistent or thorough. He strongly disapproved of Bernie Sanders, for
example. And on election night in November 2008, Weinstein could be found
celebrating Barack Obama's impending victory on the peculiar grounds that
"stock market averages will go up around the world."
The mogul's liberalism could also be starkly militaristic. On the release
of his work of bald war propaganda, Seal Team Six, he opined to CNN
"Colin Powell, the best military genius of our time, supports the
president -- supports President Obama. And the military love him. I made
this movie. I know the military. They respect this man for what he's done.
He's killed more terrorists in his short watch than George Bush did in
eight years. He's the true hawk."
Ronald A Klain: He who must be named:
For decades, conservatives labored to make their movement more humane.
Ronald Reagan put a jovial face on conservative policies -- more Dale
Carnegie than Ayn Rand; George H.W. Bush promised a "kinder, gentler"
tenure; George W. Bush ran on "compassionate conservatism." . . .
That was then. Today, we are living the Politics of Mean. In the
Trump presidency, with its daily acts of cruelty, punching down is a
feature, not a bug. And the only thing more disquieting than a president
who practices the Politics of Mean are the voters who celebrate it. . . .
Since Trump's victory, his meanness has been infectious. We have
seen it in neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville and elsewhere, students
chanting "build that wall" at Hispanic peers, and a rise of racial
epithets and anti-Semitic graffiti on college campuses. Puerto Rico,
again, provides a current example. As The Post's Jenna Johnson recently
reported, countless Trump supporters -- including some in Texas, who
themselves took Federal Emergency Management Agency aid after Hurricane
Harvey -- back the president's proposal to limit aid to Puerto Rico and
believe that fellow Americans there should "fix their own country up."
The obvious difference between then (1980-2000) and now is sixteen
years of endless war, although it's worth noting that conservatism has
always prided itself on being a hard way of life, a stance which never
took much prodding to tip over into meanness. Indeed, even while feigning
compassion conservative political pitches always started with playing on
people's prejudices -- primordially racism, as Reagan made clear when he
launched his 1980 campaign over the graves of slain civil rights workers.
Klain calls for a list of recent presidents and wannabes to stand up to
Trump's Politics of Mean. They should, of course, but it would be even
more helpful if they owned up to how their own errors got us here.
Julia Manchester: National Weather Service 'on the brink of failure'
due to job vacancies.
Rupert Neate: World's witnessing a new Gilded Age as billionaires' wealth
swells to $6tn.
Billionaires' fortunes increased by 17% on average last year due to the
strong performance of their companies and investments, particularly in
technology and commodities. The billionaires' average return was double
that achieved by the world's stock markets and far more than the average
interest rates of just 0.35% offered by UK instant-access high street
John Nichols: Trump's FCC Chair Moves to Undermine Journalism and
Mark Perry: Are Trump's Generals in Over Their Heads? "For many in
Washington, they're the only thing standing between the president and
chaos. But their growing clout is starting to worry military experts."
One problem is that as more generals move into politics, the military
itself (at least at the top) becomes increasingly politicized. I would
add that the competency and maturity they supposedly possess are traits
with little real evidence to back them up.
Paul Woodward also adds:
The problem with viewing the former and current generals in this
administration as the indispensable "adult supervision" Trump requires,
is that these individuals are the sole source of legitimacy for
his presidency -- exactly the reason he surrounded himself with this
kind of Teflon political protection.
Instead of seeing Mattis et al as the only thing that stands between
us and Armageddon, we should probably see them as the primary obstacle
to the outright exposure of the fraud that has been perpetrated by Trump
and the cadre of visibly corrupt cronies he has installed in most of the
executive branch of government.
Speaking of the alleged competence of generals, see
Senior military officials sanctioned for more than 500 cases of serious
misconduct: That just since 2013.
Andrew Prokop: 6 charts that explain why American politics is so broken:
"The Pew Research Center's political typology report, explained." Actually,
I'm not sure he charts do explain "why American politics is so broken" --
for one thing, nothing here on the influence of money, which is by far the
biggest breaker. They do show several disconnects, including "Most Americans --
including a good chunk of Republicans -- want corporate taxes raised, not
lowered" and "It's only a vocal minority of Americans who are anti-immigrant."
Nor do most of the typology groups make much sense, although "Country-First
Conservatives" are defined exclusively by their hatred for immigrants.
Still, worth noting that "Solid Liberals" are more numerous than "Core
Conservatives" (16-13% among the general public, 25-20% among "politically
Charlie Savage: Will Congress Ever Limit the Forever-Expanding 9/11
Joseph E Stiglitz: America Has a Monopoly Problem -- and It's Huge.
Nick Turse: It's Not Just Niger -- U.S. Military Activity Is a "Recruiting
Tool" for Terror Groups Across West Africa.