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THESE ARE OUR SAVIORS? SPARE US!

THESE ARE OUR SAVIORS? SPARE US!

It is interesting that people who hate government are so desperate to be involved in its epicenter. Thus we have Bennett of Utah and now Lugar of Indiana who are insufficiently right wing to cut the mustard, and must go – and have gone.

 Apparently the rationale of the far right wing is to get into government so that they can destroy it. There seems to be an attitude that government is inherently bad and that we must follow the constitution in order to defray its excesses, real or imagined. This view is the opposite of the view of the Founders who wrote the constitution and considered government to be a noble exercise of representative democracy, the central thread/rationale for having a government in the first place.

I am of the opinion that a lot of the line we hear from the right is false by design; that they care little of the real issues of the day (unemployment, international trade issues, the environment etc.), but use them very cynically for the purpose of effectuating their real design, which is to make the rich and corporate class richer with a view toward a form of a latter day feudalist state in which we are the vassals and corporations are (effectively) the state. I have blogged on this topic a couple of times to this effect.

Methodologies to make this happen include privatization efforts (designed to make profits and remove public control over public matters such as education, social security and other now government programs where lots of money is there for the taking). It is important in such a scheme of things that all such programs subject to privatization be trashed by pre-takeover propaganda about how  cost ineffective and un-American they are, how government cannot do anything right, and how private enterprise can come in on the white horse and save the day.

There are those of us who disagree with this cozy assessment; we have seen the bankrupt prone Trumps, Gilded Age trusts, the Enrons, Madoffs et al. and have witnessed firsthand the performances of those on the white horses in our recent bailouts of these intrepid horsemen, who never met an asset that could not be securitized.

These are our saviors? Spare us!

It appears that the role of government should properly be to bail out the rich but leave the poor and the veterans under the bridge in the far right wing’s philosophy of government. It seems to me that if the only real purpose of government is to serve as a blocking back for the rich ball carrier to make money, whatever the pretense and propaganda, then it is time to cancel the game. I, for one do not wish to participate in such a phony excuse for government, where money capital writes and enforces the rules ranging from sexual mores to the air we breathe. There are numerous and better options, and all involve an active engagement of the citizenry and a refusal to sell our public wealth and our futures as serfs serving a corporate culture.

 We should show corporate privatizers the gate and proceed to flesh out our own futures (financed in part by more equitable taxation rates – the latest outrage being that GE has paid an annualized rate of only 2.3% on its billions in profits over the last decade, a far less rate than many pay who are on food stamps)! Such disparities in financing America (among other things) must cease – now!  GERALD E

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TRUMP AND PUERTO RICO

TRUMP AND PUERTO RICO

Professor Kennedy’s blog seeking comment today was on the topic of Trump’s treatment of our fellow American citizens in heavily-indebted and hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. I responded as follows, as slightly edited.

It seems Trump is an agent for Putin in spreading disinformation, sewing discord between Americans and disbelief in our democratic institutions, and I think Puerto Rico was a good venue for Trump to try out his racist wings to placate his base, all to the delight of Putin, since this creates ever more division but without particular political consequence since Puerto Rico has no voting senators or congress people to stand up for them in Washington. We are told that, like the residents of Guam, they are American  citizens, but without voting representation the fact is that they are only quasi-citizens and thus vulnerable to attack by stateside politicians.

The government of Puerto Rico is hopelessly in debt and Hurricane Maria didn’t help, but perhaps Puerto Rico could get the attention of Trump and other bigoted politicians in Washington if they announced that they were defaulting on their debt to American bondholders, renouncing their American citizenship, and associating politically as an overseas territory of France or some other country with sane leadership and a presence in the Caribbean. Trump in the face of such a move and as a self-professed money man might well consider doing something for Puerto Rico when bondholders come knocking on his door.

A personal note – I first visited Puerto Rico in 1945 shortly after WW II ended and after a couple of earlier stints in the South Pacific. My next visit was on a “The Nation” cruise in 2011. San Juan has changed very considerably during the interim and is now a tourist trap, but I found Puerto Ricans to be the same friendly and seemingly happy people they were 66 years earlier. I can only imagine how those people are faring now after Maria and living under the brutal treatment of a racist president.

Final thought on Russian conspiracy in this connection > Did Putin in his attempts to sew racial division via a blackmailed Trump include Puerto Rico to his targeted states for political interference? I don’t know, but perhaps we will know when Mueller files his final report to the Congress.      GERALD        E

THE SAINT VALENTINE DAY MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS

THE SAINT VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS

As a (retired) lawyer, and much as I detest the NRA and those in the Congress who are doing nothing to stem these repeated killings, I must be opposed to violence against them since we would only be engaging in conduct for which we blame them in bringing about (much as we kill people for killing people). I think that is not the way to go and would only bring about more violence (to the delight of Putin while watching our democracy crumble).

I live here in Florida in a county contiguous to Broward County, the site of the latest child massacre. Passions are running high here and some are wondering if the whole country is becoming unraveled what with the just-reported numbers of 40,000 traffic deaths, 33,000 gun deaths, who knows how many opie and booze deaths, a fruitcake president and a Congress interested only in coddling their donor class, a class including not just the Kochs and Mercers but also such terrorist-inducing organizations as the NRA.

It seems we have lots of money and resolve to enrich the already rich and dispossess the poor but cannot find the resolve or the resources to do away with military style weaponry that is unnecessary for hunting, home defense or the like. Military weaponry is designed for one purpose: to kill as many people as possible in the shortest possible time. It should be in the hands of the military only and not in the hands of even sane much less insane people since sane people can go insane, the gun can fall into wrong hands etc.

I have been voting since Truman, have accepted good choices when the perfect were not available, and have never been a single-issue voter, unlike one of my classmates who told me (over my protests) that she was voting for Trump for one reason: abortion. I am considering the idea of becoming a single-issue voter myself after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of the Innocents over in Broward County and am mulling over the idea of voting against any candidate of any party who takes a penny from the NRA, the front group for gun and ammunition manufacturers and only one step removed from definition as a terrorist organization.

No, the NRA doesn’t shoot anybody, but their sponsors, the gun and ammunition manufacturers, like the getaway drivers in bank heists who facilitate the robbery of a bank, should be held to the same degree of accountability as those in the bank example here cited who stuck guns in tellers’ faces and ran off with the loot to the waiting getaway car. In short, and as a stopgap measure based upon product liability law, I am recommending that since the NRA’s sponsoring gun and ammunition manufacturers are putting a dangerous and lethal product (military style weaponry) on the market that they should be held to a strict liability standard in its use, like, for instance, arsenic, transportation of atomic wastes, etc. To be even more explicit, I think it possible that a court could find a common law in lieu of a statutory standard of liability applicable to such manufacturers in a class action by the bereaved parents over in Broward County, depending upon an examination of case law.

It appears that Republicans who collect huge campaign contributions from gun and ammunition manufacturers funnelled through the NRA (see especially Cruz, Rubio and Ryan) are, as usual, not going to do anything about the continuing slaughter of school children, church and concert goers, preferring instead to talk about mental health and “policy” rather than guns, so perhaps our judicial branch can bring sanity and justice to Broward County and America. I hope so, since I cannot imagine a bigger issue than life or death and the crying need for regulation of those who provide the choice for profit, and since Republicans in Congress will not be doing anything about it because they are bought, perhaps some billion dollar recoveries arising from lawsuits against the manufacturers will dramatically slow the rate of slaughter by such lethal weaponry.     GERALD       E

TRUMP AND WOMEN

TRUMP AND WOMEN

The New York Times reports this morning that Trump’s defense of the wives’ beating Portman is roiling the White House, but I don’t know why, based on his known attitudes toward women, all of whom are liars when accusing men (like himself) of sexual harassment and beatings. Why the shock?

Remember when Trump stopped by Manila recently on the way home from a trade trip to the Orient to visit and give positive recognition to the Filipino dictator Duterte, the guy who instructed his troops to shoot drug addicts on sight (speaking of due process)? Today the Washington Post  reports in summary as follows: “Duterte tells troops to use rape of women in conflicts and to shoot female rebels in their vaginas.”

Don is good at identifying and admiring murdering dictators such as Putin as “strong leaders,” so I think some enterprising news reporter should ask him if he approves of Duterte’s new policy and methods in assassinating both male and female opponents to his fascist regime. The question might go something like this > Is Duterte a “strong leader” who is trying to protect his nation’s national security, or is he just another tinhorn murdering dictator who uses any pretext real or manufactured to stomp out any and all dissent and semblance of democracy? Query #2 > Do you favor his specific means of stifling female dissent, and if not, considering your record, why not?   GERALD       E

TRUMP’S MISREPRESENTATIONS IN RE WAGE INEQUALITY

TRUMP’S MISREPRESENTATIONS IN RE WAGE INEQUALITY

The business press, its business writers and Trump are in cahoots with their feigned breathlessness in describing the effects of the recently passed “tax bill” on wage inequality. Trump describes the chump change bonuses and miniscule average increases in wages as “a big Christmas present to American workers” but neglects to give us context, and for good reason. When you get a chump change raise from next to nothing, you’re still earning next to nothing to pay the rent, buy groceries, fix the car and buy shoes for the kids in the real world of paycheck to paycheck, always hoping that some trade policy or the oblivious pursuit of corporate greed will not send your job to China or Mexico.

Thus if I am making the federal minimum wage standard (a slave wage) of $7.25 an hour and get a raise to $7.50, I am still making a slave wage and will probably remain on food stamps to keep body and soul together, as thousands of Walmart employees and even some in our military are as we taxpayers are in fact paying some of the wages for these working poor employees that Walmart should be paying a living wage. Parenthetically, Trump also neglects to tell us that the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation predict serial increases in interest rates by the Fed along with increases in inflation which will more than wipe out all the puny one-time bonuses and wage increases for working Americans he and the business press are trying to sell us in their PR campaign from their perches on Wall Street and the Oval Office. I’m not buying.

Let’s not be fooled with snake oil and propaganda, because when gross becomes net and we consider yet other aspects of the tax law that reduce our ability to deduct on our 1040s, especially depending upon where we live, we are going to find that we have been had, and that this bill was all about making the rich richer and the poor poorer and that it will have succeeded in its primary objective – at the great and continuing expense to the rest of us.

Let’s give some historical consideration to how we came to today’s nadir in wages. For some forty years following WW II under the influence of FDR’s New Deal policies and Keynesian economics, wages moved in tandem with the Dow, were adequate for a decent living where only one in the household was working, and economic growth was in the stratosphere and marked by no significant recessions or economic slowdowns during such period. Following the infamous Powell memo in 1971 and with the advent of Reagan’s trickledown economics and union busting, wages stopped moving in tandem with the Dow and median wages since then, as adjusted for inflation, have not moved, but not so the Dow, which moved from some 1,000 to its present day 25,000 or so die to an obvious political plan to have the economy reward capital far out of proportion to labor and which brought us another extremely negative externality, to wit: we have lost trillions of dollars in economic productivity and profits forever per Stiglitz due to bad policy choices that have led to tepid aggregate demand caused in turn by wage inequality.

I sometimes wonder where we would be today if we had continued with New Deal policies and Keynesian economics, whether such a powerhouse economy could continue indefinitely because there were no more “business cycles” to contend with, or whether due to war or other disasters we would have suffered major recessions or worse, such as Bush’s Great Recession, which was brought about by major tax cuts to the rich and corporate class and failure to regulate the reckless investment practices of big Wall Street banks that became insolvent but were (we were and still are told) “too big to fail.”

We will never know, of course, because it didn’t happen, but Trump’s “tax bill” is happening, and as I have written elsewhere, as its toxic effects start to take hold and demand is savaged, I predict at least a downturn and perhaps a full blown recession later this year or no later than 2019.     GERALD      E

 

 

 

 

 

TRUMP’S TAX LAW AND RECESSION

TRUMP’S TAX LAW AND RECESSION

Steven Pressman, professor of economics at Colorado State University, wrote a piece for the current edition of The Washington Spectator which treats the effects of Trump’s recently passed tax law on the middle class in which he lays waste to Trump’s gushing misrepresentation of the law as a big Christmas present for working Americans, which it is anything but. It is a trickle up law that adopts the idea of making the rich richer and the poor poorer a policy choice, a choice made by Republicans in Congress on behalf of their rich and corporate donors, donors who in turn finance such Republicans’ reelection campaigns (think Kochs, Mercers, Wall Street banks et al.).

Professor Pressman brilliantly dissects Trump’s “tax law” for what it is – a theft in broad daylight, but I have my own ideas on some of the effects of this “tax law,” as follows. This massive “tax relief” bill, in my opinion, guarantees us a recession when its toxic effects take hold later this year or no later than next year. Giving our tax money away via deficit financing (running up our debt by at least 1.5 trillion) so that the taxes on the rich and corporate class can be lowered does nothing for aggregate demand, the sole arbiter of economic growth, and Republican predictions of three percent economic growth per annum for the next ten years that will pay for the increased debt are sheer fantasy. Indeed, recessions bring on negative economic growth, and since passage of this act has assured us that the Fed, spooked by fear of inflation, will raise interest rates, which will in turn and among other things roil the debt and equity markets even further than last week’s volatile performance, my prediction is, I think, a safe bet.

When you drop a rock in the middle of a goldfish pond, the concentric circles hit all shores, and when you raise interest rates, you put a damper on lending and employment and business expansion ranging from the local lumberyard and mom and pop restaurants to and through IBM and Walmart. My bet is that the combination of inflation and serial interest increases made to combat it will combine to do more than “cool off” the economy; I think unemployment will increase and that the miniscule reduction in taxes to working American will be more than eaten up by inflation, increased interest and higher prices with a resulting reduction in aggregate demand which will lead us into recession.

Using the goldfish pond analogy further, I note that increased interest rates will as always be passed along to ultimate consumers (you and me), and that such additional monies will go to Wall Street and not to aggregate demand in our economy. I likewise note that our Treasury will be paying bigger interest rates on the trillions of our debt as securities mature. These and other downers tell me we are headed for recession, whatever any politician tells us about the wonders of trickledown for the rich while neglecting to tell us of the trickle up effect on the middle class and the poor, who are stuck with the bill.

Time and space prevent me from detailed discussion of the selective features of the law which, among other things, cap state and local taxes as deductions, thus punishing taxpayers who reside in high tax states even further, but I cannot end this essay without calling attention to the fact that our unrepresented grandchildren (some unborn) will be paying for this payoff by Republicans to their rich and corporate friends today by borrowing on our grandchildrens’ future, a situation I find egregious and reprehensible. We once had a war based largely on taxation without representation, and while I don’t expect such a conflagration now, I think those of us who survive will have a tough time explaining to our grandchildren in 2029 why we allowed such a law to pass, assuming, of course, that we do not repeal this monstrosity during the interim – which I strongly recommend.       GERALD      E

 

BRER RABBIT AND NUNES

BRER RABBIT AND NUNES

Professor Kennedy in her blog today brought us the Uncle Remus story of how Brer Rabbit outsmarted Brer Fox with his exhortation not to be thrown in the brier patch which, of course, Brer Fox did, only to be unable thereafter to catch and eat Brer Rabbit. She likened Democrats to Brer Rabbit and Nunes to Brer Fox. Democrats made quite a fuss over release of Nunes’ memo, objecting to its release when in fact, as one critic noted, the memo had less detail than CVS receipts he had seen. He is right; it is a limp rag of convoluted junk designed to cover Trump’s political posterior, and it did not. Brer Rabbit won. Professor Kennedy asked for comment and following, slightly edited, was mine.

Brer Rabbit’s clever use of briar patch psychology on Brer Fox worked, but I am not sure Nunes’s gaffe did not. It depends upon the audience, and Trump has roughly one third of the audience who believe that Democrats are treasonous, that global warming is a mirage etc. “because he said so.”

He now wants appointment of another special counsel to investigate the DOJ and FBI in his “investigate the investigators” campaign, a campaign clearly designed to undercut Mueller’s investigation and to cast doubt on Mueller’s final report (which Trump knows will be damning to his interests) when presented to the House for impeachment consideration.

I have written elsewhere that I think Mueller will not indict Trump (though I have been wrong before) but rather submit his final report to Congress for their action or inaction because there are legal questions about indictment of a sitting president and a dearth of case law on the topic. Mueller could, of course, allude to Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in court filings, but I am guessing he will not.

Mueller can indict others of Trump’s inner circle, however, and the good news is that if Trump is impeached and removed from office he can himself thereafter be indicted for crimes both by federal prosecutors and State of New York prosecutors for state crimes committed within that state’s jurisdiction, all subject, I presume, to their respective statutes of limitations.

Nunes’s effort was a sideshow. Brer Rabbit (our minority) has won and we are now free out here in the briar patch. This November let’s leave our brier patches and other warrens, evict the foxes and reoccupy the hutch.      GERALD        E

TRUMP’S SELECTIVE TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

TRUMP’S SELECTIVE TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

I note with interest that Trump highlights what he calls the booming economy, the lowest unemployment levels ever, and the stratospheric Dow that have come about during his abbreviated tenure, as though his policies, tax cuts and reduced regulation of the market are responsible for such good fortune. He neglects to give us any context for such claims, some of which are false, as with unemployment. Our lowest unemployment numbers ever were during WW II, and the “booming economy” he refers to is booming for whom, Wall Street or ordinary Americans who remain grossly underpaid as continuing victims of wage inequality for nearly four decades?

Trump talks of increases in wages but he again neglects to tell us that such chump change increases started from a slave wage base. Thus if I am making the minimum federal wage of $7.25 an hour and get a raise to $7.50 an hour I am still making slave wages and not living wages, as suggested by the lady who wrote recently that the new tax law which gave her a $1.50 increase in her weekly paycheck would pay for her Costco dues. That observation may be true, depending upon where she lives. Truth be told, tens of millions of Americans who live in high tax states will suffer a loss in net pay since Trump’s tax bill for the rich and corporate class removed a substantial portion of deductible state and local taxes on their 1040s, among other reductions in their formerly deductible expenses. Thus the few in the rich and corporate class received 83% of the goodies and the rest of us received the remaining 17% (subject to reduced deductibles on our federal returns). In words of the street, the rest of us got the shaft.

The American economy is like a giant supertanker that takes miles to turn around. Thus Obama’s first few years in our economy were really those of Bush, and Trump’s first few years are those of Obama. Trump can cut taxes and regulations on the rich and corporate class all he pleases, but this year and next are largely Obama years because no supertanker can be turned around on a dime. The difference is that Bush left Obama with the Great Recession and Obama left Trump with an economy on the upswing. Trump deserves no credit; the economy would be improved if Mickey Mouse were president. The current precipitous drop in the Dow I attribute to neither Obama nor Trump – think business cycle.

As I have repeatedly blogged, the Dow has little to nothing to do with economic growth in any event. Economic growth is the result of aggregate demand, and such demand is stimulated by the ability of consumers to buy. Thus while tax cuts and reduction of regulation of banks and corporations may make for jumps in the Dow, the Dow is not a measure of economic growth but a mere speculative estimate of arbitragers and moneychangers on the value of stocks and bonds.

If we want economic growth, as everybody claims to desire, then we should invest not in tax cuts and less regulation of the rich and corporate class but rather in substantial wage raises to American workers so that they have the wherewithal to go to market and enhance demand, just as we did in the halcyon years of economic growth following WW II when wages rose in tandem with the Dow up until about four decades ago, when the cancer of wage inequality began to take hold, and still has ordinary Americans in a bind. If economic growth rather than private profit is really a public goal, then the solution is simple: massively increase wages and thus aggregate demand and economic growth so that all of us (including the rich and corporate class) prosper.

When speaking about the economy, Trump should give us context and speak to all of the factors involved in our economic success or failure and not just select the few that make him look good but which tell us nothing of the impact of low interest rates, tepid demand, wage inequality, the business cycle etc. The election is over; Donald. Get off your soap box and govern.      GERALD       E