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HEMORRHOIDS AND COMMUNISM

HEMORRHOIDS AND COMMUNISM

At a recent family reunion, my niece, a writer and editor, gave me a book entitled “Napoleon’s Hemorrhoids,” published by Phil Mason, an Englishman, in 2010. I have perused his offering since our reunion and here share two of many small events that may have changed history, oddball if tiny events which may have had big impacts that I, for one, have never heard about, and which, in a rather paraphrased form, I offer in this post.

Napoleon. As all of us must know by now, Napoleon Bonaparte was a brilliant French general who was rarely if ever defeated on the battlefield, and as we must also know, he lost the Battle of Waterloo to the Allies led by the Duke of Wellington, an Englishman. Historians write that he lost that famous battle due to the last minute arrival of the Prussian army, but what they do not write about is why Napoleon did not win that battle before the Prussian reinforcements arrived. Had he done so, and a letter from the Duke of Wellington to his brother (“I was never so near being beat” suggests that Napoleon was winning before the Prussians showed up and saved the day), the history of Europe and of the world would likely have been very different than the one we have.8

To contextualize this event, the Industrial Revolution was just a few years away in England and we were just finishing up the War of 1812 we were having with England. Perhaps the English should have left the so-called “Napoleonic Wars” and other such adventures before and after Napoleon to continental Europe while they sat on their island and dreamed up steam power and other such innovations leading to refinements in the Industrial Revolution. While we are guessing with alternative historical outcomes, it may be that had England’s preoccupation with European wars in the late 18th and early 19th centuries not happened, we Americans would still be bowing to English royalty. If thousands of Redcoats had been in colonial America and not in Europe, it’s quite possible that Washington would have been hanged and the revolution lost, so from our point of view, however indirectly, Napoleon was our friend. He kept the Redcoats busy some 3,000 miles away and our revered forefathers avoided the noose.

So how did this brilliant general lose the Battle of Waterloo? Mason suggests a tiny event that may have turned the tide of the battle – and history. Napoleon was afflicted with hemorrhoids and had an attack the morning of the battle, a very painful attack, especially when riding a horse, as the reader can well imagine. Typically Napoleon before battles would survey the battlefield, its terrain etc., before engaging in a battle. The morning of the Battle of Waterloo he was hurting so badly that he did not survey the battlefield and held up the engagement until 11:20 A.M. (which gave the Prussian reinforcements time to come in later in the day and turn the tide). Mason thinks that this attack of hemorrhoids and the delay in starting the battle may have changed history from the one we know to one we can never know. He may be right. Alternative history, like present day alternative facts, has no base in reality.

Marx. It is not just hemorrhoids that may have changed world history. I knew that Karl Marx was afflicted with painful “boils” during his lifetime but I did not connect such an affliction with communism. I see the possible connection now. Mason reports that medical historian Sam Schuster wrote in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2007 that there was credible evidence that Karl Marx suffered from a skin disease which can create a severe psychological disorder, one that can foster feelings of exploitation and alienation. Schuster the researcher theorizes that Marx’s affliction could very likely have given a significant push to the direction Marx took which led to his invention of the theory that underpins communism.

The technical name for Marx’s condition is hidradenitis suppurativa, a disorder of the sweat glands that produces boils and pus-oozing spots. Research does not indicate when this condition first appeared with Marx, but the symptoms were in evidence by 1864, when Marx was 46 years old and researching in the British Museum in London for his major work, Das Kapital, an effort that lays out the conceptual theory of communism, published in 1867.

So, per Mason, could it have been that all the misery, exasperation and feeling of oppression from these bodily ills that could have, as the medical researcher Schuster suggests, created the state of mind that dreamed up a system of politics which was to plague hundreds of millions of people’s lives in the century to come and the century afterward – see the current result in North Korea.

I don’t know (and neither does anyone else) what our history and that of the world would be today if not for hemorrhoids and boils on people who had the power to change history. Perhaps Mason is grasping at straws to finding something offbeat to write about, but I think not. If Napoleon had surveyed the battlefield of Waterloo and defeated the Allied army before the Prussians arrived, if Marx had not been painfully inflicted with boils and sores that made him mad at the world, who can know what the world would look like today?

I always write that history is linear and that we should be guided but not captive to history. Mason’s effort tells us that little things can have deep and everlasting effects, and these two examples tell us something else – that if the state of the medical arts we have today had been available to these two giants of 19th century history, it is altogether possible that our history would be one that no one today can know, something to ponder with present day American politicians who are opposed to expansion of medical research and programs such as Medicare which, if history is a guide, could be responsible for an angry 21st century Marxist or fascist and the end of our democracy.

O.K., that may be a stretch, but so was the framework laid out in Das Kapital at the time. What’s a “stretch?”  Castros, Maoists, Leninists and Stalinists may have a different view than that held by those of us entrenched in democratic capitalism today. Communism is not currently in vogue, and democratic capitalism as now practiced is also headed for the dustbin of history unless reformed, so what will history look like 50 years from now? I have no clue.      GERALD       E

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOOD NEWS OR SAME OLD NEWS?

  1. GOOD NEWS OR SAME OLD NEWS?
    Today I participated in commentaries to a blog containing the supposedly good news that the unemployment rate is down and that there are 209,000 new hires in the month of July, as though the economy is poised to make great strides as employment has reached the level preceding Bush’s Great Recession. Economic growth and the 22,000 Dow level, except for the moneychangers and paper shufflers on Wall Street is not related to how the real economy is performing, as I explained below in a thumbnail sketch of what is really happening amidst this cancer of wage inequality in our economy. Take a look.
    Other  good news this morning – 209,000 added to the workforce in July, but as I often blog, it doesn’t matter if we have 0 percent unemployment and 4 million people added to the workforce every month if they are being paid slave wages. Demand would only be marginally affected and social outlays marginally reduced, but the economy would still be underperforming because of the slave wages paid by corporate America. An increase of 1.6 percent in economic growth whatever the numbers are on unemployment even with a 0.2 percent annualized increase in median wages offers no help on aggregate demand as they are eaten up by inflation, a situation that leaves us where we were before Reagan ended the fair sharing of the economy’s income and introduced trickledown economics to America, a system that ended the New Deal and handed the economy’s income over to the rich and corporate class, a class that is now enjoying a 22,000 Dow while complaining about high taxes and overregulation all the way to the bank.
    My point is this: That with the current lopsided policy of giving the money to the rich and corporate class while taking it from those who make such earnings available for the pickings no good news is possible since it is aggregate demand that controls market economies and not statistics on unemployment and a stratospheric Dow and, obviously, with the lack of wherewithal comes a chronic lack of demand and a continuing flirtation with recession whatever such statistical measures claim to be measuring – but aren’t. Doubling the minimum wage would be a start, but with 40 years of stagnant or even declining median wages we have a long way to go to pay labor in tandem with what we have paid capital over the past four decades. We need an “affirmative action” policy on behalf of working Americans to catch up with the wage travesties imposed upon them by those who fill the airwaves and business press with propaganda relating to “trickledown” and “austerity” economics, neither of which works, and both of which are deliberately and fallaciously labeled as pillars of market economies, which they are not. What to do? Agitate ceaselessly for a living wage for all, and by so doing end wage inequality for all and rescue an underperforming economy in the process. When? Now.   GERALD     E
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MINIMUM WAGES – THE HUNGER GAME

MINIMUM WAGES – THE HUNGER GAME

The federal minimum wage these days is a cruel joke on working people in America, especially those single women with a child or children who can work only part-time because of sky-high childcare costs which makes the Hunger Game metaphor real. Likewise, the minimum wage set for those in tipping jobs (primarily waiters and waitresses) is so low as to invite a similar comparison since tips are gifts and not income and may not be forthcoming on slow days and nights or even less so during recessions. Result? Structural poverty for people who are trying to keep body and soul together for themselves and their families. The winners? Employers’ bottom lines and stock portfolios.

There is a large gap between minimum wages and living wages and there is no good reason why they should not be the same. People work for “a living,” not a slave wage, but the rich and corporate class is plainly focused on its bottom line and not the mounting bankruptcy petitions of its employees.

Fortunately, state and municipal jurisdictions are increasingly taking on the obligation of seeing to it that people employed within their borders are guaranteed a minimum wage well beyond that federally set since it is obvious that the Republican Congress is going to do nothing to alleviate the massive pain of working people trying to make a living.

The Congress is apparently too busy handing out tax cuts and less regulation to the superrich to notice that millions of Americans who are trying to survive are falling into poverty status in a classic case of helping those who don’t need help while refusing to help those who do. Aside from assuring that the poor become poorer and those in the lower middle class fall into poverty, there are those in the Congress who want to pass a national right to work bill to further blunt already waning union representation. Apparently the plantation owners and their legislative toadies not only want to pay slave wages but also make sure that the slaves have no future recourse in a “let them eat cake” response to the pleas of the working class, using global competition, “high” corporate taxes and other phony excuses for their theft of their workers’ wages and even their workers’ increased productivity.

Since we live in a large country with differing costs of living here and there, as Stan Greenberg suggests in his 2015 book, America Ascendant, perhaps the best place to address this minimum wage problem is at the metropolitan level. Thus costs of living to working people in San Francisco, New York and similarly high-cost areas vary considerably from the cost of living in small towns in rural America, for instance. Cities, after all, are attracting the most educated and most affluent (see San Jose and Silicon Valley, New York and its financial district et al.), though they are drawing in more service workers and immigrant workers as well. This essay is not about the affluent but the service and immigrant workers. (Computer whizzes and bankers are doing well and are involved in maximum rather than minimum wage brawls.)

Thus Greenberg in his 2015 tome notes that the District of Columbia raised their minimum wage in 2014 starting in 2015 and that states such as California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Mexico and New York followed suit while indexing the new level to inflation to keep up with rising costs. The minimum wage is already higher than the federal level in nearly half of the states, though tellingly, only one of them, Montana, is in the Republican lineup. As a measure of its popularity, five states had minimum wage increases on the ballot in 2014 and all of them passed. It is clear that people are ahead of the congressional curve on this issue, which will not be a federal issue if all fifty states do what the Congress will not, to wit: raise the minimum wage to a living wage indexed for inflation.

It is not just states that are making waves in trying to rid our country of wage inequality and its pernicious effects not only on our working people but also on aggregate demand in our economy; cities are in the mix as well. Municipal minimum wage-setting began in 2003 in San Francisco and Santa Fe. Seattle passed a law increasing the minimum wage from $9.32 to $15.00 by 2018, more than twice as much the current federal minimum wage and approaching a living wage. San Jose raised its minimum wage to $10.66 an hour; Santa Fe to $10.84; San Diego to $11.50; Oakland to $13.19.

Such state and local reaction to the federal slave wage minimum is a step in the right direction, but even such increases do not bring us up to a living wage standard. Thus in Germany factory workers make $35-$40 dollars an hour, have childcare programs, single payer healthcare and even have a law requiring that unions have representatives on corporate boards. The Germans have the same international competition we do but have a massive trade surplus, a modern infrastructure, a solid middle class and, predictably, strong aggregate demand in their economy.

Here we guarantee $7.25 an hour, have no childcare program, healthcare run by for-profit corporations, tepid demand in our economy, a crumbling infrastructure, the world’s largest trade deficit for many years running, and union suppression. However, we have the planet’s largest concentration of wealth and New York’s Wall Street is the financial center of the world.

It is plain by any rational standard that we have decided to invest in the financial sector rather than invest in our people, and I say that is an egregious mistake in policy with scary implications. Look around. How many union representatives are on the boards of GM? Boeing? GE? Try zero.

What to do? Change policymakers and be quick about it before our internal rot and corruption favoring the few sends us the way of Rome. We know that investment in our people brings prosperity to all as evidenced by the some forty years following WW II, so why (other than greed, avarice, and corruption) are we pursuing policies that countermand experience? Let’s change horses in this race as soon as possible, starting in November, 2018.       GERALD       E

GLOBAL TRANSPARENCY IN TAXATION

GLOBAL TRANSPARENCY IN TAXATION

This is an essay drawing heavily on Piketty in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, who though admitting the idea is utopian and not likely to be adopted anywhere near soon, favors a global tax on capital but first must have some knowledge of who owns what and where. He is not so interested in such a tax for revenue as he is to obtain banking data in order to include information on assets held in foreign banks. Currently, as is well-known, there is massive fraud involved in bank secrecy practices in several countries who vie with one another for financial assets from offshore depositors who wish to escape the view of their taxing authorities back home.

There is, for instance, the opaque example of the 2013 crisis in the Bank of Cyprus. This Cypriot bank (a bank in which Trump’s current Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, was a co-director along with a Russian before Ross came to Washington) is a well-known money-laundering operation for Putin and his kleptomaniacs to convert rubles into dollar investments in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

Piketty notes in such connection that “The international organizations currently responsible for overseeing and regulating the global financial system, starting with the IMF, have only a very rough idea of the global distribution of financial assets, and in particular of the amount of assets hidden in tax havens. . . Take, for example, the Cypriot banking crisis of 2013. Neither the European authorities nor the IMF had much information about who exactly owned the financial assets deposited in Cyprus or what amounts they owned, hence their proposed solutions proved crude and ineffective.”

There is no technical obstacle in this day of computers in having such tax havens report banking data to the appropriate tax and regulatory authorities, as urged by those who want to keep the present system of secrecy intact. Other arguments and excuses by those who wish to maintain bank secrecy include the almost laughable excuse that governments would misuse the information. The fact (as noted by Piketty) is this: “That the reason tax havens defend bank secrecy is that it allows their clients to evade their fiscal obligations, thereby allowing the tax havens to share in the gains, which has nothing to do with the principles of the market economy.” He is right to a fault.

Piketty also notes the anti-social nature of such a scheme as follows: “No one has the right to set his own tax rates. It is not right for individuals to grow wealthy from free trade and economic integration only to rake off the profits at the expense of their neighbors. That is outright theft.” He is right, and that is not the only theft the rich and corporate class are pulling off on the rest of us. In addition to such tax avoidance and evasion schemes carried out offshore, many of such corporate thieves have stolen and are continuing to steal increases in worker productivity and stuffing the proceeds into their capital gains pockets rather than sharing such increases with those who made such increases possible – the workers – as wage inequality accelerates and 99 percent of the economy’s gains go to overflowing capital ledgers.

While (per Piketty) much of Europe was able to unite around the euro as a single currency, little to nothing has been done in the area of taxation. Perhaps surprisingly, it is the United States that adopted legislation with teeth to end these brazen international tax dodges with passage of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) in 2010 and scheduled to be phased in by stages in 2014 and 2015. The Act requires all foreign banks to inform the Treasury Department about bank accounts and investments held abroad by U.S. taxpayers, along with any other sources of revenue from which they may benefit.

By contrast, the EU’s directive on foreign savings only applies to European banks and has no application as the worldwide FATCA does. Further, the EU directive only applies to interest-bearing accounts and not to stock portfolios, whereas both are covered by FATCA. Piketty notes yet further that “Even though the European directive is timid and almost meaningless, it is not enforced since, despite numerous discussions and proposed amendments, Luxembourg and Austria managed to win from other EU member states an agreement to extend their exemption from automatic data reporting and retain their right to share information only on formal request. This system, which also applies to Switzerland and other territories outside the European Union, means that a government must already possess something close to proof of fraud in order to obtain information about the foreign bank account of one of its citizens. This obviously limits drastically the ability to detect and control fraud.” Well, yes, this is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse since the inquiring country needs the information in possession of the banks in order to establish if there has in fact been tax evasion by the citizens.

Unfortunately, FATCA, though far better than the EU’s weak and unenforced directives in this area, is also insufficient to cover the waterfront of tax avoidance and evasion by American citizens. It needs amendment to strengthen the hand of tax regulators. Again unfortunately, FATCA’s language is not itself sufficiently precise or comprehensive. Result? Certain trust funds and foundations can avoid any obligation to report their assets. Additionally, FATCA’s language does not cover banks who are foreign-based and do not do business in the U.S., apparently due to the need for nexus and sensitivity to sovereignty. Thus, smaller banks that are foreign-based and do not do business in the U.S. (as the big Swiss and other tax-haven banks do) could and do manage the assets of U.S. and European taxpayers without conveying any information to the authorities – a giant loophole in need of amendatory fix.

Finally, and who am I to even mildly disagree with a legend like Piketty, he notes that countries like France with 60 million people and Germany with 80 million people are primarily interested not in the revenues such transparent banking data would bring in but rather in facilitating enforcement of domestic tax rules and laws. I here note that I think both enforcement and revenues are involved in the U.S. because we are a country with 330 million people and more rich people who want to hide their money than any other country by far, so with lost tax revenues running into the billions per annum (not to mention that such hidden assets are not reinvested in America and that you and I have to make up for the shortfall in evaded taxes), I think revenues are to be considered as a motivating factor for enforcement as well in this country.

So, think this discussion is just idle chatter and has nothing to do with you? Think again. You are bankrolling this operation in tax evasion because what the evaders don’t pay you do. What to do? Tell your people in Congress to toughen and tighten up the language of FATCA to cover all loopholes, including the smaller banks overseas which are currently exempted from FACTA. So how do we enforce such new amended provisions of the Act against banks not doing business in the U.S.? Easy. Sanction the countries in which they are based until such countries require their currently exempted banks to comply with the provisions of our newly-amended FACTA.

Result? When the evaders have no place to go, they will, like the rest of us, pay their fair share of the load or, if not, pay penalties and interest and perhaps go to jail, all in keeping with Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment of our Constitution, which guarantees Equal Protection of the Laws to all of us.    GERALD     E

 

 

PIKETTY, LIMBAUGH AND OTHERS

PIKETTY, LIMBAUGH AND OTHERS

Recently I blogged in effect that Piketty was a genius and Limbaugh was an ignoramus. I repeat that observation here. Piketty in his inequality-defining book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has per his peers “painstakingly detailed the dynamics of wealth and income inequality throughout the last two centuries, and offers a somewhat grim picture of the future of economic inequality.” (Matt Bruenig, The Week). Paul Krugman of the New York Times writes that “Piketty, arguably the world’s leading expert on income and wealth inequality, does more than document the growing concentration of income in the hands of a small economic elite. He also makes a powerful case that we’re on the way back to ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ in which the commanding heights of the economy are dominated by not just wealth, but also by inherited wealth, in which birth matters more than effort and talent. “

It took years to assemble the unarguable evidence supporting Piketty’s observations and conclusions in his great book, over 577 pages of text and nearly 100 pages of notes and citations, and then I read that Limbaugh and others of his ilk dismiss all such evidence in some radio studio with a wave of their hands and their standard charge that the author is a socialist, a communist etc. Millions of their listeners are literally “framed” out of reading and understanding Piketty’s outstanding effort in laying out the perimeters of economic inequality and what can be done about it, assuming their audiences are interested in such arcane research and “commie” observations and conclusions of a brilliant academic such as Piketty, an academic with no discernible political status. Limbaugh and his thoughtless peers with their out front dismissal of Piketty’s efforts on political grounds reminds me of Trump, who when faced by facts he doesn’t like, labels such objective truth as “fake news,” a convenient means of avoiding reality though the facts remain facts.

The problem is that although the research spanning centuries does take on an arcane aspect (like who cares about the economic impact of Nazi occupation of Denmark during WW II), Piketty’s observations and conclusions gleaned from such research are not only contemporary but destined to become prescient if we do not reform our present trajectory toward the even greater concentration in wealth of the few given his further findings in patrimonial capitalism, a system in which wealth is transferred from one generation to the next on the basis of birth and not merit while the rest of us are increasingly impoverished, and no, Rush, this is not communism – it’s arithmetic – and antithetical to our democratic institutions where we are told we can prosper with hard work and perseverance, which rules out the accident of birth.

There is little evidence these days that politicians have reform of our present system of economic rewards and punishments in mind. They are comfortable with the present system in which the coddled rich and corporate (and patrimonial) classes with their PACs now unleashed by Citizens United in buying elections to keep the good times rolling. Their cronies in state capitals with their right to work laws, gerrymandering, and voter suppression techniques augmented by massive propaganda on a national scale paid for by such as the libertarian Koch Brothers keep despairing Democrats and Independents at home on election day, the current result being that we have a psychotic chief of state and chaos on the Potomac which creates a vacuum in governing with the further result that Merkel and Macron are vying for the title of “leader of the free world,” Putin is expelling our diplomats, North Korea is testing our resolve with their rocketry, our status of the dollar as the world’s currency reserve is being challenged etc. etc.

This is what happens, of course, where there is a void in leadership, and so long as we have Trump around, we can expect more challenges to our influence around the world. Sooner or later even the Republican congressional leadership will have to start governing and concern themselves more with our domestic and international problems than making sure they haven’t hurt Trump’s feelings, and if they don’t govern, then all we have to offer as a military leviathan is force, but force for what when we don’t have any rational policies to defend or enforce for the common good and international equilibrium?

America should look to those such as Piketty who offer solutions to our long-standing problems rather than to the likes of Trump, who tweets his hurt feelings and offers no solutions to the nation’s pressing problems, chief of which is income inequality on the domestic front, an area in which Piketty is the world’s foremost expert and one unaddressed by Trump as he cavorts around the country seeking adulation from the adoring masses while making America great again.

What to do to stop or at least slow accelerating wage inequality in this country and loss of influence in matters international? Same old answer – elect corporatthose who look to the common good rather than providing more corporate (and now patrimonial) welfare to their financiers. Elect people who, like Lincoln, view government as a mechanism in self-government “of, by and for the people,” not of, by and for any chosen sector of the economy. Lincoln was right, and Piketty tells us how to do it, so let’s listen to our economists more and our politicians such as Trump, McConnell and Ryan less, since it is clear that their idea of governing is for a chosen few and not for the common good, and for the wrong reasons.       GERALD        E

 

 

 

 

 

 

POLITICS AND ,e conomi

POLITICS AND STATISTICS

I am a believer in statistics. Their use tells us what we need to know about the real world and not one we have fashioned for political or other such purposes. They comprise models which have themselves been tested for accuracy and have not been found lacking as they tell us the brutal truth about what it is we are testing, assuming our choice of model fits the data. The dictionary defines statistics as “the science of collecting and interpreting numerical data.” The problem I will discuss in this essay is not the collection of data, which is settled in how we go about it, but rather interpretation of such findings.

My now deceased wife who when pursuing her doctorate used to tell the story about her statistics professor who began his first lecture with the following observation: “Statistics show that one in eight billion passengers on airplanes carry a bomb, so I always carry one when flying to lessen the risk.” This bit of humor broke the tension always attendant to first lectures but also demonstrated the truism that you can do whatever you wish to do with the data.

For instance, and as we will see later, Thomas Piketty’s great book, the culmination of massive research and careful statistical treatment entitled Capital in the Twenty-First Century, was dismissed by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, that eminent radio economist who spews forth brilliant analyses of Piketty’s and others’ statistical efforts to suit his many biases. Limbaugh neglects to tell us that Piketty at age 22 already had his doctorate in economics and was lecturing at an Ivy League University (MIT) while, incidentally, I at age 22 was a junior in college pursuing an undergraduate degree in economics. Piketty’s book is rarely out of my sight and is on my table as I am typing this. Its numbers and interpretation of such numbers are unarguable, especially by such a yahoo as Limbaugh with his mindless blather.

More broadly speaking, just what does GDP (gross domestic product), ”economic growth” and other such language mean? We know the numbers, but how are they to be interpreted, and by whom? The business press and Wall Street have their own fish to fry and the resources to see to it that their interpretation of contemporary data is made known to the public (aka propaganda to suit their profit-seeking motives). Hard left operatives, on the other hand, dismiss such Wall Street propaganda and tell us a different story on how we are to interpret the data. Personally, I reject both such right and left takes on our economic performance or lack thereof. In my opinion, their prejudices preclude fair and reasonable conclusions to be drawn from the evidence (data).

As my followers know, I interpret such data with a certain admitted bias of my own, i.e., the bias of just how interpretation of the data affects working people who are currently struggling with the cancer of wage inequality. My bias is a sieve through which all such interpretations must pass in order to be relevant to my version of the reality of an economy which vastly overpays the rentiers and financiers and vastly underpays the workers. Given such definitions, GDP and other statistical measures showing economic growth are relatively immaterial unless they result in a fair distribution of the economy’s income among producers as well as financiers and others involved in our economy.

Socialism? No. Fair Play. The only socialism visible at this stage is corporate socialism via a compliant Congress whose members decry “out of control spending” while “spending” hundreds of billions of dollars on tax cuts and running up our deficit on behalf of their campaign-contributing corporate and banking friends, and then complaining of the “runaway deficit,” all of which tells us that their interpretation of the data is biased in favor of higher and higher profits and has no connection with any honest and objective interpretation of the data. Corporate America gets the money and we get the bill.

Given such a milieu as concocted by the greedy and backed up by such as the Wall Street Journal and the irresponsible chatter of Rush Limbaugh, we plod along with an underperforming economy, tepid demand and economic growth due to wage inequality, millions of bankruptcies and other signs and signals that recession is only an inch away, and are clearly victims of misinterpretation of the data.

Per Stanley Greenberg in his book, America Ascendant, who quotes Limbaugh in his trashing of Piketty’s magnificent contribution to economics as follows: “Some French socialist, Marxist, communist economist has published a book, and the left in this country is having an orgasm over it. He’s a wuss who has arrived to support President Obama’s push against inequality, as if there’s some sin in income inequality in capitalism, and therefore there is a moral sin in the United States of America.” Further, Limbaugh says that “To the extent that there is any concentration of wealth taking place in this country, it is not by capitalism but by government!”

Piketty, of course, is a brilliant economic historian and is neither communist nor socialist. He is an academic in search of truth. He does not interpret his data to call for revolution or civil disorder; he rather makes his points and then writes that the democratic process will determine the outcome. Even Limbaugh does not attack his findings; he attacks the man and doesn’t really and directly interpret Piketty’s data to support his own prejudices, hence my earlier suggestion of his biased blather.

Piketty does write that if the growing inequality is left unaddressed it could be politically disruptive. James Pethokoukis of AEI and The National Review writes that Piketty makes a powerful case that “private capital accumulation inevitably leads to the concentration of wealth into ever-fewer hands, and now Marxism’s fundamental truth is reasserting itself with a vengeance, a reality borne out in both Piketty’s own meticulously gathered data and in business pages replete with stories of skyrocketing wealth for the 0.001 percent and decades of flat wages for everyone else.” It appears Marx was right about the facts but wrong about how to remedy the situation. Communism won’t work – never did, never will.

So how do we interpret the data that 0.001 percent are accumulating capital at an accelerating rate while the rest of us are stuck in “decades of flat wages for everyone else?” Since when in a democracy is 0.001 of the population favored over 0.999 of the population in matters of policy? My interpretation of such data is that we have to end flat wages “for everyone else” not via a “free market economics” ruse which will only prolong the agony but rather to elect those who will see to it that everyone involved in this economy and not just the paper shufflers, financiers and rentiers have a fair share of the economy’s income, and if Limbaugh wants to frame that view as socialistic, he can add to his blather. I frame it as fair play and, incidentally, if such policies were to be adopted, then such statistical measures as economic growth and GDP would have real meaning in an unleashed economy fed by booming demand, among other good and lasting results of such adoption.

It is not enough to make the economic pie larger if only one sector of the economy prospers as a result. If we are to have meaningful statistical data relating to economic performance free of propaganda from the status quo, we must first assure ourselves that there is sufficient demand in the marketplace to prove that our interpretation of the data is correct and for the benefit of the 0.999 in addition to the 0.001. That can only happen with the end of wage inequality, so let’s get on with it.     GERALD       E

 

 

TRUMP AND POLITICAL CHATTELS

TRUMP AND POLITICAL CHATTELS

It is clear as clear can be that we do not have a Republican administration in charge but rather a Trump administration in charge and that government in all of its manifestations has to bend to his personal will in all matters of state and of personal matters as well. People he appoints to cabinet and other important positions are mere political chattels who can be fired on his whim for not protecting him from his entanglements with Russia, his obvious conflicts of interest, his policies made and announced via tweeting without consultation etc.

The new purpose of government, apparently, is not to govern but to be sure that Trump’s narcissistic need for adulation is sated. He, again apparently, does not seem to understand or even care that the office of the President of the United States of America is a constitutional office, not one via medieval appointment from on high, and that with his constitutional powers come constitutional restraints. He is the chief executive, but there are two other co-equal branches of government involved per constitutional definition, too, the legislative and the judiciary. Someone remind him of that.

Yesterday we learned that his Chief of Staff was fired and a general appointed to fill that position. There have been several other such sackings at Trump’s instance, most of which serve as Trump’s cover for the chaos in the West Wing, in addition, perhaps, to not supplying the necessary grounds for adulation by Trump’s base who, like Trump, seem impervious to the reality that this emperor is wearing no clothes.

These perhaps well-intentioned but now fired members of his administration are scapegoats and treated like political chattels by a Trump who will throw anyone under the bus on a moment’s notice, including those who are replacing such fired former members of his administration. I don’t know whether people are counting or not, but a quick look at the current array in his cabinet are Wall Street bankers, generals, and politicians dedicated to destroy the agencies they have been appointed to head, hardly a group who would put America and its people above tax cuts for the rich and more defense appropriations for Boeing (remember when Trump in a speech before Boeing executives signed off with “God bless Boeing?”) and other defense industry goliaths. How to finance such corporate welfare? Easy. Cut appropriations for the poor, sick and needy, and hand the savings over to the superrich via tax cuts.

The chaos in this administration will not be solved by firing first one and then another scapegoat because Trump is the source of the chaos, a chaos which is on the edge of becoming structural. Simply put, he doesn’t know what he is doing and is seemingly unaware of the implications of what he says or doesn’t say in such matters as the Paris Accords, NATO, trade and currency matters, to name but a few. There are matters of importance that government should be attending to like Putin with his cyberwarfare, North Korean missiles, chronic wage inequality that keeps us on the edge of recession, a threat to our world reserve currency status, our massive trade deficits and many other areas of concern, but first we must assure the president that he is loved and is making enormous strides toward making America great again. Such issues as here set forth can wait for solution. First things first.

Trump has blustered and bullied his way to the Oval Office and has appointed a new communications director who promptly used the same tactics as the new hatchet man for Trump in his tough and dirty putdown of Trump’s Chief of Staff fired yesterday. So who’s next on Trump’s tweet list? I think it is Sessions, who Trump now conveniently blames for recusing himself from all matters Russian due to the AG’s connections with Russians during Trump’s campaign. However, I predict that neither Trump nor his new firebrand hatchet man will fire Sessions because Sessions, broadly speaking, represents the South and Trump cannot afford to alienate all those red states. I am guessing that Sessions will be offered another post in Trump’s administration so as not to tear this political scab loose with Dixie.

Sessions is, politically speaking, a dead man walking, since he has been criticized by Trump recently for recusing himself from all matters Russian. Note that Trump’s criticism has nothing to do with how Sessions is handling his duties as AG, only that the recusal is adverse to Trump’s personal interests in trying to distract the various investigations of his Russian connections leveled at himself, his family, his admitted Leninist close adviser and other Russian-friendly advisers sitting next to his throne.

Here again it is not a coming sack (or lateral appointment move) of the AG due to failure to perform his duties as America’s top lawyer; it is rather because the AG has positioned himself not to be able to end our only non-political investigation into Trump’s Russian connections and his love affair with Putin headed by Mueller and end or at least hamper Mueller’s investigative efforts and thus take the heat off Trump, the number one responsibility of all Trump’s cabinet members irrespective of the portfolios they are charged to administer in governing, since governing is always a secondary consideration if they want to keep their jobs. The unspoken but well understood rule is: Cover my posterior or you’re gone.

I have a different view and it is this: Govern effectively and fairly or you’re gone.     GERALD      E