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OLD McDONALD (REVISITED)

OLD McDONALD (REVISITED)

In the Old McDonald blog I just published I wrote that Professor Kennedy’s blog of yesterday was entitled Old McDonald had a Farm. Her title actually was the much more descriptive > Old McDonald had a subsidy. Mea culpa.     GERALD          E

OLD McDONALD

OLD McDONALD

Professor Kennedy in her blog of yesterday humorously entitled her offering “Old McDonald had a Farm,” and then proceeded to attack Trump’s tariffs and welfare checks to farmers who lost their export markets to China. She also found fault with Republican repudiation of their former views of open competition and free market economics. This is a topic I have often written about elsewhere, and I responded to her blog, slightly edited, as follows. 

The automakers received 12 billion dollars from Obama for bailouts after Bush’s Great Recession (bailouts which were roundly criticized by Republicans as “socialism”) that saved the industry, but were not welfare but rather loans that were repaid and therefore cost taxpayers nothing, while the 28 billion dollars (so far) of our tax money for farm subsidies Trump has paid or proposes to pay farmers does not call for repayment, which means (irrespective of Republican spin) that it is inaccurate to say (as some do) that we the people are paying over twice as much for farm subsidies as we did for Obama’s automaker bailouts. The real comparison is 28 billion (so far) to nothing, and that does not include the billions in higher costs of goods to American consumers occasioned by Trump’s tariffs or the loss of our soybean market in China (a lost market currently supplied by Brazil, Russia and Argentina), thousands of jobs saved under Obama vs. thousands of  jobs lost under Trump, and not to mention that our farmers did not even get bailed out – quite the contrary – both farmer bankruptcies and suicide rates are accelerating and our welfare payments to farmers may be far from over. Brilliant (if catastrophic) leadership, Don. Thanks.

Much of the 28 billion paid or in the pipeline does not go to American farmers but rather goes to foreigners such as those in Brazil, but it is not just Brazilians who are recipients of Trump’s largesse. American corporate farmers are sharing big time in Trump’s welfare scheme as well as foreign investors who are buying up American farmland at an accelerating rate. Likewise, it is not only Chapter 12 bankruptcies which are cresting among American farmers; suicide rates are increasing as well. Thanks again, Don.

So who is paying for this market mayhem and these tariffs? You and I, not big business and their financiers, who instead pass such costs along to consumers and spend their (literally) trillions of dollars propagandizing us peasants with “free trade” and Adam Smith bologna and putting down the evils of what they define as “socialism,” while  conveniently ignoring the total socialism involved in Trump’s giveaways versus Obama’s capitalistic approach of loan and repayment.

In a broader discussion of our economic setting I here note that Big Brotherism (total control) can show up in any economic system and is clearly present today in what we call our “mixed” capitalist-socialist system, a “system” which isn’t working for the vast majority, and which is any event is a bifurcated system of socialism for the rich and brutal capitalism for the rest of us. Those who warn of the evils of socialism have chosen to be blind to the evils of capitalism as currently practiced while knee deep in socialism themselves.

From the foregoing one could infer that I am a socialist in every sense of the word. Wrong. I still cling to the fleeting hope that capitalism can work if big business and its financiers join the rest of us in ending wage inequality and yield to more regulation of their activities in the marketplace (which is ours, not theirs), all with a view toward fair play in the distribution of the wealth and income to all of us in this economic enterprise and not just shareholders but consumers, workers, environmentalists et al.

So am I by virtue of such observations just another unrealistic dreamer who (sans evidence) chooses to discount the terminal greed of present day capitalists? I hope not, since as I often write, I am trying to save capitalism, if the capitalists will let me, and because as I see it, present day capitalists are either going to recognize the rest of us as active participants and not mere ciphers in this economic enterprise or, alternatively, they are likely soon to be forced to abandon their view of socialism for the rich and brutal capitalism for the rest of us since our current messy economic marriage is destined for divorce, but if they don’t agree, then what? A Lenin-like St. Petersburg street scene from the early Twentieth Century reincarnated a century later? No one needs that.

To wax a bit philosophical, there is an old saying that if a tree won’t bend in the wind it will break, and that may have application in our economy what with accelerating wage inequality and a stratospheric Dow that rewards its participants unfairly, and since broken economies often presage failed or badly wounded states, I think it is time for capitalists to contain their profit-driven instincts in favor of a more inclusive marketplace lest there be no marketplace for them to exploit. So when to begin the necessary reforms? Today.     GERALD           E

UNITARY EXECUTIVE POWER

UNITARY EXECUTIVE POWER

I have written elsewhere more than once about Barr’s “theory” of unitary executive power and find no support for his argument that the founding fathers intended to give such power to the executive in the Constitution, constitutional debates, the Federalist Papers or any other papers – quite the contrary. The founding fathers had just gone through a revolution to rid themselves of the dictatorial regime of King George, so in the absence of any history that they intended to give dictatorial powers to the executive in the organic law of the land (the Constitution), all inferences of their hidden intentions are to be construed as limitations on the powers granted to the executive. I think it safe to say that Madison, Washington and Jefferson, in the absence of any history to the contrary, had a new nation to launch and did not want to provide for another round of domestic Redcoats and King Georges from within, having had quite enough of executive power and whim, factors which helped precipitate the revolution.

Barr appears to be a fascist looking for an excuse to constitutionally bring his view of the expansion of executive powers (dictatorship) to the fore with such a hare-brained theory unsupported by the record, playing the role of a sort of Rasputin to the Romanov dynasty. I have even considered in my increasingly conspiratorial mind that his call for unitary executive power is pretense designed to divert our attention from something almost if not as scary – the monopoly the right wing Federalist Society has in naming judicial candidates to lifetime appointments to the bench, a “Society” which he helped co-found and whose monopoly status could result in a judiciary that could in time back door his theory of the ”unitary powers” of the executive into practice, a possibility that should keep us awake nights in contemplation of Big Brother rule,  and a reason for us to nip this dictatorial nonsense in the bud. I have been around a long time, but this is my first (and I hope the last) time to see an AG advocate dictatorship, and here I thought 1984 was fiction.      GERALD          E

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– and here I thought 1984 was fiction!        GERALD          E

 

 

MAJORITY OR MINORITY RULE?

MAJORITY OR MINORITY RULE?

Professor Kennedy in her blog today lamented gerrymandering, ALEC-sponsored legislation and other forms of voter suppression employed by Republicans whose ranks are thinning day by day and who apparently feel the need to game the system in order to remain politically relevant. I responded to her blog , slightly edited, as follows.

One of the main bulwarks of democracy is that those who govern do so only by consent of the governed as measured by majority rule, but Ah, there’s the Rub. Majority rule can be and is being manipulated by the Republican minority and such as ALEC and others for their own ends. Democrats are in an increasing majority but you would never know it because of Republican gerrymandering and other voter suppression techniques.

Madison made few mistakes in penning the Constitution and probably did not foresee that giving the states jurisdiction over even federal elections could degenerate into situations where political parties would stoop to such gutter tactics to gain and/or preserve their power as we see today, but if so he can be forgiven since there were no political parties in 1789 and Washington was against ever having political parties since, as he rightly theorized, voters would vote for party rather than country. Then came the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, Whigs, Democrats, Republicans et al., and history proves that George was on to something.

However, recitation of history does little in solving today’s problems, and if we are to preserve the idea of majority rule we have to do something. I have gone through proposed means of correcting this cancer on our democracy, i.e., commissions, constitutional amendments etc., but while we are waiting for such a solution or solutions we could (as we are seeing with the minority election of Trump) become a failed and/or weakened state due to internal discord (a dream come true for Putin, Xi, Kim and others).

We may not have time to await a grand solution, so I recommend that in the interim Democrats mimic the Republicans by coming up with an ALEC of our own such as the Democratic Attorneys General or some other such grouping or groupings to not only come up with model legislation but ways and means of ending all gerrymandering and other voter suppression once and for all, for expanding rather than suppressing the franchise, for having a real democracy in something other than name. Won’t work? It’s working for Republicans, and if there are better ideas in this connection on how to make our democracy work, I’m open to suggestion. Whatever works, and soon, because (politically speaking) time is of the essence and we may be in the bottom of the ninth inning.        GERALD          E

RESIST, OR THROW IN THE TOWEL?

RESIST, OR THROW IN THE TOWEL?

Professor Kennedy’s blog today deals with Trump’s trashing of the environment via rule and reg and the replacement of weather scientists and other experts in government with political hacks who lack expertise and are hired to put a PR cover on the executive’s destructive whims and asks, rhetorically, whether it is time  to give it up as resistance may be futile. I responded to her query, slightly edited, as follows.

To the argument that we have a corrupt government I here note that there have always been corrupting influences in history (Brute, Judas, Madoff et al), and while my note does not excuse such conduct, it does rightly discriminate between the corrupt and those who are not corrupted in our society, those who do their jobs, pay their bills and their taxes, raise their kids and in general comport themselves to the mores and morals of their limited span on earth.

Thus resistance to Trump’s “deconstruction of the administrative state” and the destructive acts of other dictators is not only not futile but absolutely necessary if not only we but the planet and our progeny are to survive, and I think we should use our limited time resisting Trump’s environmental and other destructive acts and those of such as Putin, Xi, Erdogan and other despots in this time and place rather than lamenting past, current and even future wrongdoing patterns of others in ancient and modern history.

You start from where you are, and today’s humans are starting from a sordid past of Mongols, Caesars, Hitlers, Trumps, and assorted other hooligans who have come to power along with corporate hooligans steeped in terminal greed. Our experiment in Athenian democracy was and is a noble one, one whose defense sent me to the South Pacific in WW II, and I do not propose to surrender its teetered remainder to anybody anywhere but rather propose to strengthen our democratic values, tattered as they may be since, after all, they have been tattered before and have recovered (Civil War, Great Depression etc.).

This is no time to bow to modern day Mongols and Nazis; it is rather a time to stand up for and defend the most precious asset we in this country hold in common – our democracy. I didn’t spend time in the South Pacific in defense of political theories or the political futures of FDR or Truman; I spent it in defense of democracy against the forces of fascism, and here I am 75 years later ready to again resist fascism – but from within. Never thought I’d see the day.     GERALD         E

 

WHAT’S IN AN ISM?

WHAT’S IN AN ISM?

Professor Kennedy in her blog today bemoans our timeline in obtaining Trump’s tax returns, noting that he answers every loss in court with an appeal devoted to stalling, but also noting that we are beginning to see some light on this issue since we now have his New York state tax records that show his properties there (as Cohen told us) are valued highly for loan purposes and valued poorly for tax purposes. This is probably a case of tax fraud punishable both civilly and criminally. Commentators to her blog went off this well traveled topic and instead commented on systems of government that allow such wrongdoing and I joined them as follows, slightly edited.

I have been suggesting for years that “capitalism as currently practiced” is headed for the dustbin of history unless reformed and publicly and stringently regulated and, unfortunately, it appears I may be right. Thus we have millennials who are not now susceptible to fears of “socialism,” libertarian politicians who tell us in essence that the Constitution is unconstitutional and/or inapplicable to their greedy pursuits etc.

The libertarians (formerly known as Republicans) are getting by with such nihilistic pursuits due to Wall Street and chamber of commerce pretense, propaganda and invisible hand worship, (manipulated) supply and demand, etc., and all the while with big Wall Street banks telling us they can be trusted to be self-regulating (“Leave it to the market to sift out etc.”). We have been to that show before, like 1929 (The Great Depression) and 2008 (Bush’s Great Recession involving massive mortgage fraud by (but bailouts for) the big banks. Terminal greed and its public regulation are oil and water – never to mix – and something has to give – and soon.

I think the fundamental issue comes down to just whose economy it is, and I hope we have gone beyond English kings and East India Tea, predecessors of big banks and corporate America, in determining such ownership. I believe the economy belongs to all of us and that big banks and corporate America are mere (if big) participants in our economy – as we all are; that it is our economy, not theirs; that we are all stakeholders in how we are to run this enterprise, a system not to be run only by corporate boards and chambers of commerce. Thus lately at a conclave of the elite 195 CEOs have agreed or pretended to have agreed that there are more stakeholders in our economy to be considered than the corporate shareholders they serve (see contra: Milton Friedman); that the interests of workers, buyers, communities in which corporate enterprises are sited etc. are to be considered in their boardrooms, and not just “shareholder value.”

Color me suspicious. I sense that the elite are seeing the gleam of pitchforks and millennial resistance and that when the crowds in the street disperse we will be back in the land of deju vu, though like some, and in the face of historic wage and wealth inequality, I still hold on to the fleeting hope that capitalism as currently practiced can be reformed and fairly serve the interests all of the stakeholders in our economy. Vain hope? Perhaps. Time will tell.       GERALD         E 

ATLAS (THE MARKET) SHRUGGED?

ATLAS (THE MARKET) SHRUGGED?

Professor Kennedy in her blog today suggested that “the market” is apparently becoming accustomed both to invasion by Trump’s tariffs and by his possible impeachment as well, because the Dow goes down, goes up, but also, shrugs. I was taught that the thing “the market” disliked most was uncertainty, the enemy of corporate planning, and Trump certainly has provided and will continue to bring uncertainly into the marketplace, but it appears “the market” has learned to accommodate his mood swings. I responded to her blog, slightly edited, as follows.

Long ago, when I was laboring toward a BA in Economics and a minor in Political Science and before I went to law school we were told that corporate success depended upon corporate performance. That seems to be a minor consideration these days when the bottom line depends upon government largess and political maneuvering of “the market” with WTOs, tariffs, and other protectionist schemes, all of which have done great damage to classical theories of economics which gave us invisible hands, “free markets,” laws of comparative advantage etc.

Thus corporate accountants (having no slots for gifts) had to describe and account for their Trump-Ryan giveaway gifts in the tax act of December, 2017, as “earned income.” Earned? That’s a stretch. Gifts are earned? If so, they are not gifts. Result of such confusing wordplay > The Dow doesn’t tell us much anymore about performance – it rather reflects how things are coming along with its 30-company lobbyists in D.C.. Trump’s political invasions, and how the economies of China and the EU are faring, the latter a matter of special note among both our import and export industries.

Perhaps the market is “shrugging” because after Trump’s assaults there is nothing left that can go wrong from their perspective – so they’re safe. If so, they’re wrong. Trump, for instance, could be reelected and/or decide to help the Turks finish the job in North Syria. Crazy suggestion? Sure, but we’re dealing with a crazy man in a situation the 25th was designed to solve, a constitutional means of ridding ourselves of pathology at the top but one we are too gutless to employ. Our immediate task > Impeach and remove Trump as soon as possible; not doing so only tells his sick brain that he is indeed the messiah.  We got trouble, Houston, and we got work to do, and undo.       GERALD          E