FDR And “Court Packing” – Just One More “Truth” That Isn’t True

A lot of things we “know” about history come from “one side.” For example, we “know” that “protectionism” caused the Great Depression. Except it didn’t.

Who benefits from convincing the public that protecting national interests is bad if it reduces corporate profits? There are so, so many “truths” like that.

Another “Truth”: Court Packing is Bad

Here’s another “truth.” FDR tried to “pack the Supreme Court” and it was very, very bad.

I thought I’d look up what the Supreme Court was actually doing that led to FDR trying to do something to balance the Court, and what happened when he finally did try. Go ahead and try to find answers (the actual truth) to that question. It’s hard to find.

Eventually, if you know the right search terms, you might come across this, at a site called fdr4freedoms. (I’ll be exploring that site further.)

From The New Deal and the Supreme Court,

In 1932 and 1936, Americans enthusiastically embraced FDR’s vision of a federal government ready to use its power to make real improvements in their lives. They voted for him overwhelmingly. With Democratic majorities (augmented by Republican progressives) dominating both houses of Congress, the legislature also resoundingly endorsed FDR’s program of bold experimentation.

… But opponents in business and elsewhere repeatedly sued to block the laws. As these challenges reached the high court in 1935, four justices, with the help of one or two swing votes, began striking down the new laws as unconstitutional.

Summary: FDR worked to save regular people from the suffering caused by the depression. The sensible things he wanted to do were very, very popular. But it threatened corporate profits. The Court struck down FDR’s attempts to use government to help and protect the public.

More specifically,

The court struck down laws securing a minimum wage, maximum work hours, and the right to unionize for workers. It rejected pension programs and child labor restrictions, price codes and farm subsidies.

… “The Constitution grants to Congress no power to regulate for the promotion of the general welfare,” as the majority proclaimed in a 1936 case striking down a minimum wage and other regulation in the coal industry.

The Court said the government has no power to protect the public from anything the rich and corporations do to them! It even ruled that states couldn’t set minimum wages by themselves!

What Happened When FDR Threatened To Add Justices?

FRD proposed a plan to reduce the Court’s workload (badly needed then and even more now) and balance the Court by appointing an additional Supreme Court justice for every sitting justice over the age of seventy.

Result: The Court began to rule for the public! The Court ruled in favor of state minimum wage laws. This was dubbed “the switch in time that saved nine.” Then the Court ruled in favor of the National Labor Relations Act, protecting striking workers. Next it upheld the Security Act’s retirement and unemployment benefits. And then one of the right-wing Justices announced his retirement.

After these reversals, interest in rebalancing and expanding the Court faded.

The “Court Packing” threat WORKED.

FDR proposed rebalancing the Court. Immediately the Court started ruling in the public’s favor. One of the right-wing Justices even retired.

It worked. Threatening to rebalance the court SUCCEEDED! So when you hear that Democrats shouldn’t try to balance the Court today because it was bad when FDR tried to “pack the court,” you’re hearing that because “one side’ has made it a “truth.”

It’s is time to rebalance the Court.

We Deserve A Vote To End The Filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Schumer should call a vote on ending the filibuster. We deserve to know which Democrats vote for democracy and which oppose it.

This is especially important when the filibuster is being used block bills that prevent states from suppressing non-white voters.

We need to know which Democrats are helping Republicans block democracy. Every elected Democrat needs to take a public stand on this.

Until this happens, until most Democrats are demanding a public vote on this, until they force a vote on this, all Democrats should be held accountable for keeping these anti-democracy rules in place.

Senate Dems Are Complicit In These Shootings

More shootings, nothing happens. Decades of shootings nothing happens. Millions of guns on our streets is hundreds of millions of gun manufacturer corporate profit and we all know that is why nothing happens. (Same for climate, healthcare, tobacco, you name it. It is blatant corruption and we all know it.)

I am just so sick of this. The public has been begging the Congress to do something about this for so long. Begging. Children in schools have to do “active shooter drills.” I had to do “duck and cover” nuclear war drills and it was traumatizing, imagine children doing these drills and then hearing about school after school being shot up. The adult public also lives with fear of being in a mass shooting.

41 Republican senators represent 21% of the public. The filibuster blocked anything from happening and Dems would not end the filibuster. That is the definition of “complicit.” Dems who allowed the filibuster to continue before this are complicit in this week’s shootings. Any Dems still allowing this to continue are complicit in every future shooting.

Right now we have fascists walking the streets with assault weapons openly displayed. That is fucking terrifying.
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The Democrats’ Dastardly Plan

This post first appeared at Imagine Democracy.

The Democrats have a sinister plan. They are going to trick people into voting for them by doing things to make their lives better.

They plan to use the people’s government to bribe the voters. They are strategically scheming to allocate government resources to deliver things like safety from the Covid-19 virus, health care, education, even modernized infrastructure. They plan to address problem like the climate crisis, racial injustice, even inequality, They will pass laws preventing companies from polluting, committing fraud and other things that companies have been allowed to do for so long! This hijacking of the government by Democrats for their own purposes could mean voters reward them by allowing them to do even more for them.

However the good Republicans also have a plan. To prevent the seizure of the government away from the corporations, they are passing laws to stop the voters from being able to reward the Democrats for their bribery schemes. They are gallantly making sure that it is very, very difficult for the bribed voters to get to polling places – of course prohibiting the ease of voting by mail – and if they get to voting places they will face all kinds of rules designed to keep the from the voting booths themselves.

In case voters actually do make it to the voting booths to cast votes, the districts are carefully drawn in ways that Democrat votes are concentrated into a very few districts, while the majority of districts remain under Republican control, no matter how the statewide vote turns out.

So be aware of this sinister plan by Democrats to bribe voters by making their lives better. Do not let them get away with it.

The #FightFor15 Minimum Wage WAS The Compromise. #FightFor24!

The minimum wage should be $24 if it had kept up with the gains in the economy.

Instead all those gains went to a top few.

CEPR: This is What Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace with Productivity

While the national minimum wage did rise roughly in step with productivity growth from its inception in 1938 until 1968, in the more than five decades since then, it has not even kept pace with inflation. However, if the minimum wage did rise in step with productivity growth since 1968 it would be over $24 an hour today, as shown in the Figure below.

$15 WAS the compromise!

$15 is a compromise already. If the minimum wages had kept pace with the gains in the economy it would be $24 or so per hour now, which is around $96K per year for a couple. What this means is that if labor’s share of the economy had stayed the same the minimum lifestyle equivalent would be what a $96K lifestyle today is. The house you’d be able to buy, etc. That would be our minimum.

#FightFor24

If they kill the $15 compromise there is no reason to keep fighting for $15. It should be $24 and we should all rightfully be fighting for that. It just gets us back to where we were before the great financialization, the great separation of labor wages from the economy, the great inequalizer.

So fuck 15, #FightFor24

On “Speaking Fees,” Biden and Yellen

In the 90s there was a scandal about “buckraking,” where journalists were reporting positively about certain moneyed interests while raking in huge “speaking fees” from them. (A good example was 1996’s Money Talks by Howard Kurtz, Part 1, Part 2.)

While Congress has since banned honoraria for its members, the market for reporters and pundits who speak to business audiences has never been hotter. Some big-name media people routinely receive $15,000, $30,000, even $50,000 for a single speech. And the bulk of that money comes from corporations and lobbying organizations with more than a passing interest in the issues the journalists write about and yak about for a living.

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Protectionism, Trade and Democracy

This post originated at Imagine Democracy

“Protectionism” literally means we, as a nation, protect our national interests. It is one more word that has been twisted to make people think it’s a bad thing, like “entitlement” (the things we are entitled to as citizens in a democracy) or “welfare” (people in a democracy making each others’ lives better.)

“Trade” is about competitive advantages. It used to mean one region can grow bananas and another can grow corn, and by trading they each end up with both bananas and corn in their kitchens. (Good.) Today, though, it means authoritarian governments have the “competitive advantage” of allowing slavery and pollution so their factories can make things for less. So (the executives of) big corporations move production there, then squeeze the remaining workforce here with threats to move their jobs as well if they won’t lower their standard of living. (Bad.) All the gains of that “trade” are passed to a few already-wealthy owners and managers of that means of production. They use some of the gains to influence our laws to allow them to do this.

A democracy obviously would consider its people’s standard of living an interest worth “protecting” and would never allow businesses to influence lawmaking.

Trade can be done a different way but that requires democratic governance. Economists (used to) tell us that society gained from trade because making the economy more “efficient” by moving production to lower-cost regions frees up resources, providing increased investment and general prosperity; better infrastructure, higher pay and more free time for everyone in the society. And the production moved to the lower pay area means jobs and investment there, so they also move up that same ladder to increased investment and prosperity. That assumption depended on viewing society as liberal democracies capable of making and enforcing rules that would pass these gains on to everyone.

The failure of our country to maintain itself as a democracy has resulted in the allowance of trade with slavers and polluters, resulting in the extreme inequality we see. Thereby enabling further squeezing of workers and environment here. It also incentivizes authoritarian governments to allow slavery and pollution.

The solution to this, and so many other problems, is, of course, to remove the influence of money from our political system.

Trade and Jobs and A Better Life

Breitbart used some of my stuff about trade in 2016, quoting it out of context, and got it wrong. Trumpers think that China and other trade partners “outnegotiated” the US. But they didn’t. The trade deals were exactly what the corporate-controlled US negotiators wanted.

But it wasn’t the bad trade deals themselves that hurt us so much as the way they were used by American businesses to hurt us.

Here is what I mean. “Trade” is when places that can grow bananas exchange them for things that come from places that can grow corn, etc. But we call it “trade” when we close a factory here and open it in China, making the same things to sell in the same stores, because they get paid less there.

The thing is, that can be a good thing for all of us IF it is done in a way that benefits all of us. And it can be. If you take the resulting gains (the difference between what people here were paid vs what they’re paid there) and use those gains to give everyone here better jobs or a better life, then we all benefit. If you invest that money in better infrastructure here, a more efficient economy, etc, then we are all climbing a ladder. And also the Chinese (or other trade partners) benefit from getting the jobs. Then over time they can do the same thing to climb the same ladder. That’s a win-win.

But instead of doing it that way, what happened was a few already-wealthy people just pocketed those gains instead of sharing them by. They didn’t invest in better jobs, or in better infrastructure or education, etc. They just pocketed it.

Even worse, they used the lower-paid jobs there as leverage to force people here to accept lower wage jobs, “or else your job goes, too.” They intentionally created unemployment. Unions were busted.

How did this happen? You’d think in a democracy the government would work to ensure that We the People would benefit from deals our government made. Our government should have made sure the trade deals were used to help us. But it did the opposite.

This happened because our government was “captured.” Instead of doing things for all of us the government started only doing things that benefited the financial types at the expense of the rest of us. This problem was always around. But the real change happened starting in the 1970s, and the effect hit us in the 1980 election. “Free trade” and “tax cuts for the rich” and “cutting government” (which means cutting spending on infrastructure and education etc, as well as cutting the regulatory protections that kept big business from controlling everything) and the rest happened, and we are reaping the whirlwind since.

Trade can be used for good or bad. It isn’t “trade” that’s the problem.

I’m Locked Down – Local Businesses Will Be Gone

I’m in one of those “shelter-in-place” counties in the Bay Area. I suspect a lot of people don’t get it until they’re actually in it. Every business is closed except certain essential services like groceries. You need to see it to believe it (risking being puled over if you drive to see it, though.)

The first thing to say about it is, we’re in lockdown and most of the country is not. That means the virus will continue to spread and until everyone is locked down it can circle back to us, so we’ll be staying in lockdown. (I’m sure China feels this way right now.)

The second thing I see that I think people not in lockdown don’t see, a significant number of local businesses are going to run out of money very soon. They’re closed. Lots of smaller businesses are notoriously undercapitalized, just like how lots of people can’t come up with $500 for an emergency. So this means sending cash to people is NOT going to help these businesses because “more people with money coming through the door” doesn’t work if the door is closed in a lockdown. Again: A significant number of local businesses will not be coming back.

Remember how financiers bought up foreclosed houses after the 2008 crash? And now we have a rent crisis? That is what will happen to local/regional businesses if we don’t have a plan ready to put the local owners back in business. The giant companies will be getting bailouts. Wall Street is itching to use their bailout money to buy up these businesses. We need a plan.

It’s Intimidation, Not “Moderation”

The Nation has a great piece by By Guy T. Saperstein and Joe Cirincione, titled, Americans Want Jobs, Not War. It describes how to talk about war spending in ways that move the public toward progressive positions. Please read it.

Dems “Afraid” of how they will “Appear”.

One early line stood out to me, “Democrats are afraid of appearing weak on defense.”

This line says so much about our national discourse. We are so used to hearing it. Democrats do things because they are afraid of how things they do and say will “appear.” They don’t want to “be seen as” holding certain positions that trigger a certain response.

Just how does that “appearance” reach the public? Through our nation’s information channels. Think about this. In a supposed democracy members of the country’s majority party are “afraid” of how they will be “made to appear” if they do not conform to certain positions.

It’s Intimidation

Let’s call this what it is: it is intimidation. They are intimidated.

Instead of providing the public with objective information to help citizens govern themselves in a democracy, our nation’s information channels are structured to enforce a system of allowable do’s and don’ts. The dominance of the right-wing/lobbyist intimidation machine is so pervasive that we no longer understand it could be different.

“Imagine If A Democrat Did That”

Every time a Democrat says, “I don’t want to be seen as” not being supportive of our troops we are acknowledging that we are living in an environment of intimidation. Every time Republicans do something and we all say, “Imagine if a Democrat had said/done this,” we are acknowledging an intimidation machine. But we are not saying the words

“If a Democrat did this” really means our information sources are intimidated into making a big bru-ha about anything a Democrat does and ignoring when a Republican does it because careers and reputations are destroyed. And therefore the targets of this are intimidated as well.

A “moderate” Democrat is simply a Democrat who gives an appropriate nod to being intimidated and therefore controlled by the corporate/right intimidation machine.

So Much For The System

What was left of our “system” has now passed the turning point.

We wanted accountability for crimes we could clearly see with our own eyes. But Republicans effectively killed investigations or oversight in the Congress. The people at the top of the FBI and Justice Dept were removed and the rest held under threat of ruin. The entire system of checks and balances was besieged.

We the People were left hopeless and helpless, no part of our government able to step up and tell us why the crimes we could see happening were continuing. So we put all of our eggs in the Mueller basket for any remaining hope to save us.

We all saw collusion and obstruction in plain sight, and believed the Mueller investigation knew even more. We KNOW there was money laundering, extortion, bribery, fraud, lies and lies and lies and you name it. Don Jr lied to Congress and we know it. Erik Prince did, and we know that. Flynn and Gates and Cohen and others were given light or no sentences so they could tell us what happened.

We know that at the least Trump had lied about his plans to build Trump Tower Moscow. The Russians knew at the time that he had lied so he was compromisable. And he acted compromised. (Meeting alone with Putin with no transcription? Ending sanctions?)

Our remaining hope for accountability lay in Mueller’s investigation and we were let down. The basket dropped and our remaining eggs are broken. Those who want accountability have lost. We failed to kill the king and now we face the consequences. The right’s media/propaganda/lie machine has an ability to set the discourse and reach the public that outweighs our ability to do anything about it. Trump is now exonerated for every crime or future crime and will be beyond reach.

The right-wing drumbeat to leave Trump alone will now become merciless. Dems will now be cast as sore-losers who engaged in a plot to to smear a good, Godley man and his family for political gain. Anyone questioning Trump’s divine right to rule will be marginalized, ostracized, called you name it. Democrats will be the radicals who want to force us into communist training camps

I asked in May, 2017, “Will our system withstand the attack? We don’t know. Kleptocracy is powerful.”

Now we know the answer. The promise of a “taste” of the kleptocracy will buy Republicans a lot of good will. (Stock buybacks alone have topped $1 trillion since the tax cuts.)

The Republican project is complete. Accountability is over. Corruption rules. The rich and powerful are fully in charge. “American carnage” reigns.

Corruption: “Take The Gold Or Take The Lead”

Corruption is such an issue… This is part of a 2014 post titled Eric Cantor Goes To His Reward

I’m posting this in honor of Joe Biden cashing in on public service by receiving $200K for speeches.

Take The Gold Or Take The Lead

Our system has become corrupted and everyone knows what I mean. Everyone understands that government officials who “play ball” can get a huge paycheck after leaving government if they help certain big businesses while serving in government. The Nation explains, in When a Congressman Becomes a Lobbyist, He Gets a 1,452 Percent Raise (On Average), Secret deals, bribery and “buying” members of Congress are commonplace in today’s government. (See also: Tauzin, Billy.) (And: Public Interest Groups Call For Corruption Investigation Into Prescription Drug Law.)

Neil Barofsky was Special United States Treasury Department Inspector General overseeing the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). In the preface to his book Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, Barofsky explained that people in government are given two choices, “the gold or the lead.” From the NY Times review, (emphasis added, for emphasis)

Mr. Barofsky, wearing an unseasonal wool suit at odds with a “Washington-appropriate wardrobe,” is poised to let the hostess seat them at a front table of her choosing, but Mr. Allison insists on a private table in the rear. Then he gets down to business.

“Have you thought at all about what you’ll be doing next?” Mr. Allison asks Mr. Barofsky, soon adding, “Out there in the market, there are consequences for some of the things that you’re saying and the way that you’re saying them.”

“Allison was essentially threatening me with lifelong unemployment,” Mr. Barofsky concludes, and alternatively suggesting a plum government appointment some day if Mr. Barofsky would simply “change your tone.”

When Mr. Barofsky tells his deputy of the exchange, the deputy says, “It was the gold or the lead,” resorting to the lingo of their joint experience prosecuting Latin American drug kingpins in New York: Cooperate and share the riches, or don’t and get plugged.

There are “consequences” if you don’t play ball. But if you do play ball, there are rewards. And everyone knows it.

Cantor represented Wall Street instead of Virginia in the Congress. His Virginia constituents didn’t like it, and booted him. Cantor has gone to his reward: a big pot of Wall Street gold. And everyone knows it.

Solution? Make it a law: No person employed by the government in any capacity may receive compensation in any form that is significantly greater than the compensation they received for their public service, for a period of five years.