Dems Getting Things Back To Normal

Looks like Biden and Dem leadership are ready to get things back to normal.

Back to normal means back to refusing to hold Republicans accountable and face consequences thereby encouraging even more bad behavior, asking permission from Republicans before trying anything that might make people’s lives better, imposing ridiculous means-testing restrictions on anything that might benefit people, refusing to use the power voters gave them because it might have “bad optics” or “make Republicans retaliate,” being intimidated into doing nothing, and imposing austerity that breeds fascism, and refusing to tell voters about any good things they actually do.

It’s surprising anyone votes for Dems.

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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Stop Blaming “Congress”

The American media likes to report that “Congress” isn’t getting anything done.

For example, for the last several months the media has been reporting that “Congress” hasn’t been passing a relief bill. That doesn’t give voters any information they can use. It just tells the public “Congress” is failing them, etc. But it doesn’t tell them WHO to hold accountable and so people turn against government in general. And against democracy.

Let The Public Know WHO

It was Republicans who blocked the bills. Voters need that information for democracy to work and hold the right people accountable so the country can get better. Don’t blame “Congress,” let the pubic know WHO to hold accountable so democracy can work.

My drumbeat on this has been going on for a while.

Older Democrats Learned The Wrong Lessons From Nixon and Reagan

In today’s news, Biden promises not to use the power he has to make people’s lives better, and boost the economy.

“…it’s arguable that the president may have the executive power to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt,” Biden said. “Well, I think that’s pretty questionable. I’m unsure of that. I’d be unlikely to do that.”

Biden does, in fact, have that power. He’s saying he will not use it.

My observation from watching this crap for so long is that there is a generation of Democratic politicians who learned terrible, wrong lessons from Nixon/McGovern and then Reagan and the rise of the “conservative” propaganda machine. They got beat up so bad and still don’t really understand what happened to them and are still cowering from doing anything that might provoke another beating.

Back then the Democratic party had been riding on the FDR (plus Medicare & Great Society) wave of Dem goodwill for so long that they let the structures and understandings that support political action atrophy. So along came a billionaire-and-corporate-funded conservative movement machine that understood marketing, and how to neutralize opposition, etc, and just wiped the floor with them.

Please don’t hit me again!

What those Dems unfortunately learned was not to do anything that could let them be accused of being “communists” or “soft on crime” or “taxing and spending” or “weak on defense” etc. (They also learned never to put on a protective helmet and ride in a tank.) They learned not to do or say anything that might trigger another beating. They especially learned not to ever propose doing things that help the public & is good for society because it will be portrayed as helping minorities.

They firmly believe that anything any Democrat does to help working people, the general public and society in general will be “portrayed” in a bad way that elects more Republicans, and they see it as their mission to stop any Dem from doing so. Lest they receive another beating. They always have to get the abuser’s permission to do anything. (They call that bipartisanship.)

Biden, Pelosi, Feinstein and so many others are representative of what I’m talking about.

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 savers and polluters, resulting in the extreme inequality we see. Thereby enabling further squeezing of workers and environment here. It also incentivises 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.

Take What Happened Very, Very Seriously

This post originally appeared at Imagine Democracy.

People don’t want to say that Republicans attempted a “coup” but they certainly attempted to overturn the clear results of a democratic election. They tried to end our democracy, right in front of our eyes.

The election was almost “close enough to overturn.”

The Democrat received (the counting is not finished) over 6 million more votes but it was “close.” This is because our 18th-century electoral college system, designed to keep the “slave states” happy, does not belong in the 21st century.

If Republicans had blocked a few more people who couldn’t get birth certificates, etc. from voting…

If Republicans had been able to close a few more polling places…

If they had taken away a few more ballot drop-boxes…

If Republican had scared just a few more people…

If Republicans had told just a few more lies…

If the USPS had delayed a few more ballots…

If just a bit fewer Democrats had voted…

they very well might have gotten away with it.

Take what happened very, very seriously. Because they tried. Right in front of our eyes.

And if we don’t take steps to do something about this, next time they will do … just that bit more.

Right Before Our Eyes

Storm troopers in the cities? A Trumpian takeover of democracy?

The question isn’t if this is what the Trumpers are doing, it’s will they succeed.

A lot of people are in the “it can’t happen here” camp on this. But it is happening, we’re watching it. Trump says he is sending these – what should we call them – to all the “Democrat” cities. Calling them Little Green Men is good, because that is the model he is following.

Trump is following the Putin 21st-century stealth takeover model. Will Trump also follow the Putin election model? The one where Putin always wins “elections” even when he is unpopular?

Trump said this, and it is worth remembering that he did:

“You know, the left plays a tougher game, it’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad. But the left plays it cuter and tougher.”

(“Bikers for Trump”? So maybe call these forces invading our cities “Night Wolves?)

There really is no question this is what he is doing. He told us, and we are seeing it happening. (Do we take him seriously or literally?) The question is, will it work?

It seems clownish, he is clearly not all there. The Trumper crowd are so incompetent that it is hard to take them seriously.

But make no mistake it IS happening right before our eyes. He says it out loud, and then he does it, and then people ask if it is happening?

But don’t worry the Democrats are not happy and might do something.

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.

MMT Explains What Governments Can Do. It Is Not A Proposal.

This post originally appeared at We CAN Have Nice Things.

At Business Insider, Jim Edwards and Theron Mohamed do a good job explaining MMT in, “MMT: Here’s a plain-English guide to ‘Modern Monetary Theory’ and why it’s interesting.”

They begin with these bullet points:

  • MMT is a big departure from conventional economic theory. It proposes governments that control their own currency can spend freely, as they can always create more money to pay off debts in their own currency.
  • The theory suggests government spending can grow the economy to its full capacity, enrich the private sector, eliminate unemployment, and finance major programs such as universal healthcare, free college tuition, and green energy.
  • If the spending generates a government deficit, this isn’t a problem either. The government’s deficit is by definition the private sector’s surplus.
  • Increased government spending will not generate inflation as long as there is unused economic capacity or unemployed labour, MMT proposes. It is only when an economy hits physical or natural constraints on its productivity — such as full employment — that inflation happens because that is when supply fails to meet demand, jacking up prices.
  • MMT proponents argue governments can control inflation by spending less or withdrawing money from the economy through taxes.
  • Needless to say, traditional economists have some issues with all this.

Just ONE quibble with that, where they write, “It proposes governments that control their own currency can spend freely.” They should have written It EXPLAINS, not that it “proposes.” Big difference.

MMT EXPLAINS that governments that control their own currency can do a lot of things.

The Lockdown

The “lockdown” that started in March was intended to “flatten the curve” so hospitals didn’t get overwhelmed. This would “buy time” for the federal government to get containment measures in place – testing, tracing and isolation – so we could reopen the economy. The “stimulus” was to help businesses and people get through that time.

But the federal government didn’t get containment measures in place. The terrible history of what happened instead will be remembered.

And now the virus is spreading out of control, the stimulus is running out and tens of thousands of us are dying.

No one knows where this will go. It is just a horrifying situation.

Elections have consequences.