Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 1, 2023
The dark side
Dress Rehearsal: Trump's attempt almost two years ago to undermine the 2020 election reads today like a blueprint drawn for a future autocrat.
Fintan O'Toole, January 19, 2023 issue [The New York Review]
To understand the attempted coup that culminated in the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, it is useful to go back to Donald Trump's immediate response to the election he actually won, in 2016. The head of his transition team, Chris Christie, then governor of New Jersey, presented Trump with a detailed plan for the transfer of power to his incoming administration. It was literally trashed. As Christie recalled in his self-pitying memoir, Let Me Finish, 'All thirty binders were tossed in a Trump Tower dumpster, never to be seen again.' Trump didn't want an orderly transition to his own presidency, let alone to Joe Biden's. To a raging narcissist a plan is an impertinence, a Lilliputian restraint on the inspired instincts of a giant….
A coup, in this context, does not mean tanks on the streets, helicopter gunships strafing public buildings, thousands of people rounded up by soldiers, and a junta of generals or colonels addressing the nation on TV. On the contrary, the story that needed to be told by the plotters of 2020–2021 was not the overthrow of democracy, but its defense. Trump, as his chief of staff and co-conspirator Mark Meadows put it in his book The Chief's Chief, was merely seeking 'to uphold the democratic process.'….
To understand what Trump could have done instead, it is necessary to revisit a long meeting at the White House on the evening and night of December 18, 2020. This episode is easy to dismiss because it was described by Hutchinson as 'unhinged' and because the proposals aired at it were called 'nuts' by one of the saner attendees, the former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann. These characterizations are accurate. Yet the meeting matters for two reasons. The first is that it immediately preceded Trump's fateful decision to summon his followers to Washington on January 6. The other is that one of the ideas put forward at this meeting would be of great interest to any future conspirator.
In spite of all of this idiocy, however, Byrne did have one seriously interesting proposal to put to Trump at the meeting. It was that, having seized control of the voting machines through some kind of military task force, there would then be a live TV event in which all of the paper ballots in the six most contested states would be counted in front of the cameras: 'If there are not big discrepancies, Trump concedes. But if there are big discrepancies, we would rerun the election in those six counties, or states, using that federal force.' This was actually quite an intelligent idea. By appearing to commit to conceding defeat if no discrepancies were found, Trump could pose, as he had to do if a coup were to succeed, as the defender of American democracy….
Most importantly, there would be a public drama, an elaborate spectacle of 'democracy' in action. It is not hard to imagine how Trump's enablers in the media would sell this show: Why are the Democrats afraid to see what the paper ballots say? The mechanics of this performance remain obscure. How were 'discrepancies' to be created? What would the Supreme Court have done? To have a chance of success, the plan would surely have to have been put into effect much earlier—well before the Electoral College met on December 14 to confirm Biden's victory. Yet Byrne had the germ of the right idea. The best way to steal a presidential election would indeed be through a staged display of democratic process backed by elaborate precooked 'evidence' of foreign conspiracy and amplified by Fox News, social media campaigns, and other media. This is the upside-down shape of a successful American coup. Democracy is destroyed by the enactment of its protection.
It is now 50 years since Milton Friedman set out his doctrine that 'The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.' This paper seeks to add fresh and compelling new evidence of why Lynn Stout was correct in her resolute critique of the thesis of shareholder primacy at the heart of the Friedman doctrine, and how this doctrine remains profoundly damaging to the corporations that continue to uphold this belief."
Global power shift
[Hudson Institute, via Naked Capitalism 12-25-2022]
[TW: As Lambert Strether noted, this is a glimpse at what USA ruling elites really believe. ]
[ Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-28-2022]
Cruise missile on the cheap.
7 hour flight time
Cruise speed: 120 km/hr
$23,999 (factory assembled) URL pic.twitter.com/x1XErgsSe0
— John Robb (URL) December 27, 2022
Jack Murphy [via Naked Capitalism 12-27-2022]
[Unlimited Hangout, via Naked Capitalism 12-28-2022]
Here : Cuba . Also not just life expectancy… Infants death rate and literacy. ' murikaaaa ' pic.twitter.com/3EW1AtrZHi
— Akira Goblin (URL) December 25, 2022
Health care crisis
[Kaiser Health News, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-2022]
The Great Big Medicare Rip-Off
Ezekiel J. Emanuel [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-2022]
The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics
[Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism 12-25-2022]
'Hey guys, SWA pilot with a little information'
[r/SouthwestAirlines, Reddit, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-27-2022]
'This is entirely managements fault. Gary Kelly, and the new CEO, and corporate barons have completely gutted the philosophy Herb believed in, which was investing in employees. They've known for months that many crews were stretched to the absolute limit. It was only a matter of time before something caused a cascading series of failures that spiraled out of control. The board and CEO knew this, and chose to instead give themselves multi-million dollar bonuses and threaten to fire staff, along with dragging out contract negotiations with the unions in the hopes there will be a recession. This is corporate mismanagement to a level I've never seen in this industry during my 25 years.' And: ''I have friends in CS and the hotel assignment side too. There were 2 specific problems, the software for scheduling is woefully antiquated by at least 20 years. No app/internet options, all manual entry and it has settings that you DO NOT CHANGE for fear of crashing it. Those settings create the automated flow as a crewmember is moving about their day, it doesn't know you flew the leg DAL-MCO it just assumes it and moves your piece forward. In the event of a disruption you call scheduling and they manually adjust you. It does work, it just works for an airline 1/3 the size of SWA. So the storm came and it impacted ground ops so bad that many many crews were now ‘unaccounted' for and the system in place couldn't keep up. Then it happened for several more days. By Xmas evening the CS department had essentially reached the inability to do anything but simple, one off assignments.'
Mike Hiltzik [Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-30-2022]
Adam Johnson [The Column, via Naked Capitalism 12-329-2022]
David Sirota & Andrew Perez, December 28, 2022 [The Lever]
Americans during the holiday season is not some unexpected crisis nor the normal consequence of inclement weather — and federal officials are not powerless bystanders. Before the debacle, attorneys general from both parties were sounding alarms about regulators' lax oversight of the airline industry, imploring them and congressional lawmakers to crack down.
The warnings came just before Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg appeared on national television insisting travel would improve by the holidays, and before Southwest executives — flush with cash from a government bailout — announced new dividend payouts to shareholders, while paying themselves millions of dollars.
Four months before Southwest's mass cancellation of flights, 38 state attorneys general wrote to congressional leaders declaring that Buttigieg's agency 'failed to respond and to provide appropriate recourse' to thousands of consumer complaints about airlines customer service.
[ Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-27-2022]
This interaction from an Amazon delivery driver is making the rounds on the r/Antiwork subreddit, whose moderators vet the authenticity of posts.
One of the highest-engagement posts this year on one of the highest-engagement subreddits. pic.twitter.com/4OrexC6eyk
— Brandon Smith (URL) December 24, 2022
Karens for Hire
Adam Levitin [Credit Slips, via Naked Capitalism 12-28-2022]
...the central problem of consumer law, namely that the dollar amounts at issue in almost every dispute are way too small to litigate. Instead, consumers have to work through customer service and hope that they receive some sort of resolution, but that's a process that imposes substantial transaction costs (wait times, e.g.) and in which the consumer has no guaranty of a positive resolution, even if the consumer is in the right.
There's some level of reputational discipline on companies with bad customers service, but it's pretty weak and indirect: when was the last time you investigated a company's customer service reputation before making a purchase?
There are a few attempts to regulate customer service of which I am aware—TILA/EFTA error resolution procedures and RESPA loss mitigation procedures—but there's no general system of public regulation.
[ WSWS, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-30-2022]
'One million out of 1.1 million eligible members did not vote in the election because the UAW leadership deliberately kept them in the dark. This is not a matter of opinion but of provable fact. Lehman's protest describes, for example, how the UAW national 'Member News' web page, which is incorporated into many local union web sites, made no reference to the election whatsoever between July 29 and November 29. While it maintained a conspiracy of silence around the union's internal elections, the bureaucracy devoted vast resources to campaigning for the Democratic Party in the national midterm elections. In those elections, which took place at the very same time as the union election, the bureaucracy utilized advanced techniques, organized public events, and bombarded union members with advertising in an effort to increase turnout by reminding workers of voting deadlines. There is no innocent explanation for this contrast.'
Information age dystopia
Climate and environmental crises
[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 12-26-2022]
Several researchers MIT Technology Review spoke with condemned the effort to commercialize geoengineering at this early stage. Some potential investors and customers who have reviewed the company's proposals say that it's not a serious scientific effort or a credible business but more of an attention grab designed to stir up controversy in the field.
Luke Iseman, the cofounder and CEO of Make Sunsets, acknowledges that the effort is part entrepreneurial and part provocation, an act of geoengineering activism.
Restoring balance to the economy
Tim Wu's White House Tenure Marks Historic Antimonopoly Shift
[American Economic Liberties Project, December 30, 2022]
The American Economic Liberties Project released the following statement in response to news that Tim Wu, special assistant to the president for competition and tech policy, would soon be leaving his role at the White House.
'We congratulate Tim Wu for his historic tenure in the Biden White House as a key advisor on antimonopoly policy,' said Sarah Miller, Executive Director of the American Economic Liberties Project. 'For forty years, Presidential administrations of both parties tolerated and even fostered the growth of monopolies in every sector of the economy. That ended under President Biden. Economic structure determines what kind of society we live in, whether it is one controlled by a few gatekeepers and experts, or one run by workers, businesspeople, engineers, artists, and farmers. It is Biden, with Wu's advice and counsel, who has ensured that monopolists no longer have free rein in the White House.'
[ Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-30-2022]
'The Democratic donor, 30, awaiting trial for what prosecutors say is one of the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history held talks with senior White House advisor Steve Ricchetti on September 8, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. He has had at least two other meetings with Ricchetti on April 22 and May 12 and another with top aide Bruce Reed. Bankman-Fried's brother Gabriel also participated in a meeting on his own on May 13. The latest report is further evidence of the deep ties Bankman-Fried had with Washington before he was charged with swindling investors out of at least $1.8 billion. The White House has refused to say whether Biden will give back some of the $5.2 million in donations from the fallen FTX founder gave to his campaign and connected groups in 2020.'
Grace Segers, December 30, 2022 [The New Republic]
As a policy, the 2021 expansion was historically successful, cutting child poverty nearly in half. But it died by politics this year. Can it be revived in 2023?
Making the Senate Work for Democrats
Alexander Burns [The New York Review]
...John A. Lawrence, Pelosi's former chief of staff, in Arc of Power: Inside Nancy Pelosi's Speakership, 2005–2010, his meticulous account of Pelosi's early years as a congressional leader. Facing mass layoffs and crumbling financial markets, Pelosi told Obama that Democrats needed to discard 'incrementalism and the old ways of thinking