pelham commented on the blog post Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes Reveal Culture Of Corruption At Federal Reserve
That photo of Hillary Clinton supping with Lloyd Blankfein should by itself be enough to derail her presidential run. It’s every bit as damning as the ’80s photo of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.
I like to think of Kansas as our own little Scotland, with a sizable number of people there now ready to shuck off an ossified and largely alien occupying power, the GOP leadership.
Of course, the difference is that the Brownback and Roberts types are home-grown to a significant measure, not sceptered interlopers from south of the border.
But both Brownback and Roberts are also Washington products, more in line with the neoliberal scare-mongering national GOP than, it now appears, their own people or Supreme Court.
pelham commented on the blog post New York Times Public Editor Says Off-The-Record Meeting Raises Concerns
Is there no code of ethics for journalists? If not, why can’t one be formulated, beginning with a ban on such cozy meetings? This is a decades-long problem. The solution seems simple.
pelham commented on the blog post Americans Overwhelmingly Support Requiring Paid Vacations
Paid vacation for whom? We’re increasingly a nation of temp workers and involuntary free lancers picking what we can off the rag pile.
If we mandated vacations for full-time workers, it would be just another privilege for the snooty royalty as we see it from the dark desperate depths of the piecework-driven hyper-precariously employed.
Besides that, there’s some huge percentage of workers who are entitled to vacations who don’t take the time because they fear losing their jobs if they do. From their perspective, their fellow workers (never, ever to be trusted) may fill in and prove the happy vacationer isn’t really needed after all. And then there’s always the threat posed by the ravenous, snapping wild-eyed unemployed and underemployed, waiting to pounce from all the dark places and seize the vacationer’s cubicle.
It’s a struggle of all against all. And that, when you get right down to it, is the genius of capitalism. Best not mess with it.
pelham commented on the blog post Savage Capitalism Returns As Recovery Misses Working Class
I’m suspicious of any suggestions that reforms, regulations and countervailing forces within capitalism can, for very long, restrain it from its natural course. We had only one brief period, what the French call the trentes glorieuses, from the end of World War Two till the mid-70s during which the system appeared somewhat benign.
Otherwise, the build-up/tear-down cycle has been a constant, interrupted only by the insane devastation of two global wars and a depression, after which — through sheer exhaustion — we managed briefly to inject some humanity into the system.
Now we’ve had 40 years of decline here and in Europe accompanied by the rise of an even more ruthless champion of capitalism in China. No reform, regulation or public pressure aimed at modification is adequate to the task that’s clearly at hand.
What we need is a new system, one that might be much like capitalism but is fundamentally different at its very core — for instance, privileging labor over capital and workers over shareholders with radically democratic corporate structures. This could help even out wealth distribution while maintaining the benefits of a competitive market.
Short of something along those lines, however, we’re basically lost.
It says a lot about the “left” in the Democratic Party that it’s apparently sensitive to the fact that Hillary is locking up the big donors. A real left wouldn’t need that kind of cash.
Meanwhile, I read that big business is beginning to back away from the increasingly populist/Tea Party Republicans. Maybe the future of a real left lies in an alliance with the flaky but volatile anti-globalization and anti-banker far right under the GOP banner.
I’m 492 pages into the book and am greatly impressed by the argument but also by the fact that Piketty appears to be breaking ground in economics.
How can that be? Everything in the book is so basic and clear, one would think that this all would have been the standard stuff of economics over the decades.
Is it true that there’s no other work out there comparable to this? If not, not only should we acknowledge Piketty’s great contribution but perhaps we should also cast the “science” of economics into the dustbin of history where phrenology now resides.
pelham commented on the blog post We Sadly Need to Make Marijuana Edibles Maureen Dowd-Proof
If this were any other product for which there was no warning label and with obvious appeal for kids that produced this kind of effect from moderate overconsumption, progressives would be up in arms, demanding that the industry involved be fined and its officers be put on trial. But it’s marijuana, so obviously the consumer is at fault.
I reluctantly favor decriminalizing this substance so we can avoid jailing the numbskulls who use it. But I can’t see how this tiny and, frankly, retrograde step can be rated any kind of glorious triumph for democracy. It’s a garbage product that apparently has at least some mild carcinogenic effects with long-term mind-dulling properties as well as estrogenic effects that tend to cause gynecomastia — enlarged breast tissue in males.
But, hey, sorry to interrupt all the dumping on Dowd. Proceed.
pelham commented on the blog post No Improvement in Public’s Opinion of Health Care Law
Yes, and that’s the key. Check out Trudy Lieberman’s reporting on this at Columbia Journalism Review. Most people who are signing up are opting for the Silver plan, which could easily put them on the hook for thousands of dollars of medical costs per year — in addition to their premiums — due to the high deductible.
Basically, the ACA is designed to herd people into this type of shoddy coverage, replacing employer plans that were more like the Gold offering, with much smaller deductibles.
I just finished reading a good book about the massive fraud foisted on the American public with the introduction of 401(k) plans, which basically would require people to save four times as much of their pretax income to achieve the same level of retirement as they would have needed to set aside in defined-benefit pension plans.
The ACA is remarkably similar in that it is designed to raise costs and shift them onto individual workers who can ill afford them — but only over time and in such a complex fashion that its devastating impact isn’t immediately felt.
pelham commented on the blog post Bill Clinton Shows Why Messaging on Health Care Is So Hard for Dems
Albert Einstein may not have gotten it right the first time, but a team of even halfway competent programmers should have. Regardless, we should all recoil when politicians of any stripe try to skew the facts with “messaging.”
Also, Obamacare’s initial fiasco stands in stark contrast to the smooth, pre-computer rollout of Medicare decades ago. How did those 1960s geniuses manage such a monumental task? Perhaps because they had a sensible piece of legislation to work with.
Routine bashing of the Roman Catholic church and Christianity at large is to be expected and, to a great degree, justified. But come, now. Any powerful human institution tends to use whatever bludgeon it has lying around to wield power. Governments use nationalism or patriotism, ideologies use their genius ideas (sometimes rather good ideas, sometimes [...]
pelham commented on the blog post Why Silver Health Insurance Plans Are the Most Popular
Fully agreed. Having different levels of coverage is like saying some lives are worth more than others.
It’s like having a justice system in which some people have more rights than others. Of course, that’s what we have in practice, but in theory everyone has equal standing before the law.
Unfortunately, that theory is buried in the sheer complexity of our rattletrap system of enforcement and courts. And now we’re institutionalizing complexity in our system of healthcare with the ACA, which is designedly confusing to throw us off the scent of its monumental unfairness.
pelham commented on the blog post Why Silver Health Insurance Plans Are the Most Popular
This is the problem: Republicans set a hideously low bar on public policy and the Dems just have to propose something a smidgen better and a reliable phalanx of liberals will inevitably defend them. No good.
The ONLY standard we should ever apply is what a majority of Americans want, and in healthcare, a majority of Americans wanted Medicare for all. Simple and reasonable. The two parties are way outside the mainstream and sharply to the right of center. A new Rasmussen poll reveals that 53% of Americans now believe neither party represents them (and Rasmussen being the source, that percentage is probably understated). Healthcare gives us a crystal clear example of why this is so.
As for the Silver Plan, read the stuff by Trudy Lieberman, the only journalist who has actually done any of the math and responsibly explored what Obamacare is likely to cost us. Essentially, it’s another step in moving Americans off the old employer-backed plans — which even in their recently degraded state were more like Gold Plans — and into plans that put ordinary people into a position in which they’re likely to end up either impoverished or bankrupt should someone in their household be stricken by an actual disease.
If we had a truly functioning democracy, you’d think there would be at least one political party ready to make hay out of this development.
Nomi and/or Bill:
Since Nomi’s book goes back over a century, this might be relevant: There is some thinking abroad that World War I was really a clash between banking systems — the British system, which was something of a freebooter specializing in extracting wealth from wherever, principally Britain’s colonies, and the German system, which was far more focused internally (due to ties between specific German industries and the banks) and had succeeded in building German industry to the point that it had eclipsed U.K. industry.
With Britain (and France) emerging triumphant, with a little help from the U.S., the worse of the two banking systems prevailed. And what emerges from that over the years is a particularly rapacious Anglo-American financial system that effectively colonizes the planet and generates wealth and power for itself with little or no regard for any wider benefit to society at large. It’s a free-range system, with no particular territorial or moral ties.
Any thoughts on the opposition between the two styles of banking?
pelham commented on the diary post NLRB rules that Northwestern University football players are employees by Masoninblue.
The unfairness runs a good deal deeper than the plight — if, with a straight face, one can call it that — of these student athletes. Given the fact that big sports programs are a net cost for nearly every university, the obvious solution is to dump the programs. How can adding any such frivolous [...]
pelham commented on the blog post Voting For Neoliberal Democrats As The Lesser Of Two Evils
I think the “liberal” in neoliberal comes from the idea that just entrusting everything to some loosey-goosey idea of the “free” market is somehow liberating. I may be mistaken, but that’s the sense I get.
As for the Democrats, I believe their great deficiency can be defined in a somewhat different way. If you poll the American people on various individual issues, what you often find (certainly not always) is that they tend to lean right on social issues and left on economic issues. But the Democratic Party — supposedly the people’s party — generally inclines in opposite directions, left on social issues and right on economic subjects.
In my mind, anyway, this raises a question: Would active rank-and-file Dems ever be willing to contemplate a large number of candidates running for national office who more closely align with public sentiment — conservative on social issues like, say, gun control and abortion but left-leaning by, say, advocating a big boost in Social Security payments, Medicare for all and a $22-an-hour minimum wage?
(I mention gun control and abortion because, even though a majority of Americans now lean left on these issues, those who lean right are more motivated to get out and vote for candidates who think like them on these topics.)
My guess is that people who describe themselves as progressive or liberals would never tolerate giving an inch on social issues no matter how much they might gain on economic grounds. I can understand that, although I would strongly differ.
If we give first priority to providing a secure living for every working American and make sure all of us have work and the necessities for a decent life, I believe the social issues where we’d like to make further progress will become much more tractable as people will feel much less threatened by life in general.
pelham commented on the blog post Marriage Equality Moves Ahead, Thanks to Virginia Federal Judge Wright Allen
It’s not about marriage equality. Gays and Lesbians have always had exactly the same right as anyone else to marry someone of the opposite sex.
It’s a matter of redefining marriage, and society at large appears to be ready for that.
Re “major media” in the U.S.: Newspapers make up about 90% of what U.S. media are today, as in the past, and newspapers are a tiny fraction of what they were pre-Internet. The assumption that major media have any kind of world view and authority at this stage is a shaky one, at best. The [...]
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