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The Secular Stagnation as an Immanent Feature of Post-2008 Neoliberalism

Image courtesy of Koren Shadmi (What’s Behind a Rise in Ethnic Nationalism? Maybe the Economy - The New York Times, Oct 14, 2016)
News Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism Recommended Links GDP as a false measure of a country economic output Ethno-linguistic and "Cultural" Nationalism as antidote to Neoliberalism Chronic Unemployment Redistribution of wealth up as the essence of neoliberalism
Forthcoming slow motion collapse of global neoliberal empire led by the USA Anti-globalization movement Why Peak Oil Threatens the International Monetary System Brexit as the start of the reversal of neoliberal globalization Immigration, wage depression and free movement of workers Economics of Peak Energy Upward Redistribution of Wealth
Identity politics as diversion of attention from social inequality Neoliberalism war on labor The Great Transformation Eroding Western living standards Immigration, wage depression and free movement of workers Greece debt enslavement Ukraine debt enslavement
Neoliberal rationality Neoliberal "New Class" as variant of Soviet Nomenklatura The fiasco of suburbia Quite coup Casino Capitalism Lawrence Summers Oil glut fallacy
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Russia oil production Helicopter Ben: Arsonist Turned into Firefighter Financial Quotes Casino Capitalism Dictionary Financial Humor Humor Etc

Introduction

Secular stagnation is a term proposed by Keynesian economist Alvin Hansen back in the 1930s to explain the USA dismal economic performance during this period. The period in which sluggish growth and output, and employment levels well below potential, coincide with a problematically low (even negative) real interest rates even in the face of the extraordinarily easy monetary policy. Later a similar phenomenon occurred in Japan. that's why it is often called called Japanification of the economy.  Secular stagnation returned to the USA in full force after the financial crisis of 2008 (so called The Long Recession), so this is the second time the USA society experience the same socio-economic phenomenon. 

Formally it can be defined as any stagnation that lasts substantially longer then the business cycle (and dominates the business cycle induced variations of economic activities), the suppression of economic performance for a long (aka secular) period. It also can be viewed as the crisis of demand, when demand became systemically weak (which under neoliberalism is ensured by redistribution of wealth up).

The global stagnation we are experiencing is the logical result of the dominance of neoliberalism and a sign of its crisis an a ideology. It is somewhat similar to the crisis of Bolshevik's ideology in the USSR in 60th when everybody realized that the existing society cannot fulfill the key promise of higher living standards. And that over centralization of economic life naturally leads to stagnation.  The analogy does not ends here, but this point is the most important.

Neoliberalism replaced over-centralization (with iron fist one party rule) with over-financialization (with iron fist rule of financial oligarchy), with generally the same result as for the economy ( In other words neoliberalism like bolshevism is equal to economic stagnation; extremes meet).  The end of cheap oil did not help iether. In a sense neoliberalism might be viewed as the elite reaction to the end of cheap oil, when it became clear that there are not enough cookies for everyone.

This growth in the financial sector's profits has not been an accident; it is the result of  engineered shift in the elite thinking, which changed government policies. The central question of politics is, in my view, "Who has a right to live and who does not".  In the answer to this question, neoliberal subscribes to Social Darwinism: ordinary citizens should be given much less rather than more social protection. Such  policies would have been impossible in 50th and 60th (A Short History of Neo-liberalism)

In 1945 or 1950, if you had seriously proposed any of the ideas and policies in today's standard neo-liberal toolkit, you would have been laughed off the stage at or sent off to the insane asylum. At least in the Western countries, at that time, everyone was a Keynesian, a social democrat or a social-Christian democrat or some shade of Marxist.

The idea that the market should be allowed to make major social and political decisions; the idea that the State should voluntarily reduce its role in the economy, or that corporations should be given total freedom, that trade unions should be curbed and citizens given much less rather than more social protection--such ideas were utterly foreign to the spirit of the time. Even if someone actually agreed with these ideas, he or she would have hesitated to take such a position in public and would have had a hard time finding an audience.

And this change in government polices was achieved in classic Bolsheviks coup d'état way, when yoiu first create the Party of "professional neoliberal revolutionaries". Who then push for this change and "occupy" strategic places like economics departments at the universities, privately funded think tanks, MSM, and then subvert one or both major parties.  The crisis of "New Deal Capitalism" helped, but without network of think tanks and rich donors, the triumph of neoliberalism in the USA would have been impossible:

...one explanation for this triumph of neo-liberalism and the economic, political, social and ecological disasters that go with it is that neo-liberals have bought and paid for their own vicious and regressive "Great Transformation". They have understood, as progressives have not, that ideas have consequences. Starting from a tiny embryo at the University of Chicago with the philosopher-economist Friedrich von Hayek and his students like Milton Friedman at its nucleus, the neo-liberals and their funders have created a huge international network of foundations, institutes, research centers, publications, scholars, writers and public relations hacks to develop, package and push their ideas and doctrine relentlessly.

Most economists are acutely aware of the increasing role in economic life of financial markets, institutions and operations and the pursuit of prifits via excotic instruments such as derivatives (all this constituted  financialization). This dominant feature of neoliberalism has huge the re-distributional implications, huge effects on the US economy, international dimensions and monetary system, depth and longevity of financial crises and unapt policy responses to them.

They have built this highly efficient ideological cadre because they understand what the Italian Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci was talking about when he developed the concept of cultural hegemony. If you can occupy peoples' heads, their hearts and their hands will follow.

I do not have time to give you details here, but believe me, the ideological and promotional work of the right has been absolutely brilliant. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, but the result has been worth every penny to them because they have made neo-liberalism seem as if it were the natural and normal condition of humankind. No matter how many disasters of all kinds the neo-liberal system has visibly created, no matter what financial crises it may engender, no matter how many losers and outcasts it may create, it is still made to seem inevitable, like an act of God, the only possible economic and social order available to us.  

Neoliberalism naturally leads to secular stagnation due to redistribution of wealth up. which undermines purchasing power of the 99%, or more correctly 99.9 of the population. In the USA this topic became hotly debated theme in establishment circles after Summers speech in 2013.  Unfortunately it was suppressed in Presidential campaign of 2016. Please note that Sanders speaks about Wall Street shenanigans, but not about ideology of neoliberalism.  No candidates tried to address this problem of "self-colonization" of the USA, which is probably crucial to "making America great again" instead of continued slide into what is called "banana republic" coined by American writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter 1862–1910). Here is how Wikipedia described the term:

Banana republic or banana state is a pejorative political science term for politically unstable countries in Latin America whose economies are largely dependent on exporting a limited-resource product, e.g. bananas. It typically has stratified social classes, including a large, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy of business, political, and military elites.[1] This politico-economic oligarchy controls the primary-sector productions to exploit the country's economy.[2]

... ... ...

In economics, a banana republic is a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit, effected by a collusion between the State and favoured monopolies, in which the profit derived from the private exploitation of public lands is private property, while the debts incurred thereby are a public responsibility.

This topic is of great importance to the US elite because the USA is the citadel of  neoliberalism. It also suggest that the natural way neoliberal economic system based on increasing of the level of inequality (redistribution of wealth up) should behave: after the initial economic boom (like in case of steroids use) caused by  financialization of economy (as well as dissolution of the USSR), helped by off-shoring of manufacturing, the destructive effects of this temporary boost come into foreground. Redistribution of wealth up increases inequality which after a certain delay starts to undercuts domestic demand. It also tilts the demand more toward conspicuous consumption (note the boom of luxury cars sales in the USA).  

But after  inequality reaches certain critical threshold  the economy faces extended period of low growth reflecting persistently weak private demand (purchasing power of lower 90% of population).  People who mostly have low level service economy jobs (aka MC-jobs) can't buy that much.  Earlier giants of American capitalism like Ford understood that, but Wall Street sharks do not and does not want.  They operate under principle "Après nous le déluge" ("After us, the deluge").

An economic cycle enters recession when total spending falls below expected by producers and they realize that production level is too high relative to demand. What we have under neoliberalism is Marx's crisis of overproduction on a new level. At this level it is intrinsically connected with the parasitic nature of complete financialization of the economy. The focus on monetary policy and the failure to enact fiscal policy options is the key structural defect of neoliberalism ideology and can't be changed unless neoliberal ideology is abandoned. Which probably will not happen unless another huge crisis hits the USA. That might not happen soon.  Bolshevism lasted more then 70 years. If we assume that the "age of neoliberalism" started at 1973 with Pinochet coup d'état in Chile, neoliberalism as a social system is just 43 years old (as of 2016). It still has some "time to live"(TTL) in zombies state due to the principle first formulated by Margaret Thatcher as TINA ("There Is No Alternative") -- the main competitor, bolshevism, was discredited by the collapse of the USSR and China leadership adoption of neoliberalism. While Soviet leadership simply abandoned the sinking ship and became Nouveau riche in a neoliberal society that followed, Chinese elite managed to preserved at least outer framework of the Marxist state and the political control of the Communist party (not clear for how long). But there was a neoliberal transformation of Chinese economy, initiated, paradoxically, by the Chinese Communist Party.

Currently, no other ideology, including old "New Deal" ideology can  compete with neoliberal ideology, although things started to change with Sanders campaign in the USA on  the left and Trump campaign on the right. Most of what we see as a negative reaction to neoliberalism in Europe generally falls into the domain of cultural nationalism.    

The 2008 financial crisis, while discrediting neoliberalism as an ideology (in the same way as WWII discredited Bolshevism), was clearly not enough for the abandonment of this ideology. Actually neoliberalism proved to be remarkably resilient after this crisis. Some researchers claim that it entered "zombie state" and became more bloodthirsty and ruthless.

There is also religious overtones of neoliberalism which increase its longevity (similar to Trotskyism, and neoliberalism can be called "Trotskyism for rich"). So, from a small, unpopular sect with virtually no influence, neo-liberalism has become the major world religion with its dogmatic doctrine, its priesthood, its law-giving institutions and perhaps most important of all, its hell for heathen and sinners who dare to contest the revealed truth.  Like in most cults adherents became more fanatical believers after the prophecy did not materialized. The USA elite tried partially alleviate this problem by resorting to military Keynesianism as a supplementary strategy. But while military budget was raised to unprecedented levels, it can't reverse the tendency. Persistent high output gap is now a feature of the US economy, not a transitory state.

But there is another factor in play here: combination of peak (aka "plato" ;-) oil and established correlation of  the speed of economic growth and prices on fossil fuels and first of all on oil. Oil provides more than a third of the energy we use on the planet every day, more than any other energy source (How High Oil Prices Will Permanently Cap Economic Growth - Bloomberg). It is dominant fuel for transport and in this role it is very difficult to replace. 

That means that a substantial increase of price of oil acts as a fundamental limiting factor for economic growth. And "end of cheap oil" simply means that any increase of supply of oil to support growing population on the planet and economic growth now requires higher prices. Which naturally undermine economic growth, unless massive injection of currency are instituted. that probably was the factor that prevented slide of the US economy into the recession in 2009-2012.  Such a Catch-22.

Growth dampening potential of over $100-a-barrel oil is now a well established factor. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true. Drop of oil price to below $50 as happened in late 2014 and first half of 2015 did not increase growth rate of the USA economy. It might simply prevented it from sliding it into another phase of Great Recession. Moreover when  economies activity drops, less oil is needed.  Enter permanent stagnation.

Also there is not much oil left that can be profitably extracted at prices below $80. So the current oil price slump is a temporary phenomenon, whether it was engineered, or is a mixture of factors including temporary overcapacity . Sooner or later oil prices should return to level "above $80", as only at this level of oil price capital expenditures in new production make sense. That des not mean that oil prices can't be suppressed for another year or even two, but as Herbert Stein aptly noted   "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop,"

 The alien spaceship landing

Imagine the alien spaceship landed somewhere in the world. There would be denial, disbelief, fear, and great uncertainty for the future. World leaders would struggle to make sense of the events. The landing would change everything.

The secular stagnation (aka "end of permanent growth") is a very similar event.  This also is the event that has potential to change everything, but it is much more prolonged in time and due to this less visible ("boiling frog effect").  Also this is not a single event, but a long sequence of related events that probably might last several decades (as Japan had shown) or even centuries. The current "Great Recession" might be just a prolog to those events. It is clearly incompatible with capitalism as a mode of production, although capitalism as a social system demonstrated over the years tremendous adaptability and it is too early to write it down completely.  Also no clear alternatives exists. 

A very slow recovery and the secular stagnation is characteristic of economies suffering from a balance-sheet recession (aka crisis of overproduction), as forcefully argued by Nomura’s Richard Koo and other economists. The key point is that private investment is down, not because of “policy uncertainty” or “increased regulation”, but because business-sector expectations about future profitability have become dramatically depressed — and rationally so — in a context characterized by heavy indebtedness (of both households and corporations). As businesses see the demand falls they scale down production which creates negative feedback look and depresses demand further. 

The key point is that private investment is down, not because of “policy uncertainty” or “increased regulation”, but because business-sector expectations about future profitability have become dramatically depressed — and rationally so — in a context characterized by heavy indebtedness (of both households and corporations). As businesses see the demand falls they scale down production which creates negative feedback look and depresses demand further.   

Five  hypothesis about the roots of secular stagnation

There are at least five different hypothesis about the roots of secular stagnation:

Summers’s remarks and articles were followed by an explosion of debate concerning “secular stagnation”—a term commonly associated with Alvin Hansen’s work from the 1930s to ’50s, and frequently employed in Monthly Review to explain developments in the advanced economies from the 1970s to the early 2000s.2 Secular stagnation can be defined as the tendency to long-term (or secular) stagnation in the private accumulation process of the capitalist economy, manifested in rising unemployment and excess capacity and a slowdown in overall economic growth. It is often referred to simply as “stagnation.” There are numerous theories of secular stagnation but most mainstream theories hearken back to Hansen, who was Keynes’s leading early follower in the United States, and who derived the idea from various suggestions in Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936).

Responses to Summers have been all over the map, reflecting both the fact that the capitalist economy has been slowing down, and the role in denying it by many of those seeking to legitimate the system. Stanford economist John B. Taylor contributed a stalwart denial of secular stagnation in the Wall Street Journal. In contrast, Paul Krugman, who is closely aligned with Summers, endorsed secular stagnation on several occasions in the New York Times. Other notable economists such as Brad DeLong and Michael Spence soon weighed in with their own views.3

Three prominent economists have new books directly addressing the phenomena of secular stagnation.4 It has now been formally modelled by Brown University economists Gauti Eggertsson and Neil Mehrotra, while Thomas Piketty’s high-profile book bases its theoretical argument and policy recommendations on stagnation tendencies of capitalism. This explosion of interest in the Summers/Krugman version of stagnation has also resulted in a collection of articles and debate, edited by Coen Teulings and Richard Baldwin, entitled Secular Stagnation: Facts, Causes and Cures.5

Seven years after “The Great Financial Crisis” of 2007–2008, the recovery remains sluggish. It can be argued that the length and depth of the Great Financial Crisis is a rather ordinary cyclical crisis. However, the monetary and fiscal measures to combat it were extraordinary. This has resulted in a widespread sense that there will not be a return to “normal.” Summers/Krugman’s resurrection within the mainstream of Hansen’s concept of secular stagnation is an attempt to explain how extraordinary policy measures following the 2007–2008 crisis merely led to the stabilization of a lethargic, if not comatose, economy.

But what do these economists mean by secular stagnation? If stagnation is a reality, does their conception of it make current policy tools obsolete? And what is the relationship between the Summers/Krugman notion of secular stagnation and the monopoly-finance capital theory?

... ... ...

In “secular stagnation,” the term “secular” is intended to differentiate between the normal business cycle and long-term, chronic stagnation. A long-term slowdown in the economy over decades can be seen as superimposed on the regular business cycle, reflecting the trend rather than the cycle.

In the general language of economics, secular stagnation, or simply stagnation, thus implies that the long-run potential economic growth has fallen, constituting the first pillar of MISS. This has been most forcefully argued for by Robert Gordon, as well as Garry Kasparov and Peter Thiel.6 Their argument is that the cumulative growth effect of current (and future) technological changes will be far weaker than in the past. Moreover, demographic changes place limits on the development of “human capital.” The focus is on technology, which orthodox economics generally sees as a factor external to the economy and on the supply-side (i.e., in relation to cost). Gordon’s position is thus different than that of moderate Keynesians like Summers and Krugman, who focus on demand-side contradictions of the system.

In Gordon’s supply-side, technocratic view, there are forces at work that will limit the growth in productive input and the efficiency of these inputs. This pillar of MISS emphasizes that it is constraints on the aggregate supply-side of the economy that have diminished absolutely the long-run potential growth.

The second pillar of MISS, also a supply-side view, goes back at least to Joseph Schumpeter. To explain the massive slump of 1937, Schumpeter maintained there had emerged a growing anti-business climate. Moreover, he contended that the rise of the modern corporation had displaced the role of the entrepreneur; the anti-business spirit had a repressive effect on entrepreneurs’ confidence and optimism.7 Today, this second pillar of MISS has been resurrected suggestively by John B. Taylor, who argues the poor recovery is best “explained by policy uncertainty” and “increased regulation” that is unfavorable to business. Likewise, Baker, Bloom, and Davis have forcefully argued that political uncertainty can hold back private investment and economic growth.8

Summers and Krugman, as Keynesians, emphasize a third MISS pillar, derived from Keynes’s famous liquidity trap theory, which contends that the “full-employment real interest rate” has declined in recent years. Indeed, both Summers and Krugman demonstrate that real interest rates have declined over recent decades, therefore moving from an exogenous explanation (as in pillars one and two) to a more endogenous explanation of secular stagnation.9 The ultimate problem here is lack of investment demand, such that, in order for net investment to occur at all, interest rates have to be driven to near zero or below. Their strong argument is that there are now times when negative real interest rates are needed to equate saving and investment with full employment.

However, “interest rates are not fully flexible in modern economies”—in other words, market-determined interest rate adjustments chronically fail to achieve full employment. Summers contends there are financial forces that prohibit the real interest rate from becoming negative; hence, full employment cannot be realized.10

Some theorists contend that there has been demographic structural shifts increasing the supply of saving, thus decreasing interest rates. These shifts include an increase in life expectancy, a decrease in retirement age, and a decline in the growth rate of population.

Others, including Summers, point out that stagnation in capital formation (or accumulation) can be attributed to a decrease in the demand for loanable funds for investment. One mainstream explanation offered for this is that today’s new technologies and companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, require far less capital investment. Another hypothesis is that there has been an important decrease in the demand for loanable funds, although they argue this is due to a preference for safe assets. These factors can function together to keep the real interest rate very low. The policy implication of secular low interest rates is that monetary policy is more difficult to implement effectually; during a recession, it is weakened and can even become ineffectual.

Edward Glaeser, focusing on “secular joblessness,” places severe doubt on the first pillar of MISS, but then makes a very important additional argument. Glaeser rejects the notion that there has been a slowdown in technological innovation; innovation is simply “unrelenting.” Likewise, he is far less concerned with secular low real interest rates, which may be far more cyclical. “Therefore,” contends Glaeser, “stagnation is likely to be temporary.”

Nonetheless, Glaeser underscores secular joblessness, and thus the dysfunction of U.S. labor markets constitutes a fourth pillar of MISS: “The dysfunction in the labour market is real and serious, and seems unlikely to be solved by any obvious economic trend.” Somehow, then, the problem is due to a misfit of skills or “human capital” on the side of workers, who thus need retraining. “The massive secular trend in joblessness is a terrible social problem for the US, and one that the country must try to address” with targeted policy.11 Glaeser’s argument for the dysfunction of U.S. labor markets is based on recession-generated shocks to employment, specifically of less-skilled U.S. workers. After 1970, when workers lost their job, the damage to human capital became permanent. In short, when human capital depreciates due to unemployment, overall abilities and “talent” are “lost” permanently. This may be because the skills required in today’s economy need to be constantly practiced to be retained. Thus, there is a ratchet-like effect in joblessness caused by recessions, whereby recession-linked joblessness is not fully reversed during recoveries—and all this is related to skills (the human capital of the workers), and not to capital itself. According to Glaeser, the ratchet-like effect of recession-linked joblessness is further exacerbated by the U.S. social-safety net, which has “made joblessness less painful and increased the incentives to stay out of work.”12

Glaeser contends that, if his secular joblessness argument is correct, the macroeconomic fiscal interventions argued for by Summers and Krugman are off-base.13 Instead, the safety net should be redesigned in order to encourage rather than discourage people from working. Additionally, incentives to work need to be radically improved through targeted investments in education and workforce training.14 Such views within the mainstream debate, emphasizing exogenous factors, are generally promoted by freshwater (conservative) rather than saltwater (liberal) economists. Thus, they tend to emphasize supply-side or cost factors.

The fifth pillar of MISS contends that output and productivity growth are stagnant due to a failure to invest in infrastructure, education, and training. Nearly all versions of MISS subscribe to some version of this, although there are both conservative and liberal variations. Barry Eichengreen underscores this pillar and condemns recent U.S. fiscal developments that have “cut to the bone” federal government spending devoted to infrastructure, education, and training.

The fifth pillar of MISS necessarily reflects an imbalance between public and private investment spending. Many theorists maintain that the imbalance between public and private investment spending, hence secular stagnation, “is not inevitable.” For example, Eichengreen contends if “the US experiences secular stagnation, the condition will be self-inflicted. It will reflect the country’s failure to address its infrastructure, education and training needs. It will reflect its failure to…support aggregate demand in an effort to bring the long-term unemployed back into the labour market.”15

The sixth pillar of MISS argues that the “debt overhang” from the overleveraging of financial firms and households, as well as private and public indebtedness, are a serious drag on the economy. This position has been argued for most forcefully by several colleagues of Summers at Harvard, most notably Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.16 Atif Mian and Amir Sufi also argue that household indebtedness was the primary culprit causing the economic collapse of 2007–2008. Their policy recommendation is that the risk to mortgage borrowers must be reduced to avoid future calamities.17

As noted, the defenders of MISS do not necessarily support a compatibility between the above six pillars: those favored by conservatives are supply-side and exogenous in emphasis, while liberals tend towards demand-side and endogenous ones. Instead, most often these pillars are developed as competing theories to explain the warrant of some aspect of secular stagnation, and/or to defend particular policy positions while criticizing alternative policy positions. However, the concern here is not whether there is the possibility for a synthesis of mainstream views. Rather, the emphasis is on how partial and separate such explanations are, both individually and in combination.

Neoliberal economy actually needs bubbles to function

As Krugman said "We now know that the economic expansion of 2003-2007 was driven by a bubble. You can say the same about the latter part of the 90s expansion; and you can in fact say the same about the later years of the Reagan expansion, which was driven at that point by runaway thrift institutions and a large bubble in commercial real estate." In other words blowing bubbles is the fundamental way neoliberal economy functions, not an anomaly.

As much as the USA population is accustomed to hypocrisy of the ruling elite and is brainwashed by MSM, this news, delivered to them personally by the crisis of 2008 was too much for them not question the fundamentals (A Primer on Neoliberalism):

Of course, the irony that those same institutions would now themselves agree that those “anti-capitalist” regulations are required is of course barely noted. Such options now being considered are not anti-capitalist. However, they could be described as more regulatory or managed rather than completely free or laissez faire capitalism, which critics of regulation have often preferred.

But a regulatory capitalist economy is very different to a state-based command economy, the style of which the Soviet Union was known for. The points is that there are various forms of capitalism, not just the black-and-white capitalism and communism. And at the same time, the most extreme forms of capitalism can also lead to the bigger bubbles and the bigger busts.

In that context, the financial crisis, as severe as it was, led to key architects of the system admitting to flaws in key aspects of the ideology.

At the end of 2008, Alan Greenspan was summoned to the U.S. Congress to testify about the financial crisis. His tenure at the Federal Reserve had been long and lauded, and Congress wanted to know what had gone wrong. Henry Waxman questioned him:

[Greenspan’s flaw] warped his view about how the world was organized, about the sociology of the market. And Greenspan is not alone. Larry Summers, the president’s senior economic advisor, has had to come to terms with a similar error—his view that the market was inherently self-stabilizing has been “dealt a fatal blow.” Hank Paulson, Bush’s treasury secretary, has shrugged his shoulders with similar resignation. Even Jim Cramer from CNBC’s Mad Money admitted defeat: “The only guy who really called this right was Karl Marx.” One after the other, the celebrants of the free market are finding themselves, to use the language of the market, corrected.

Raj Patel, Flaw PDF formatted document, The Value of Nothing, (Picador, 2010), pp.4, 6-7

Now for the second time in history, the challenge is to save capitalism from itself

Now for the second time in history, the challenge is to save capitalism from itself: to recognize the great strengths of open, competitive markets while rejecting the extreme capitalism and unrestrained greed that have perverted so much of the global financial system in recent times. It took such a statesman as Franklin Delano Roosevelt to rebuild American capitalism after the Great Depression. New Deal policies allowed to rebuild postwar domestic demand, to engineer the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and to set in place the Bretton Woods system to govern international economic engagement.

With the abolishment of those policies blowing of one bubble after another, each followed by a financial crisis  became standard chain of the events. Since 1973 we already have a half-dozen bubbles following by economic crisis. It started with  Savings and loan crisis which partially was caused by the deregulation of S&Ls in 1980, by the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act signed by President Jimmy Carter on March 31, 1980, an important step is a series that eliminated regulations initially designed to prevent lending excesses and minimize failures.

To hide this unpleasant fact neoliberals resort to so called the Great Neoliberal Lie:

What is neoliberalism

The fallacious and utterly misleading argument that the global economic crisis (credit crunch) was caused by excessive state spending, rather than by the reckless gambling of the deregulated, neoliberalized financial sector.

Just as with other pseudo-scientific theories and fundamentalist ideologies, the excuse that "we just weren't fundamentalist enough last time" is always there. The neoliberal pushers of the establishment know that pure free-market economies are as much of an absurd fairytale as 100% pure communist economies, however they keep pushing for further privatizations, tax cuts for the rich, wage repression for the ordinary, and reckless financial sector deregulations precisely because they are the direct beneficiaries of these policies. Take the constantly widening wealth gap in the UK throughout three decades of neoliberal policy. The minority of beneficiaries from this ever widening wealth gap are the business classes, financial sector workers, the mainstream media elite and the political classes. It is no wonder at all that these people think neoliberalism is a successful ideology. Within their bubbles of wealth and privilege it has been. To everyone else it has been an absolute disaster.

Returning to a point I raised earlier in the article; one of the main problems with the concept of "neoliberalism" is the nebulousness of the definition. It is like a form of libertarianism, however it completely neglects the fundamental libertarian idea of non-aggression. In fact, it is so closely related to that other (highly aggressive) US born political ideology of Neo-Conservatism that many people get the two concepts muddled up. A true libertarian would never approve of vast taxpayer funded military budgets, the waging of imperialist wars of aggression nor the wanton destruction of the environment in pursuit of profit.

Another concept that is closely related to neoliberalism is the ideology of minarchism (small stateism), however the neoliberal brigade seem perfectly happy to ignore the small-state ideology when it suits their personal interests. Take the vast banker bailouts (the biggest state subsidies in human history) that were needed to save the neoliberalised global financial sector from the consequences of their own reckless gambling, the exponential growth of the parasitic corporate outsourcing sector (corporations that make virtually 100% of their turnover from the state) and the ludicrous housing subsidies (such as "Help to Buy and Housing Benefits) that have fueled the reinflation of yet another property Ponzi bubble.

The Godfather of neoliberalism was Milton Friedman. He made the case that illegal drugs should be legalised in order to create a free-market drug trade, which is one of the very few things I agreed with him about. However this is politically inconvenient (because the illegal drug market is a vital source of financial sector liquidity) so unlike so many of his neoliberal ideas that have consistently failed, yet remain incredibly popular with the wealthy elite, Friedman's libertarian drug legalisation proposals have never even been tried out.

The fact that neoliberals are so often prepared to ignore the fundamental principles of libertarianism (the non-aggression principle, drug legalisation, individual freedoms, the right to peaceful protest ...) and abuse the fundamental principles of small state minarchism (vast taxpayer funded bailouts for their financial sector friends, £billions in taxpayer funded outsourcing contracts, alcohol price fixing schemes) demonstrate that neoliberalism is actually more like Ayn Rand's barmy (greed is the only virtue, all other "virtues" are aberrations) pseudo-philosophical ideology of objectivism  than a set of formal economic theories.

The result of neoliberal economic theories has been proven time and again. Countries that embrace the neoliberal pseudo-economic ideology end up with "crony capitalism", where the poor and ordinary suffer "austerity", wage repression, revocation of labor rights and the right to protest, whilst a tiny cabal of corporate interests and establishment insiders enrich themselves via anti-competitive practices, outright criminality and corruption and vast socialism-for-the-rich schemes.

Neoliberal fanatics in powerful positions have demonstrated time and again that they will willingly ditch their right-wing libertarian and minarchist "principles" if those principles happen to conflict with their own personal self-interest. Neoliberalism is less of a formal set of economic theories than an error strewn obfuscation narrative to promote the economic interests, and  justify the personal greed of the wealthy, self-serving establishment elite.
 

Bubbles as the neoliberal tool for wealth redistribution

The 1930s, a well researched period of balance-sheet recession, provides some interesting perspective despite large historical distance.  Roosevelt was no socialist, but his New Deal did frighten many businesses, especially large business which BTW attempted a coupe to remove him from is position. Fortunately for Roosevelt CIA did not exist yet.  And New Deal  government projects has been much bigger and bolder, then anything Obama ever tried, because Obama administration was constrained in its action by dominant neoliberal thinking. Like regulatory capture, which is an immanent feature of neoliberalism,  there is also less known and less visible ideological capture of the government. Which also makes neoliberalism more similar to bolshevism as this ideological capture and related inability of the USSR elite to modernize the economy on some "mixed" principles, when over-centralization stopped working. It, along with the collapse of the ideology,  probably was one of the main reasons of the collapse of the USSR.  Chinese leadership managed to do this and introduced "new economic policies"(NEP). 

Uner New deal regime when public investment and hence aggregate demand expanded, the economy started to grow anyway. Roosevelt did have a vision and he did convince the electorate about the way to go. Cheap optimism of Reagan, or even audacity of hope "Obama style" were not enough. After all, as Francis Bacon may remind us: “Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper” (Apophthegms, 1624).

Obama/Bernanke-style attempts to stimulate growth by pure injection of cheap money in this environment not only inflate new bubbles instead of old one, with which the fighting starts. They also lead to massive redistribution of wealth that makes the problem even worse:

Paul Krugman tells us that Larry Summers joined the camp concerned about secular stagnation in his I.M.F. talk last week, something that I had not picked up from prior coverage of the session. This is good news, but I would qualify a few of the points that Krugman makes in his elaboration of Summers' remarks.

First, while the economy may presently need asset bubbles to maintain full employment (a point I made in Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy), it doesn't follow that we should not be concerned about asset bubbles. The problem with bubbles is that their inflation and inevitable deflation lead to massive redistribution of wealth.

Larry Summers was the first establishment economist who conceded that this is the fact (Wikipedia)

... Larry Summers presented his view during November 2013 that secular (long-term) stagnation may be a reason that U.S. growth is insufficient to reach full employment: "Suppose then that the short term real interest rate that was consistent with full employment [i.e., the "natural rate"] had fallen to negative two or negative three percent. Even with artificial stimulus to demand you wouldn't see any excess demand. Even with a resumption in normal credit conditions you would have a lot of difficulty getting back to full employment."[13][14]

Robert J. Gordon wrote in August 2012:

"Even if innovation were to continue into the future at the rate of the two decades before 2007, the U.S. faces six headwinds that are in the process of dragging long-term growth to half or less of the 1.9 percent annual rate experienced between 1860 and 2007. These include demography, education, inequality, globalization, energy/environment, and the overhang of consumer and government debt. A provocative 'exercise in subtraction' suggests that future growth in consumption per capita for the bottom 99 percent of the income distribution could fall below 0.5 percent per year for an extended period of decades".[15]

One hypothesis is that high levels of productivity greater than the economic growth rate are creating economic slack, in which fewer workers are required to meet the demand for goods and services. Firms have less incentive to invest and instead prefer to hold cash. Journalist Marco Nappolini wrote in November 2013:

 "If the expected return on investment over the short term is presumed to be lower than the cost of holding cash then even pushing interest rates to zero will have little effect. That is, if you cannot push real interest rates below the so-called short run natural rate [i.e., the rate of interest required to achieve the growth rate necessary to achieve full employment] you will struggle to bring forward future consumption, blunting the short run effectiveness of monetary policy...Moreover, if you fail to bring it below the long run natural rate there is a strong disincentive to increase fixed capital investment and a consequent preference to hold cash or cash-like instruments in an attempt to mitigate risk. This could cause longer-term hysteresis effects and reduce an economy's potential output."[13] 

Cost of energy as a defining new factor

The cost of energy is probably another reason of secular stagnation along with excessive public and private debt. Rising cost of energy is deadly for capitalism.  Here are some comments that might clarify the situation:

raskolnikov:

This is the biggest crybaby column Krugman's ever written. He should be ashamed of himself and return his Nobel prize immediately. Has he ever put down Keynes long enough to read a little Marx?  Here's Robert Brenner summing it up in 2009:

 What mainly accounts for the long-term weakening of the real economy is a deep, and lasting, decline of the rate of return on capital investment since the end of the 1960s.

The failure of the rate of profit to recover is all the more remarkable, in view of the huge drop-off in the growth of real wages over the period.

The main cause, though not the only cause, of the decline in the rate of profit has been a persistent tendency to overcapacity in global manufacturing industries."

 There's more, too. Instead of siding with crackpot Summers, Krugman should expand his research and be of some use to us all.

Kievite

I am not sure that it is correct to think about public debt as internal debt. It's all about energy.

That means that public debt is to a large extent foreign due to unalterable oil consumption (and related trade deficits). And that completely changes the situation unless you are the owner of the world reserve currency.

But even in the latter case (exorbitant privilege as Valéry Giscard d'Estaing called it ) you can expect attacks on the status of the currency as world reserve currency. The growth is still supported via militarization, forced opening of foreign markets (with military force, if necessary) and conversion of the state into national security state. But as Napoleon admitted "You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them"

One positive thing about high public (and to a large extent foreign owned) debt in the USA is that it undermines what Bacevich called "new American militarism" (http://www.amazon.com/The-New-American-Militarism-Americans/dp/0195173384). Bacevich argues that this is distinct political course adopted by the "defense intellectuals," the evangelicals, and the neocons. And they will never regret their failed efforts such as Iraq invasion.

From Amazon review:

=== Quote ===

Bacevich clearly links our present predicaments both at home and abroad to the ever greater need for natural resources, especially oil from the Persian Gulf. He demolishes all of the reasons for our bellicosity based on ideals and links it directly to our insatiable appetite for oil and economic expansion. Naturally, like thousands of writers before him, he points out the need for a national energy policy based on more effective use of resources and alternative means of production.

=== End of Quote ==

Heinberg's Five Axioms of Sustainability

As Heinberg explained fossil fuels, primarily oil, permeate every aspect of our modern culture - from agriculture to cities and a long-term perspective. In the age of almost 7 billion people demanding more and more of limited resources, the media, politicians and governments tend to only report short-term perspectives and ignore Heinberg's Five Axioms of Sustainability to the extent that these concepts are taboo to be spoken, discussed or thought (Heinberg, Richard (2007) Five Axioms of Sustainability):

1. (Tainter’s Axiom): Any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably will collapse.

Exception: A society can avoid collapse by finding replacement resources.

Limit to the exception: In a finite world, the number of possible replacements is also finite.

...

2. (Bartlett’s Axiom): Population growth and/or growth in the rates of consumption of resources cannot be sustained.

...

3. To be sustainable, the use of renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is less than or equal to the rate of natural replenishment.

...

4. To be sustainable, the use of non-renewable resources must proceed at a rate that is declining, and the rate of decline must be greater than or equal to the rate of depletion.

The rate of depletion is defined as the amount being extracted and used during a specified time interval (usually a year) as a percentage of the amount left to extract.

...

5. Sustainability requires that substances introduced into the environment from human activities be minimized and rendered harmless to biosphere functions.

In cases where pollution from the extraction and consumption of non-renewable resources that has proceeded at expanding rates for some time threatens the viability of ecosystems, reduction in the rates of extraction and consumption of those resources may need to occur at a rate greater than the rate of depletion. 

Archaeologist Joseph Tainter, in his classic study The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988), demonstrated that collapse is a frequent if not universal fate of complex societies and argued that collapse results from declining returns on efforts to support growing levels of societal complexity using energy harvested from the environment.  Jared Diamond’s popular book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005) similarly  makes the argument that collapse is the common destiny of societies that ignore resourse constraints. This axiom defines sustainability by the consequences of its absence—that is, collapse.

Historical periods of stagnation in the United States

Adapted from Wikipedia

Excluding the current, there were two period of stagnation in the USA history:

Construction of structures, residential, commercial and industrial, fell off dramatically during the depression, but housing was well on its way to recovering by the late 1930s.[17]

The depression years were the period of the highest total factor productivity growth in the United States, primarily to the building of roads and bridges, abandonment of unneeded railroad track and reduction in railroad employment, expansion of electric utilities and improvements wholesale and retail distribution.[17]

The war created pent up demand for many items as factories that once produced automobiles and other machinery converted to production of tanks, guns, military vehicles and supplies. Tires had been rationed due to shortages of natural rubber; however, the U.S. government built synthetic rubber plants. The U.S. government also built synthetic ammonia plants, aluminum smelters, aviation fuel refineries and aircraft engine factories during the war.[17] After the war commercial aviation, plastics and synthetic rubber would become major industries and synthetic ammonia was used for fertilizer. The end of armaments production free up hundreds of thousands of machine tools, which were made available for other industries. They were needed in the rapidly growing aircraft manufacturing industry.[18]

The memory of war created a need for preparedness in the United States. This resulted in constant spending for defense programs, creating what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex.

U.S. birth rates began to recover by the time of World War II, and turned into the baby boom of the postwar decades. A building boom commenced in the years following the war. Suburbs began a rapid expansion and automobile ownership increased.[17]

High-yielding crops and chemical fertilizers dramatically increased crop yields and greatly lowered the cost of food, giving consumers more discretionary income. Railroad locomotives switched from steam to diesel power, with a large increase in fuel efficiency. Most importantly, cheap food essentially eliminated malnutrition in countries like the United States and much of Europe.

Many trends that began before the war continued:

Researchers who contributed to understating secular stagnation

One of the first researchers who clearly attributed secular stagnation problem to neoliberalism was Alan Nasser, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy and Philosophy at The Evergreen State College. In his September 22, 2005 paper  ECONOMIC LAWS, STRUCTURAL TENDENCIES, SECULAR STAGNATION THEORY, AND THE FATE OF NEOLIBERALISM  he pointed out the key features of secular stagnation long before Summers started to understand the problem  and even befor the economic crash of 2008 ;-)

September 22, 2005 | alannasser.org

Alan Nasser Invited presentation, University of Lille,

"We have now grown used to the idea that most ordinary or natural growth processes (the growth of organisms, or popu- lations of organisms or, for example, of cities) is not merely limited, but self-limited, i.e. is slowed down or eventually brought to a standstill as a consequence of the act of growth itself. For one reason or another, but always for some reason, organisms cannot grow indefinitely, just as beyond a certain level of size or density a population defeats its own capacity for further growth."

Sir Peter Medawar, The Revolution of Hope

"A business firm grows and attains great strength, and afterwards perhaps stagnates and decays; and at the turning point there is a balancing or equilibrium of the forces of life and decay. And as we reach to the higher stages of our work, we shall need ever more and more to think of economic forces as those which make a young man grow in strength until he reaches his prime; after which he gradually becomes stiff and inactive, till at last he sinks to make room for other and more vigorous life."

Alfred Marshall, Principals of Economics (1890)

"Though Keynes's 'breakdown theory is quite different from Marx's, it has an important feature in common with the latter: in both theories, the breakdown is motivated by causes inherent to the working of the economic engine, not by the action of factors external to it."

Joseph Schumpeter, Ten Great Economists

In this paper I shall address two major issues. Firstly, I shall discuss the implications for economic theory of a conception of economic laws widely at variance with the empiricist and/or positivist account of what laws are, how they are discovered, and how they are related to theory. At the same time, I will reject one cornerstone of anti-positivist thought, namely the idea that one cannot provide an account of laws that is fundamentally the same for the natural and the social sciences. Thus, I shall argue that an anti-positivist account of laws is entirely compatible with a conception of scientific laws that applies to both the "hard" (natural) and the "soft" (social) sciences. I shall defend this position by showing its application to economics and economic laws. In doing so, I will compare and contrast both natural-scientific (primarily physical) laws and social-scientific (primarily economic) laws. Secondly, I will argue that perhaps the most significant economic law descriptive of mature capitalism is the law of secular stagnation. The latter states that it is the natural tendency of a developed, industrialized capitalist economy to default to a state of chronic excess capacity and underconsumption. And this is itself a result of the tendency in advanced capitalism for the economic surplus (roughly, the difference between the Gross Domectic Product and the cost of producing the GDP) to grow at a rate more rapid than the growth of profitable industrial investment opportunities. In the course of my discussion I will use the United States as a paradigm case, Much as Marx attempted to identify the underlying features of the accumulation process by reference to England during the Industrial Revulution.

This has in fact been the state of global capital since the end of the "Golden Age" and the commencement of the age of globalized Reaganism/Thatcherism, i.e. the Age of Neoliberalism. I date the transition as commencing in 1973, the last year of post-War Keynesian growth rates in the USA. In fact, I will argue, neoliberal economic policy exacerbates capitalism'a tendency to stagnation. Let me begin with an account of economic laws.

LAWS, GENERATIVE MECHANISMS AND TENDENCIES

On the Humean or radical empiricist (positivist) account of laws, the latter are descriptions of observed regularities. Presumably, the scientist observes a "constant conjunction" of different kinds of happening, and infers from the regularity of the conjunction that the latter could not be merely accidental, and so concludes that the observed pattern of regularities must be nomological or law-like. 'Sodium chloride dissolves in water' and 'Metal expands when heated' would be simple examples of the results of this account of how laws of nature are discovered.

That this empiricist account is flawed becomes evident when we consider full-fledged laws of a genuine natural science, e.g. physics. I emphasize that laws are components of theories, which themselves are constitutive of established scientific disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, and biology. In fact, the two "laws" mentioned at the end of the preceding paragraph are not laws of physics at all. Among the genuine laws of physics is, e.g., 'Falling bodies near the surface of the earth accelerate at a constant rate.' This law is certainly not established by the observation of repeated conjunctions of events. On the contrary, actually observed falling bodies in "open systems", that is, in the circumstances of everyday life, conspicuously fail to conform to this law. Yet this is not taken to refute the law. For the law describes the behavior of bodies in a vacuum, that is to say, in a "closed system", one created by the scientist, typically in a laboratory situation. Philosophers of science have tended to ignore the distinction between regularities observed only in closed systems, and conjunctions observed in everyday life, which, as such, have no value as contributions to scientific knowledge. These philosophers have, accordingly, written as if the regularities in question were features of open systems, of nature. This confusion impedes our understanding of all types of laws, from physical to economic.

This failure –until relatively recently- of philosophers of science to properly attend to the importance of laboratory work in the acquisition of scientific knowledge is due to the fact that these philosophers have focused almost exclusively on science as established theory, i.e. as a way of representing the world. They had ignored how these theories were actually established. That is, they paid little attention to experiment, which is a way of intervening in the world. This inattention to what happens in closed systems created in the laboratory led thinkers to miss the importance of the concept of tendencies or dispositions in grasping the concept of a law of science. Let us dwell on this point and its relation to economic laws.

It is not that our knowledge of natural laws is not based on observed regularities. The point, rather, is that these regularities are not found in nature. They are found in closed systems, elaborately designed experimental circumstances found in laboratories. Yet, we correctly believe that what we learn in experimental situations gives us knowledge that is not confined to these situations. We believe that what we learn from observations of repeated patterns in experiments gives us not only knowledge of the behavior of objects in laboratory circumstances, but also knowledge of these same (kinds of) objects as they behave in nature, in the open systems of everyday life. But scientifically significant repeated patterns are not found in the world of daily life. This raises profound epistemological and ontological questions.

The most significant epistemological question arises from the following consideration: Were it not for the intervention of the experimenter, closed-system regularities would not obtain. Hence, the experimenter is a causal agent of the pattern of regularities observed in the laboratory. It is these contrived conjunctions which we invoke to justify our belief in (usually causal) laws. And while these regularities are the (partial) result of the intervention of the experimenter, we do not believe that the experimenter in any way originates the laws whose existence is attested to by the contrived regularities. The question therefore arises: What justifies our (correct) belief that knowledge obtained in closed laboratory systems designed by an agent applies also in open systems, i.e. in nature, which of course is not designed by scientists and does not evidence the regularities found under designed experimental circumstances?

I want to suggest that this question comes to the same as the following question: What must nature be like, and what must experiment reveal, in order for experimental knowledge to be able to be legitimately extended to the world outside of the laboratory, i.e. to nature? Note that this is a Realist question: it asks what we must presuppose about the constitution of the world in order that our experimentally-based scientific beliefs be justified. This is the precise Realist counterpart to Kant's Idealist question: What must we presoppose our minds –as opposed to nature or the world- to be like in order for scientific knowledge to be possible? I will argue that the answer to our Realist question provides the conceptual resources to elucidate the general nature of economic laws and economic theory, and the nature of the subject matter investigated by economists.

I will argue that since we believe that what we learn by experimental observation justifies our claim to knowledge of the experimental objects as they behave in nature, we must assume that these objects possess natural structures, similar to what Aristotle and the scholastics called "natures" or "essences." A natural structure must be conceived as what Critical Realists call a generative mechanism (hereafter, GM). The latter is a specific mode of material organization. What GMs generate are tendencies or dispositions to behave in characteristic ways. The statement that a physical thing or a social institution or structure tends to generate characteristic regularities is a statement of a law. The natural structure of salt, expressed in chemistry as HCl, is such that when it is mixed with water, whose natural structure or organization is expressed as H2O, it tends to dissolve. Gases tend to expand when heated and falling bodies near the surface of the earth tend to accelerate at a constant rate. These are statements of chemical and physical laws. We shall see that precisely the same kind of analysis can be made of laws in economics.

Tendencies are not the same as trends. The latter are merely observed regularities; there need be no implication that an underlying structural feature of the thing in question generates the regularity. This feature of laws is reflected in ordinary language in non-scientific contexts: we might say "He has a tendency to exaggerate." We mean that a disposition to exaggerate is a natural expression of his underlying character. We do not usually mean that he exaggerates whenever it is possible for him to exaggerate. This is part of the meaning of 'tendency.' Thus, tendencies can exist without being exercised. This happens when, e.g. salt is not mixed with water. Salt's nomological tendency to dissolve in water remains its categorical property even in the absence of circumstances in which its tendency to dissolve can be exercised. In addition, tendencies can be exercised without being realized. This is the case in the natural sciences when we observe, in non-laboratory situations, falling bodies accelerating at different rates. Indeed, no falling body in open systems is observed to accelerate at a constant or the same rate. But of course this is not taken to falsify the law of falling bodies. In nature, GMs continue to act in their characteristic ways without producing the patterned outcomes observable in closed experimental systems. This is so because in nature a multiplicity of GMs combine, interact and collide such as to result in the (scientifically irrelevant) flux of phenomena of the everyday world. The realization of a natural tendency can, in other words, be offset by counteracting forces. Thus, empiricism's mistake is to fail to recognize that GMs operate independent of the effects they generate. That is, GMs endure and go on acting (in the way that experimental closure enables us to identify) in nature, i.e. in open systems, where patterned regularities do not prevail. Statements about tendencies are not equivalent, salva veritate, to statements about their effects. Laws may exist and exercise their tendencies or powers even though no Humean "constant conjunctions" are observed. (This would be the case if it happened that the practice of creating closed experimental conditions had never been engaged in, i.e. in a world without science.)

LAWS, GENERATIVE MECHANISMS AND TENDENCIES IN ECONOMICS

GMs are not confined to the natural world. Natural structures are not the only structures there are. Plainly, there are humanely constructed structures. Capitalism is one such structure. Structures of this kind, GMs, that are dynamic by nature, i.e. which are characteristically diachronic, be they natural or socially constituted, share the same ontology. This should not be confused with the radical empiricist (positivist) claim that the natural and the social sciences share the same method. Clearly they do not: closed experimental situations exist but are not typical i istic outcomes ceteris paribus, ie. other things being equal, i.e. ceteris absentibus, other things being absent. When we identify the tendency of a thing, we specify what will happen, as a matter of course, if interfering conditions are absent. That is the point of vacuums in the closed systems created in laboratory experiments: they permit exercised tendencies, i.e. tendencies in operation, to be realized. If we want to know what gases tend to do when acted upon by heat, we eliminate all potential counteracting forces by creating a vacuum in the chamber, so that both gas and heat can express their natures unimpeded.

Thus, implicit in both physical- and social-scientific practice is the crucial distinction between the exercise and the realization (or manifestation) of a tendency. This distinction is essential to structural analysis in economics because of the impossibility of creating the social equivalent of a vacuum in the social sciences, which deal with the open systems of everyday life, where a great many forces and tendencies collide. Accordingly, just as the law of the tendency of falling bodies to accelerate at a constant rate is not falsified by the failure of falling bodies to behave accordingly in open systems, so too, e.g., the law of the tendency of the growth of productive capacity to outpace the growth of profitable investment opportunities -the thesis of secular stagnation theory- is not undermined by the remarkable growth rates of the Golden Age. In both cases, the presence of offsetting factors prevents the structurally generated tendency from being realized or manifested. I argue that the same can be said for any putative economic law.

In social science –and this is most conspicuous in economics, the most theoretically developed of the human sciences- we compensate for the absence of experimentally closed systems by constructing their functional equivalent, which we might call, in terms redolent of Weber, an ideal-typical theoretical model. It is an unfortunate habit (perhaps a tendency in the above-elaborated sense…) of mainstream economists to employ these models as if they described the open-system observable facts of economic life. This is, I suspect, a consequence of the economic empiricist's mistake referred to above, namely to think that GMs, if they must be spoken of at all, are to be conceived as reducible to their effects. (Recall Hume's claim, inspired by his reading of Newton, to expunge all notions of "power", "generation" and "production" from his analyses.) But, as noted above, GMs in both the social and the natural sciences employ unrealistic models, i.e. models which do not pretend to offer the equivalent of a photographic representation of the world. In both natural-scientific experiments and social-scientific ideal-type models, an attempt is made to abstract from the nonessential. We seek to place the spotlight of theory on what is necessary to the situation, system or institution under investigation, and to prescind from the arbitrary and accidental. In economics we seek to identify those features of capitalism that make it what it is. This enables us to identify capitalism's distinct and characteristic tendencies, and to describe what will happen as a result of the exercise of these tendencies, ceteris absentibus.

That there are such tendencies seems to me to be uncontroversial. We all know, for example, that cyclical downturns are not mere empirical contingencies of capitalist development, but structurally generated tendencies which follow inexorably from the specific mode of organization (structure) of capitalism. And like all tendencies, their realization can be offset, as we have seen above, by counteracting factors, such as fiscal and monetary policy. Other examples would be what Marx called the tendencies of capital to concentrate and centralize. The tendency, and corresponding law, with which I will be primarily concerned in this paper is constitutive of the theory of secular stagnation, and is far more likely than the immediately foregoing examples to generate controversy. I refer to the tendency of mature capitalism to suffer from a chronic paucity of profitable industrial investment opportunities, relative to the great magnitude of its investable surplus. Let us look more closely at this tendency.

THE THEORY OF SECULAR STAGNATION

It is worth mentioning that the view that the continuous accumulation of capital is both essential to the normal development of capitalist societies and essentially self-limiting was held by virtually all of the major modern political economists, in the form of one version or another of the doctrine of the falling rate of profit. Adam Smith explained the secular decline of the profit rate by the increasing abundance of capital in a developing capitalist society. Ricardo and Mill believed that the rate of profit would be depressed by the diminishing productivity of the land which would drive up the price of wage goods and therefore of the wages of labor, and so drive down the profits of capital. Marx pointed to the increasing capital-intensity of industry and the paucity of working-class purchasing power relative to the productive capacity of the economy, as the principal threat to the profit rate. And Keynes held that in mature capitalist economies the "marginal efficiency of capital", i.e. the expected rate of return (over cost) on an additional unit of a given capital asset, would tend to decline. All these thinkers had an at least intuitive appreciation of the fact that the growth of capital tends to be terminally self-limiting. (It is worth citing a remark of Joseph Shumpeter at this point:

"Though Keynes's 'breakdown theory is quite different from Marx's, it has an important feature in common with the latter: in both theories, the breakdown is motivated by causes inherent to the working of the economic engine, not by the action of factors external to it.")

In my estimation, no one understood the underlying dynamics of the tendency to stagnation better than the Polish economist Michal Kalecki, who is known to have developed the essentials of Keynes's General Theory before Keynes himself (and to have produced far more elegant mathematical formulations thereof). Perhaps the best way to understand Kalecki's thought is to see him as having argued that certain features of a not-yet-mature industrializing economy persist after the process of industrialization has been accomplished, with the effect that the developed capitalist economy is saddled with a problem of chronic excess capacity. Let me sketch this train of thought.

In the course of their natural growth capitalist economies reach a level of industrial development characterizable as maturity, a point beyond which growth must either cease, or be sustained by exogenous (in a sense to be elucidated below) means. Straight away we are confronted with a rejection of an assumption that is implicit in mainstream neoclassical theory, viz. that both the supply and the demand curves shift, virtually automatically, to the right. On the stagnationist conceptualization of growth or development, the process of development is not everlasting, but rather is at some point accomplished. There is the period, industrialization, during which the economy is developing, and which culminates in a (finally) industrialized or developed infrastructure. At this stage there will have been built up, or "accumulated", a complement of plant and equipment in steel production, machine tools, power stations, transport systems, etc., that is capable of satisfying a level of consumption demand consistent with the moral limits of a reasonably civilized style of life, the constraints imposed by a finite fund of natural resources, and, most importantly for stagnation theory, the limited possibilities of what Marx called "expanded reproduction" imposed by the accumulation process itself.

This account point can be expanded as follows. During any period of industrialization, the growth of the capital goods industry (hereafter, following Marx, Department I, or DI) must outpace the growth of the consumption goods industries (hereafter, again following Marx, Department II, or DII). Indeed, it belongs to the nature of the process of industrialization that the demand for the output of DI cannot be a function of the behavior of consumption demand; during industrialization, investment demand is both rapid and relatively autonomous. For if the principal project is to develop the means of production, then a disproportionate share of national wealth must be devoted to investment/accumulation at the expense of consumption. Strategic capital goods such as transport and communications networks and steel mills cannot be built bit by bit. This is clear with respect to railroads (Recall Keynes's remark that "Two pyramids are better than one, and two masses for the dead better than one; but two railroads from London to York are not necessarily better than one."), but perhaps not as clear with respect to steel facilities.

Suppose 1) that the efficient production of steel requires equipment with the capacity to produce 200,000 tons of steel, and 2) that demand turns out to be for 300,000 tons. The investor has two alternatives, either to forgo an extra market or to take a chance and add another 200.000 tons. On the second alternative, the one virtually assured in a period of (rapid) industrialization, the manufacturer is left with a surplus capacity of 100,000 tons. Here we see, writ small, a crucial source of two basic tendencies of capitalist development, the unrelenting pressure to expand markets, and the tendency to overproduction of a specific kind, namely the overproduction of capital goods, the tendency to overaccumulation. Each of these tendencies is the basis of a corresponding law of economics: Wherever we find a competitive, profit-driven market economy, we must also find a system-driven tendency to expand markets, and: Wherever we find a competitive, profit-driven market economy, we must also find a system-driven tendency for the growth of productive capacity to outpace the growth of effective demand.

As we have seen, all the major classical political economists anticipated the stationary state; they all assumed that the period of development or industrialization would come to an end. Basic industries would be in place, and DI would be capable of meeting all the replacement and expansion demands of DII. Prescinding for the moment from the emergence of new industries, DI would no longer be a source of substantial expansion demand for its own output; most of DI's internal expansion demand would be extinct.

But this is not th hread of classical (and perhaps neoclassical) theory contains the assurance that the capitalist economy provides a mechanism that in the long run counteracts the tendency of the demand for the products of DI to peter out. As one might expect, this is the price mechanism, which brings about, in the circumstances described above, a falling rate of profit (or interest) and thereby a simultaneous check on accumulation and spur to consumption. The causal chain is simple: the fall of the profit rate would lower capital's share of national income, i.e. it would transfer income from capital to labor. Thus, the demand gap created by the sharp waning of DI's expansion demand would be made up by the increase in consumption demand, which would of course mean an expansion in the demand for the output of DII. Moreover, an immediate expansion of DII at the expense of DI in order to assure a rapid transition out of the stationary state would be entirely feasible given the adaptability of certain key industries in DI to new market conditions resulting from the newly-expanded purchasing power of the working class. The construction of new factories could, for example, yield to the construction of new homes.

The theoretical elegance of this scenario is impressive -almost inspirational- but, alas for illusions, the price mechanism does not work this way. For the above-mentioned transfer in national income from capital to labor is supposed to happen when industrialization comes to an end by virtue of its having been accomplished. But from the capitalists' perspective, it is as if nothing counts as industrialization coming to an end. New industries, for example, can create a situation functionally equivalent to industrialization. "Accumulate, accumulate, that is Moses and the prophets."

We have at this point arrived at a picture of a developed capitalist economy which is in a state of permanent industrialization. Excess capacity prevails and working-class income is stagnant or declining. Interestingly, this has in fact been the state of both the U.S. and the global economy since 1973. According to the foregoing analysis, this reflects the fact that the U.S. and global economies are now instances not merely of the exercise of the law of the tendency of mature capitalism to stagnate, but of its realization. To put it differently: these economies are now in their natural state.

But important questions immediately arise. Why are these economies in their natural state now? And if there is a structurally generated tendency for capitalist economies to stagnate, how shall we account for the historically unprecedented growth rates of the Golden Age? I have barely sketched an outline of a response to these challenges above: if there is indeed a tendency for capitalism to stagnate, then there must have been in operation during the Golden Age what I called "counteracting forces and tendencies" which had spent themselves by the mid-1970s. In the absence of new offsetting forces, the tendency to stagnate has, as we should expect, re-asserted itself. These claims require further elaboration, and it is to this task that I now turn.

SECULAR STAGNATION AND TRANSFORMATIONAL GROWTH

In order to account for the actual pattern of capitalist growth in the context of stagnation theory, we must reflect on the kind of growth required by capitalist economic arrangements. Mainstream theory does not distinguish between kinds of growth if and when it addresses the specific requirements of capitalist growth at all. This is, I believe, a serious error. I will begin by introducing the notion of transformational growth, which transforms the entire way of life of society and absorbs exceptionally large amounts of the investible surplus. My point shall be that a capitalist economy cannot sustain growth merely by producing more and more different types of widgets, in the absence of pervasive structural change. Growth sustained in the latter manner is transformational growth.

We are forced to introduce the concept of transformational growth for reasons related to my earlier discussion of the structural features of mature capitalism which generates a chronic tendency to stagnation. I will now embellish this analysis. It should be clear that capitalism cannot grow in the way in which a balloon grows: its growth cannot leave its proportions intact, i.e. such that there are no new products and no new processes of production. This is to say that a capitalist economy either undergoes transformational growth or it stagnates. The argument is as follows.

Investment expands productive capacity, which in turn requires that demand increase at the same rate as potential production. Without the required rate of demand growth, underutilization/excess capacity will discourage further investment or capital accumulation and the result will of course be stagnation. Let us not address this issue in the manner of the neoclassical economist, who seems to assume that both supply and demand curves can be counted on to perennially shift to the right (absent, of course, undue government interference). But this quaint assumption is belied by the enormous literature on the development and indispensability to capitalism of the marketing and advertising industries, which we might view as massive efforts to counteract Keynes's declining marginal propensity to consume by deliberately creating among the consuming masses a full panoply of "manufactured" consumption desires. These considerations point to the need constantly to exogenously stimulate consumption demand in order to narrow the demand gap generated by the tendency to overaccumulation. But they do not yet establish the need to generate a broad, nation-wide pattern of demand required by structural change and transformational growth.

What is needed at this point are concrete examples of the generators of transformational growth, and of exactly how these generators accomplish one of the fundamental features of transformational growth, the mobilization and coordination of the economic resources of the entire country into a grand national project which stimulates demand not merely for this and that consumption good, but for crucial commodities and institutions such as oil, steel rubber, and other primary products, and communication and transportation facilities. What this requires are what Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy termed, in their influential Monopoly Capital (Monthly Review Press, 1966), "epoch-making innovations". Edward Nell and Robert Heilbroner have characterized these same innovations as "transformative innovations". Let me approach transformative innovations by looking at the tendency to stagnation from yet another perspective, one which focuses on the role of competition as a major force behind the growth of both investment and consumption.

Competition reduces the need for investment by tending to increase both productivity and savings. Let us see how this happens. As a result of competition business is under continuous pressure to cut costs and produce more efficiently. To the extent that business succeeds in these respects, productive potential is increased. At the same time, competition also requires business to hold down wages and salaries and to pay out dividend and profit income relatively sparingly. Together, these pressures hold back both worker and capitalist consumption. The result is a tendency for productive capacity to expand faster than consumption. This means that there is no reason for investment to grow, for capital to achieve the required rate of accumulation, unless there are major pressures transforming the way people live. In the absence of such pressures, we may expect stagnation.

There are two dimensions of transformative innovations which are in fact two aspects of the same phenomenon. One dimension is solely technological, and the other points to changes in a population's entire way of life. Neither of these is part of a process of steady, balloon-like growth, nor is either automatically, or normally, generated by the fundamental capitalist dynamics identified by the mainstream textbooks. For this reason I have called the stimulus imparted by these innovations 'exogenous'. Let us look first at the technological dimension of transformative innovation.

This can be identified, after the owl of Minerva has spread its wings, by reflecting on some of the requirements of ideal-typical capitalism. Neoliberals correctly remind us that the bottom line is of course "freedom", primarily the freedom of capital to roam the world seeking markets, sources of cheap labor and investment opportunities. Microecenomic textbooks in fact tend to assume the perfect mobility of both capital and labor.

Let us focus on sources of power, which became especially important after the industrial revolution. Technological development resulted in the virtually total replacement of human and animal muscle power by inanimate sources of power, mainly water and steam. But reliance on water as a source of power places extreme limits on the mobility of capital, and hence on the possibilities of capitalist growth. Water power is site-specific, and the number of rivers and streams is limited. Moreover, the water had to be fast-running and productive facilities had to be located as far downstream as possible. And of course water power is only seasonally available. These restraints alone place an intolerable obstacle to the free and ongoing accumulation of capital. Here we find an overwhelming incentive to switch from water to steam power. This constitutes a huge stimulus to the accumulation of capital on a national scale.

Capitalism requires sources of power that are independent of nature and can be applied constantly wherever they are needed. And these are precisely what steam power made possible. It was now possible to set up productive facilities virtually anywhere; a major fetter to the accumulation of capital was removed. The universal mobility required by capital was now much more fully realized. At this point I want to emphasize that this technological /economic transformation was necessarily accompanied by profound social and cultural changes. For the steam engine's reduction of the seasonality of water power made possible a feature of work that is increasingly common on a global scale: the emergence of modern year-round work habits. With this change comes a dramatic transformation of our notions (and practices) of work and leisure, with all the consequences these have for the felt experience of everyday life. That is an instance of the second dimension of transformative innovation, i.e. its introduction of dramatic cultural changes, changes in the way populations live.

Much the same can be said for the subsequent shift to electrical power, which makes possible trolley cars, refrigerators (as opposed to what used to be called, in the U.S., "ice boxes"), ranges, toasters, radios, washing machines, fans, et al.

The railroad too is a transformative innovation par excellence. Consider the spectacular effects of railroad expansion: internal transport costs are sharply reduced; both new products and new geographical areas are brought into commercial markets; it is now possible to deliver exports to port with unprecedented efficiency, thereby encouraging the extensive development of the export sector; and impetus is provided to the development of the coal, iron and engineering industries. As with the steam engine, these technological and economic benefits wee necessarily accompanied by profound social and cultural changes. The railroads changed the way of life of the people by binding them as never before. The possibility now existed for mass production, mass consumption and indeed mass culture.

And of course the establishment of a national rail network absorbed massive amounts of investible capital, thereby spurring sustainable growth and offsetting the realization of the economic law that capitalist economies tend to stagnate. Apropos: in the latter third of the nineteenth century, railroad investment in the U.S. amounted to more than all investment in manufacturing industries.

And who can doubt that the transformative effects of the introduction of the automobile were epoch-making? The expansion of the automobile industry was the single most important force in the economic expansion of the 1920s. Car production increased threefold during this decade. (The automobile industry produced 12.7% of all manufactured output, employed 7.1% of all manufacturing workers, and paid 8.7% of all industrial wages.) Immediately after World War II the auto industry continued what was to be its breakneck expansion, and the possibilities created thereby constituted what was perhaps the most extensive transformation of the country's way of life in its history.

Consider the stimulus to capital accumulation and employment constituted by the following, each and all a consequence of the increasing automobilization of American society and culture: the migration of the population from the central city to the suburbs and exurbs (first made possible by the streetcar, before the major streetcar operations were bough and then quickly dismantled by the auto companies); the need for surfaced roads, road construction and maintenance, highway construction and maintenance (which had already accounted for 2% of GDP in 1929); the suburbanization of America, with the attendant construction of housing, schools, hospitals, workplaces, and more; the growth of shopping malls; the expansion of the credit industry; the spread of hotels and motels; and of course the growth of the tourism/travel industry. Never before had any population's way of living been transformed so profoundly in so short a period of time. And of course no one has failed to recognize that Americans' main symbol of their most precious possession, their personal freedom/liberty, is their ability to drive, solo, cars that have increasingly come to resemble tanks. Americans' liberty, embodied in the automobile, has become, literally, a commodity.

The long-term growth of the U.S. economy cannot be adequately explained or described without reference to these transformative innovations. None of these are required by the models of capital accumulation found in neoclassical, Keynesian or Marxian growth theory. After the civil war, growth in the last third of the nineteenth century was spurred primarily by the railroads. This stimulus fizzled, as railroad expansion began to slow down, around 1907, when, in spite of extensive electrification of urban (and even some rural) areas, the U.S. economy began a stretch of slow growth, which lasted until the outbreak of World War I. After the end of the War, the economy experienced a brief slump, which was followed by a period of fairly sustained expansion in the 1920s. The latter, as we have seen, was spurred mainly by the growth of the automobile industry. But the rate of growth of the automobile industry slowed down after 1926, and with it the rate of growth of almost all other manufacturing industries. And wages and employment had not risen as rapidly as production, productivity or profits.

In fact, the economic situation in the U.S. at the end of the 1920s bore a remarkable resemblance to the current economic situation in America. After 1926 overcapacity emerged in many key industries, the most significant of these being automobiles, textiles, and residential construction. Contractionary forces are cumulative: excess capacity caused business confidence to decline, with resulting cutbacks in spending on productive capacity in the consumer durables and capital goods industries. The economy was intensely unsound at the end of the 1920s, and the indications at the time were clear. Consumer demand was held down by a steadily growing inequality of income. Thus, an increasing percentage of total purchases were financed by credit in order to foster purchases of consumer durables. About seventy-five percent of all cars were sold on credit. Accordingly, both home mortgages and installment debt grew rapidly. This was the extension of a trend that had begun as early as 1922, when total personal debt began rising faster than disposable income. Thus, underconsumption and traces of excess capacity, key indicators of stagnationist forces, were in effect from the very beginning of the "roaring '20s". These tendencies became increasingly foregrounded over the course of the decade.

Excess capacity in key manufacturing industries was displacing workers from capital-intensive, technologically advanced sectors to industries relatively devoid of technological advance, i.e. service industries such as trade, finance and government. With capital unable to find sufficiently profitable investment opportunities in high-productivity industries, rampant speculative activity ensued, fostered by the growing concentration of income and therefore savings during the decade. More than two thirds of all personal savings was held by slightly over two percent of all families. The wanton optimism of the 1920s led those with substantial savings to want to get richer quickly, and with little effort. The stock market bubble that materialized at the end of the decade seemed to justify the expectations that fortunes could be made overnight in real estate and the stock market. When investors acted on these expectations, the existing bubble became bigger and hence more fragile. To those familiar with the current state of the U.S. economy, the present situation presents itself as history repeating itself -contra Marx- yet again as farce.

FROM GREAT DEPRESSION TO GOLDEN AGE TO NEOLIBERALISM

The mounting instabilities of the economy of the 1920s led to a Depression that was unresponsive to the Roosevelt administration's elevenfold increase in government spending. When U.S. entry into World War II finally brought about a resumption of growth, there was nonetheless an abiding fear among economists that once War spending ceased, the forces and tendencies that had generated the Depression might reassert themselves and exceptionally slow growth could resume. Instead, much to the surprise of many economists, American capitalism began the most sustained period of expansion in its entire history. The period from 1947 to 1973 has come to be called "The Golden Age", and appears, on the face of it, to be a fatal anomaly with respect to secular stagnation theory. After all, if the causes of the Great Depression were structural, and the exogenous stimulus provided by the War was what produced a resumption of growth, how was it possible that the economy, in the absence of powerful exogenous stimulus, exhibited an historically unprecedented period of long-term growth?

I have suggested that sustained national (as opposed to intra-national regional) growth has been engendered by the emergence of transformative innovations, and it is this kind of consideration that I believe offers the most plausible explanation both of Golden-Age expansion and of the petering out of this growth period and the resumption of (global) stagnation. Five stimuli to long-term growth were set in motion after the War, and these were for the most part exogenous in the sense indicated, and essentially limited. I will construe these stimuli as forces counteracting the tendency to stagnation. Once most of these stimuli had spent their potential, stagnationist tendencies re-asserted themselves, and overinvestment became evident once again. With profitable industrial investment opportunities in short supply, the economic surplus was invested instead in what became a vast proliferation of financial instruments. When the bubble created by this process finally burst, it was replaced with a housing bubble. Indeed a variety of bubbles, in financial assets, in housing, in credit, and a substantially overvalued dollar now threaten an historically unparalleled reassertion of the tendency to stagnation. But let us look first at the counteracting forces.

After the War, and as a result of wartime rationing, Americans had accumulated a very large fund of savings, and the time had come when these could finally be spent. This accounted for an immediate surge of consumption spending which temporarily averted the onset of recession. But the effectiveness of this source of spending was soon spent. What truly impelled the sustained growth of the Golden Age was 1) the resumption of a vast expansion of the automobile industry, and with it the stimulation of the broad range of investment and employment opportunities discussed above in connection with automobilization; 2) large-scale economic aid to Europe, which stimulated export demand; 3) a nationwide process of suburbanization, which, in tandem with the expansion of auto production, expanded significantly the demand for the output of every other major industry; 4) the emergence of what president Eisenhower christened the "military-industrial" complex, which provided additional stimulus to the industries most vulnerable to economic instability, the industries of DI, the capital goods sector; and finally 5) the steady and growing expansion of business and especially consumer credit, which in recent years has assumed elephantine proportions.

Three of these factors bear the two most important features of epoch-making innovations. The expansion of the auto industry, suburbanization, and the ever-increasing expansion and extension of credit all absorb massive amounts of investible surplus, and transform the mode of life of the entire population. In so doing they impart a massive push to the macro-growth process. The first two of these have their initial direct effect on investment. The third factor, the growing importance of credit, affects both investment and consumption, but the long-term trend of the credit industry in the U.S., evident now in hindsight, is much more significant in relation to consumption. There is now in the States a credit bubble of menacing proportions, with consumers now in debt to the tune of about107% of disposable income. The Marshall Plan (number 2 above) affected mainly and directly investment and employment, with boosts to consumption following thereupon. By the mid- to late-1970s, the employment-generating capacity of the military had declined. Washington determined, in the light of the defeat in Vietnam, that hi-tech warfare, which is of course technology- rather than labor-intensive, must replace traditional forms of subversion and aggression, in order to render less likely a repeat of the "Vietnam Syndrome."

It is worth mentioning that the military-industrial complex and the vast extension of consumer credit were what constituted what Joan Robinson called "bastard Keynesianism" in the United States. Recall that Keynes had insisted that fiscal and monetary policy were necessary but not sufficient conditions for avoiding stagnation. The tendency to stagnation could be offset for the long run only if some key industries were nationalized, and income redistributed. Nationalization would allow the State to offset lagging demand by providing cheap inputs to the private sector, thereby enabling lower prices. And redistributing income would transfer liquidity from those who had more than they could either consume or invest to those whose consumption demand was severely constrained.

American policymakers saw it as their challenge to reap the effects of nationalization and redistribution without actually nationalizing industries or redistributing income. The solution was ingenious: the military-industrial complex would be the functional equivalent of state-owned industries, and would, as noted above, stimulate the demand for the output of those very firms that produced capital goods. And the extension of consumer credit would allow working people to mortgage future years' incomes and spend more without a corresponding increase in either their private or their social wage.

As mentioned earlier, these forces counteracting the tendency to stagnation were all inherently limited and temporary. By the late 1960s, the automobile industry had achieved maturity, suburbanization had been accomplished, and aid to Europe had not only long ended, but had apparently created for America the economic equivalent of Frankenstein's monster. Europe and Japan were now formidable threats to U.S. economic hegemony. (Germany, for example, has overtaken the U.S. as an exporter of capital goods.) These three colossal absorbers of surplus were now no longer in operation. In the mid-1960s social spending had overtaken military spending as the larger share of government spending. And credit had begun to function as a supplement to declining real income, rather than a further addition to growing income.

These combined developments rendered the post-War counters to the realization of the tendency to stagnation obsolete. The result was the onset of stagnation not only in the U.S. but also worldwide. In America there has been overcapacity in autos, steel, shipbuilding and petrochemicals since the mid- to late-1970s.

This general picture is widely reflected in the business press. Business Week noted that "..supply outpaces demand everywhere, sending prices lower, eroding corporate profits and increasing layoffs" (Jan. 25, 1999, p. 118). The former chairman of General Electric claimed that "..there is excess capacity in almost every industry" (The New York Times, Nov. 16, 1997, p. 3). The Wall Street Journal noted that "..from cashmere to blue jeans, silver jewelry to aluminum cans, the world is in oversupply" (Nov. 30, 1998, p. A17). And The Economist fretted that " the gap between sales and capacity is "at its widest since the 1930s" (Feb. 20, 1999, p. 15). At this time excess capacity in steel is exceeding twenty percent, in autos it has fluctuated around 30%. And these figures look good in comparison to unused capacity numbers in the "industries of the future" of the "New Economy", semiconductors and telecommunications. Not long ago, ninety-seven percent of fibre optic capacity was idle.

MAINSTREAM ECONOMICS AND STAGNATION THEORY

Let us begin with the indisputable fact that the regime of neoliberalism has brought with it a substantial decline in economic growth. The most widely cited study on this issue, produced for the IECD by Angus Maddison, shows that the annual rate of growth of real global GDP fell from 4.9% in 1950-1973 to 3 % in 1973-1998, a drop of 39 %. Theoretical commitments can guide perception: neoliberal economists either denied or ignored the decline in global growth because of their reliance on Say's Law, that it is not possible for total demand to fall below full-capacity supply over the long run. In my earlier remarks I offered an explanation of sluggish growth rates since 1973. Many orthodox economics have done something similar: they have offered explanations of the initial rise in excess capacity. But what has not been explained is why global supply did not eventually adjust itself to the slower rate of demand growth, with the result that in the mid-1970s the global economy would enter a period of sluggish expansion. And it is worth mentioning that even Keynesian macro-theory is inadequate in this regard. It assumes that slow growth in aggregate demand will result in a proportionate decline in the growth of aggregate supply through its effect upon investment and therefore productivity.

An adequate explanation of the sustained character of excess capacity can be constructed from insights from Schumpeter, Marx and the contemporary economist James Crotty. The analysis that follows should be understood within the framework of the version of secular stagnation theory sketched above.

Before the shift to neoliberal policies by Jimmy Carter, Reagan and Thatcher, the global economy was already subject to downward pressures on demand growth resulting from two oil price shocks and the restrictive macro policy imposed in response to oil-price induced inflation. These impediments to demand growth were exacerbated by neoliberal policies. In combination, these forces led to a sharp rise in excess capacity in globally competing industries. At the same time competitive pressures were further intensified by the reduction of the market power of national oligopolies caused by the removal of protectionist barriers to the free movement of goods and money across national boundaries. Accordingly, competitive pressures between nations rose dramatically. In this context, normal stagnationist tendencies operated to further constrain global demand growth and further reproduce industrial capacity faster than either neoclassical or Keynesian theory could comprehend.

The Achilles Heel of neoclassical theory with respect to its inability to account for the persistence of overcapacity during the neoliberal period is its account of competition. So-called "perfect competition" is alleged to lead to maximum efficiency and the elimination of excess capacity. This claim appears inconsistent with the history of real-world, pre- and post-oligopolistic competition. Textbook-like competition has led to periodic market gluts or overproduction crises, price wars, plummeting profits, unbearable debt burdens and violent labor relations. Neoclassical theory banishes these demons with the aid of two assumptions which appear designed explicitly to make them impossible. The first assumption claims that production cost per unit rises rapidly as output increases, and the second that exit from low-profit industries is free or costless. If these assumptions were indeed true, then pure competition could not be shown to have stagnation- or depression-inducing effects. But these assumptions are, I shall suggest, false.

I will begin with the least plausible of these two assumptions. It states that there is free or costless exit from low-profit industries. But productive assets are typically immobile or irreversible, i.e., they are not liquid, and this forces a sizeable loss in the value of a firm's capital should it choose to leave an unprofitable industry. Whether they are sold on a second-hand market or reallocated to a different industry, productive assets will lose substantial value. Capital flowing out of the aerospace industry has been found to sell for one third of its replacement cost. Insolvent telecom firms in the U.S. have sold their assets for 20 cents on the dollar. And isn't this what one would expect? For it is usually poor profit prospects and/or great excess capacity that heighten a firm's incentive to leave an industry. But it is precisely those circumstances which deeply depress the price of industry-specific assets on the second-hand market, since the supply of these assets grows even as the demand for them has collapsed.

Before I turn to the slightly more plausible (yet still false) assumption -that unit production cost rises dramatically as output increases- I will outline the corollary of neoclassical theory itself which neoclassical economists seek to evade by introducing this assumption. The theory tells us that pure competition will force price down until it covers marginal cost. Now if unit production cost remained constant irrespective of the output level, then marginal production cost and average production cost per unit would be equal. When perfect competition forces price to equal marginal cost, total revenue will be equal to total production cost. But in this case there will be no revenue left over either to pay the "fixed" cost of maintaining capital stock in the face of depreciation or obsolescence, or to pay interest and/or dividends to investors. Thus, perfect competition is seen to cause the representative firm to suffer, in each production period, a loss that is equal to fixed costs. Keeping in mind that most important global industries have huge fixed costs, no industry could long survive the consequences of intense competition.

We seem to have found a tendency to stagnation or complete system breakdown where we would least expect to find it - in neoclassical theory itself. But the theory claims to have a response to this embarrassment. It simply denies the claim that appears to entail the undesired consequence, namely the claim that unit production cost remains constant no matter what the output level. Armed now with the (false) assumption that unit production cost rises rapidly as production increases, the conclusion is drawn that marginal cost and price are greater than average unit production cost. Thus, in equilibrium, the gap between price and average production cost is sufficiently large to cover all fixed costs. Let competition be as fierce as you wish, the typical firm will not lose money. Voila!

I have claimed that each of the rescuing assumptions discussed above is false. What would realistic assumptions about marginal cost and the reversibility of invested capital look like? To answer this question we must recognize the distinctive character of the dominant industries of global trade and investment. These industries include steel, autos, aircraft, shipbuilding, petrochemicals, consumer durables, electronics, semiconductors and banking. Studies of this type of industry suggest that marginal cost does not typically rise with output, with the rare exception of cases when the industry is producing near full capacity output. Marginal cost behaves as we would expect in cases of economies of scale: it remains constant or declines as capacity utilization rises. It follows that if free competition forces price to equal marginal cost in these industries, we should count on an ensuing wave of bankruptcies. Here again we see that neoclassical theory, corrected for unrealistic assumptions, seems to commit us to conceptualize mature capitalism as subject to the law of an inherent tendency to stagnation or worse.

The issue I am focusing on here turns on the dynamics of unrestricted competition among oligopolies in the context of economies of scale. The importance of economies of scale underscores the crucial similarity of all the dominant industries, including the new information-technology and telecommunications (ITC) industries. I stress this point because influential neoclassical economists have wanted to claim a significant difference, with respect to overcapacity problems, between the ITC industries and the other dominant industries. For purposes of explaining the persistence of excess capacity under neoliberalism, we want to remember that as scale economies grow, marginal costs fall as fixed costs per unit rise. Thus, the greater the economies of scale, the more destructive becomes the marginal cost pricing required by intense competition. With this in mind, we can more easily see that 1) these dynamics in especially conspicuous operation in the ITC industries, and 2) that such differences as there are between ITC and the other dominant oligopolies are insignificant for the analysis of secular stagnation theory, and of capitalist growth in general.

The key issue right now, recall, is the highly destructive consequences of the tendency of free competition among dominant industries to force price to equal marginal cost. That this is the case is easier to see in the ITC sector than in the other dominant industries. This is because in ITC marginal cost is often close to zero. Producing another copy of software or adding another customer to eBay is virtually costless. This has led many mainstream economists to argue that ITC industries are exempt from the laws of the neoclassical theory of perfect competition. Since ITC firms have marginal costs much lower than their large fixed costs, the argument goes, the possession of at least temporary monopoly power is the only guarantee of an incentive to produce anything at all. Without monopoly pricing power prices will be competed down to marginal cost and fixed costs will be unable to be covered. Thus, the motor of the "new economy" is said to be the constant pursuit of monopoly power. But, contrary to the neoclassical claim, none of this distinguishes significantly between ITC and other key industries. The drive to monopoly power is characteristic of all large corporations in the present age.

As Paul Sweezy argued in his Marshall Lectures, the typical firm in an oligopolized industry strives to be a monopolist. Each firm does this individually, and they all do it collectively. Individual firms seek monopoly status through the sales effort, where the firm's product is put forth as the best in the industry and as different from all the others. Firms within the same industry seek to approach monopoly status by collusion with respect to pricing policy, especially by agreeing to refrain from cutthroat price competition. For reasons developed at length above, therefore, all dominant firms, whether old- or new-economy operations, will tend to achieve monopoly status and to be chronically saddled with excess capacity.

A SCANDALOUSLY BRIEF LOOK AT SLOW-GROWTH CAPITALISM

We are in the midst of another unparalleled period of historical capitalism. Since the onset of stagnation, the median wage in the States has not changed at all for the vast majority of wage workers. Over the past six quarters the gowth of wage income has been negative. A brief sketch of the state of the U.S. economy toward the end of last year highlights features whose most plausible explanation may lie in the fact of secular stagnation. If stagnation theory is accurate, what follows is precisely what we would expect to find. The current state of the U.S. and the global economy is best understood, I believe, against the background too briefly elaborated above. Here is a picture of the U.S. economy today. The key to a healthy economy is job- and income-creating investment in capital goods, which in turn generates a virtuous cycle of further growth in investment, jobs and income. Ominously, the investment, growth, employment and income pictures are unprecedentedly dismal.

Compared to cyclical recoveries between 1949 and 1973, recoveries during the neoliberal period have been weak. Indeed, one or two of the post-1973 upturns has been weaker than some downturns during the Golden Age. Since the stock market collapse of four years ago, the situation has worsened. Growth rates since 2000 have been half their previous average. Even this weak performance required historically unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus: 13 rate cuts, three tax cuts, massive government deficits and record growth in money and credit.

Official figures mask the economy's most serious problems. Growth figures are annualized by U.S. statisticians. Thus, the much-touted 7.1% growth rate in the third quarter of 2003 was the one that would emerge after twelve months if the current trend were to continue. The same growth rate would have been reported in the eurozone as 1.8%. This is an uncommonly weak performance.

Investment data are equally misleading. Since the mid-1990s the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has adjusted upward actual business dollar outlays on computers and related equipment to take into account quality improvements (faster processors, bigger hard drives, more memory). BEA calls this "hedonic adjustment." Accordingly, the BEA estimates that business high-tech investment quadrupled between 1996 and 2002, from $70.9 to $283.7. But in actual dollars spent, the increase was only from $70.9 billion to $74.2 billion, very low by historic standards. The high-tech boom was both greatly exaggerated and misleading. After all, neither profits nor wages are taken in "hedonically adjusted" dollars.

The difference between real and hedonic outlays explains what would otherwise be a paradoxical feature of the years 2000-2003: government was reporting big increases in high-tech investment, while manufacturers were bemoaning declining sales.

Hedonic pricing has accounted for a steadily rising percentage of all reported capital investment. But if we look at actual dollars spent, we find that since 1998 the growth rate of business fixed investment has actually been declining. Real capital investment has in fact not been this weak since the Great Depression.

The fudging of investment figures also obscures the sorry state of the jobs market. The Commerce Department's figures on nonresidential investment for the third and fourth quarters of 2003 reported increases of, respectively, 12.8 and 9.6%. A closer look reveals that the "adjusted" hi-tech sector is the only bright spot, with production and capacity rising, respectively, 24.6% and 11.1% over the past year. But hi-tech is not where significant jobs increases are found. Employment in hi-tech has declined steadily through the so-called "recovery" since its 2001 peak.

In non-hi-tech manufacturing, where investment figures are not adjusted, production from January 2003 to January 2004 rose only 0.9%, while capacity actually declined -0.2%. This represents a record nineteen-straight-month decline in mainline manufacturing capacity. Since it is mainline manufacturing which employs almost 95% of all manufacturing workers, it comes as no surprise that for the first time since the Great Depression the economy has gone more than three years without creating any jobs.

The jobs crisis is even worse than it appears. Here again statistical sleight-of-hand, this time by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), obscures economic reality. Based on data gathered employing the "net birth/death adjustment," BLS announced in April, 2004, that the long-awaited jobs recovery had finally arrived. Nonfarm payrolls had allegedly surged by a whopping 308,000 in March, 2004. The birth/death model uses business deaths to "impute" employment from business births. Thus, as more businesses fail, more new jobs are imputed to have materialized through business births. This improbable statistical artefact accounts for about half of the reported 308,000 March, 2004 payroll increase.

The birth/death model is based on statistics covering 1998-2002. This was a period of explosive telecom and dot.com startups, quite unlike today's flat economic landscape. Thus, two thirds of the 947,000 new jobs BLS "imputed" for March-May, 2004, were never actually counted by BLS and never reported by any firm.

BlS's household and establishment surveys tell a more sobering story. March employment by private industry actually fell by 175,000, and the number of self-employed workers declined by 288,000. Without the simultaneous increase of 439,000 government jobs, the March job announcement would have been a calamity. And both average weekly hours and total hours worked declined markedly, even as (according to the dubious birth/death findings) the work force increased. This is the first time in U.S. history that net job growth has been negative 26 months into a recovery.

The wage and salary picture has also set grim records. During the current recovery, wage and salary growth has actually been negative, at -0.6%, in contrast to the average increase of 7.2% characteristic of this point into each of the other eight post-War recoveries. In fact, median family income in the post-War period exhibits an ominous trend. From 1947 to 1967, real median family income rose by 75%. But since 1967, it has grown by only 30%.

Labor's losses have been capital's gain: since the peak of the last recovery, in the first quarter of 2001, corporate profits have risen 62.2%, compared to the average of 13.9% at the same point in the last eight recoveries. Never in American history has any recorded recovery had such a lopsided balance in the distribution of income gains between labor and capital.

Given the dismal investment, wage/salary and employment pictures, how has it been possible for consumption to have risen to 71% of GDP in the early nineties, from its prior post-War average of 66%? The answer is a growth rate of consumer debt never seen before in America. For the first time ever, in March 2001, overall debt levels (mortgage debt plus consumer debt, mainly credit card debt and car loans) rose above annual disposable income. And from 2001 to 2004 consumer debt rose from 101% to 116% of disposable income. In the first half of 2004, consumer borrowing has been at its highest ever. It has declined slightly in the meantime. So has consumer spending. Should Americans decide to significantly increase their saving and service debts, while lowering correspondingly their consumption expenditures, the global economy could experience a major disruption.

Up until very recently, consumers had stepped up their borrowing to compensate for slowing income growth. Thus, such growth as the U.S. has experienced in recent years has been almost entirely consumption- and debt-driven. More fundamentally, it has been bubble-driven, fueled principally by bubbles in home values and credit.

Since the collapse of stock market/hi-tech bubbles in 2001, the illusory "wealth effect" has been sustained, and consumer spending thereby encouraged, by another bubble, the enormous inflation of house prices. The biggest increase in household debt came from home mortgage debt, especially home mortgage refinancing. With mortgage rates low and home prices rising, households' home equity ballooned. Bloated home equity then provided rising collateral to underwrite still more borrowing.

What makes this especially problematic is that over the last ten years, the average family has suffered under large increases in health premiums, housing costs, tuition fees and child care costs. As a result, households' and individuals' margin of protection against insolvency has dramatically declined. Filings for personal bankruptcy are approaching a record high.

There are indications that these weaknesses and imbalances in the economy are reaching a critical mass. The mortgage refi boom has fizzled, and consumer spending is beginning to decline. Two years ago the Fed's quarterly Beige Book reported a disturbing shift in the composition of credit spending: more and more families are using their credit cards to finance spending on essentials, such as food and energy.

It is no exaggeration to say that both the U.S. economy and the global economy are hugely dependent on the American consumer's increasing willingness to spend more than (s)he makes. (Imported goods have been a rising proportion of all goods purchased here.) Thus, a decline in U.S. consumer spending portends further declines in investment, jobs and income. From January to July of 2004, consumer spending rose at an annual rate of 2.8%, down from 3.3% in 2003 and 3.1 % in 2002. For perspective, during the boom years 1999-2000, growth rates were 5.1% and 4.7%.

Spending on consumer durables is the most significant indicator of healthy growth, and the drastically lower spending in this area is cause for alarm: spending for consumer durables was down to $23.5 billion in the first seven months of this year, in contrast to $71 billion on 2003 and $58 billion in 2002.

Should consumer spending continue to decline, the economy faces the genuine likelihood of a severe recession. Of course not a single American politician addresses this issue.

What is required is a shift from bubble-, debt-, and consumption-driven growth to investment- and income-driven growth. This in turn necessitates a decline in Americas principal export, jobs. Domestic job growth, a higher minimum wage, tax cuts aimed predominantly at low- and middle-income families, a sharp reduction in defense spending and a redirection of these funds to long-neglected and pressing social needs such as health care reform, the provision of universal pre-school, and across-the-board repair and upgrading of America's deteriorated infrastructure of roads, highways,tunnels and bridges, all these should be at the forefront of a Democratic administration's agenda. The restoration of infrastructure is especially labor intensive, and would generate an enormous number of productive jobs. And as a national project spearheaded by government initiative, government would emerge as a major employer.

All this si entirely incompatible with the overwhelming neoliberal bent of even the most "liberal" political leaders. It was after all Bill Clinton who urinated on the grave of Franklin Roosevelt when he proclaimed "the end of welfare as we know it".

As unfashionable as it is to suggest such a thing at a conference of economists, the only hope for the world's majority seems to be the revival of the kinds of mass movements witnessed here in May of 1968, and throughout the world during the 1960s. And time may be short.

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Alan Nasser is Professor emeritus of Political Economy and Philosophy at The Evergreen State College. His book, The “New Normal”: Persistent Austerity, Declining Democracy and the Globalization of Resistance will be published by Pluto Press in 2013. If you would like to be notified when the book is released, please send a request to nassera@evergreen.edu

Thomas Palley » Blog Archive » Explaining Stagnation Why it Matters

John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff clearly identify stagnation in their 2009 book The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences (HERE). They conclude with a section titled “Back to the real economy: the stagnation problem” and they write:

“It was the reality of economic stagnation beginning in the 1970s, as heterodox economists Ricardo Belliofiore and Joseph Halevi have recently emphasized, that led to the emergence of “the new financialized capitalist regime,” a kind of “paradoxical financial Keynesianiasm” whereby demand in the economy was stimulated primarily “thanks to asset-bubbles” (Foster and Magdoff, p.129).”

My own 2009 New America Foundation report, “America’s Exhausted Paradigm: Macroeconomic Causes of the Financial Crisis and Great Recession”, concluded (HERE):

“The bottom line is macroeconomic failure rooted in America’s flawed economic paradigm is the ultimate cause of the financial crisis and Great Recession…. Now, there is a grave danger that policymakers only focus on financial market reform and ignore reform of America’s flawed economic paradigm. In that event, though the economy may stabilize, it will likely be unable to escape the pull of economic stagnation. That is because stagnation is the logical next stage of the existing paradigm.”

That report became a core chapter in my 2012 book, From Financial Crisis to Stagnation, the blurb for which reads (HERE):

“The U.S. economy today is confronted with the prospect of extended stagnation. This book explores why…. Financial deregulation and the house price bubble kept the economy going by making ever more credit available. As the economy cannibalized itself by undercutting income distribution and accumulating debt, it needed larger speculative bubbles to grow. That process ended when the housing bubble burst. The earlier post–World War II economic model based on rising middle-class incomes has been dismantled, while the new neoliberal model has imploded. Absent a change of policy paradigm, the logical next step is stagnation. The political challenge we face now is how to achieve paradigm change.”

The big analytical difference between Foster and Magdoff and myself is that they see stagnation as inherent to capitalism whereas I see it as the product of neoliberal economic policy. Foster and Magdoff partake of the Baran-Sweezy tradition that recommends deeper socialist transformation. I use a structural Keynesian framework that recommends reconstructing the income and demand generation mechanism via policies that include rebuilding worker bargaining power, reforming globalization, and reining in corporations and financial markets.

Larry Summers’ story of serial bubbles delaying stagnation has substantial similarities with both accounts but he avoids blaming either capitalism or neoliberalism. That is hardly surprising as Summers has been a chief architect of the neoliberal system and remains committed to it, though he now wants to soften its impact. Instead, he appeals to the black box of “secular stagnation” as ultimate cause and suggests fiscal policies that would ameliorate the demand shortage problem. However, those policies would not remedy the root cause of stagnation as they leave the economic architecture unchanged.

Though Summers and Krugman are relative late-comers to the stagnation hypothesis, they have still done a great public service by drawing attention to it. Now that stagnation has been identified, the real debate can begin.

The questions are what caused stagnation and what must be done to restore shared prosperity? There is no guarantee we will answer those questions correctly (my prior is mainstream economists will continue their track record of getting it wrong). But it is absolutely certain we will not get the right answer if we do not ask the right question. So thank you Larry Summers and Paul Krugman for putting stagnation on the table. Let the debate begin.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 24th, 2014 at 12:53 pm and is filed under Economics, U.S. Policy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Summers makes the idea of secular stagnation mainstream

Larry Summers (“Why Stagnation May Prove To Be The New Normal,” The Financial Times, December 15, 2013)  suggested the current "lack of demand" is not anomaly but a feature of the current sociao-economic system.  He suggested that we have been in the throes of stagnation for a long while, but that has been obscured by years of serial asset price bubbles. His article produced great public debate and marked the point when the idea became mainstream. The debate began with Summers’ speech to the IMF’s Fourteenth Annual Research Conference in Honor of Stanley Fisher. Summers noted that the panic of 2008 was “an event that in the fall of 2008 and winter of 2009 … appeared, by most of the statistics—GDP, industrial production, employment, world trade, the stock market—worse than the fall of 1929 and the winter of 1930. …”

Tha means the major defeat for “stabilization policies” that were supposed to smooth the capitalist industrial cycle and abolish panics. And the problem preceeds the 2008 panic itself.

The highly misleading unemployment rate calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor notwithstanding, there has been a massive growth in long-term unemployment in the U.S. in the wake of the crisis, as shown by the declining percentage of the U.S. population actually working.

The current situation also refute the key tenet of neoclassical economy (which is pseudo-religious doctrine, so that only increase fanatic devotion of its well-paid adherents). Neoclassical economists insisted that since a “free market economy” naturally tends toward an equilibrium with full employment of both workers and machines, the economy should should quickly return to “full employment” after a recession. This is not the case. See also Secular Stagnation Lawrence H. Summers

There were several uncessful attempts to explaint his situation from neoclassical positions. In Secular Stagnation, Coalmines, Bubbles, and Larry Summers - NYTimes.com Paul Krugman  emphasized the liquidity trap – zero lower bound to interest rates which supposedly prevents spending from reaching a level sufficient for full employment.

Larry’s formulation of our current economic situation is the same as my own. Although he doesn’t use the words “liquidity trap”, he works from the understanding that we are an economy in which monetary policy is de facto constrained by the zero lower bound (even if you think central banks could be doing more), and that this corresponds to a situation in which the “natural” rate of interest – the rate at which desired savings and desired investment would be equal at full employment – is negative.

And as he also notes, in this situation the normal rules of economic policy don’t apply. As I like to put it, virtue becomes vice and prudence becomes folly. Saving hurts the economy – it even hurts investment, thanks to the paradox of thrift. Fixating on debt and deficits deepens the depression. And so on down the line.

This is the kind of environment in which Keynes’s hypothetical policy of burying currency in coalmines and letting the private sector dig it up – or my version, which involves faking a threat from nonexistent space aliens – becomes a good thing; spending is good, and while productive spending is best, unproductive spending is still better than nothing.

Larry also indirectly states an important corollary: this isn’t just true of public spending. Private spending that is wholly or partially wasteful is also a good thing, unless it somehow stores up trouble for the future. That last bit is an important qualification. But suppose that U.S. corporations, which are currently sitting on a huge hoard of cash, were somehow to become convinced that it would be a great idea to fit out all their employees as cyborgs, with Google Glass and smart wristwatches everywhere. And suppose that three years later they realized that there wasn’t really much payoff to all that spending. Nonetheless, the resulting investment boom would have given us several years of much higher employment, with no real waste, since the resources employed would otherwise have been idle.

OK, this is still mostly standard, although a lot of people hate, just hate, this kind of logic – they want economics to be a morality play, and they don’t care how many people have to suffer in the process.

But now comes the radical part of Larry’s presentation: his suggestion that this may not be a temporary state of affairs.

2. An economy that needs bubbles?

We now know that the economic expansion of 2003-2007 was driven by a bubble. You can say the same about the latter part of the 90s expansion; and you can in fact say the same about the later years of the Reagan expansion, which was driven at that point by runaway thrift institutions and a large bubble in commercial real estate.

So you might be tempted to say that monetary policy has consistently been too loose. After all, haven’t low interest rates been encouraging repeated bubbles?

But as Larry emphasizes, there’s a big problem with the claim that monetary policy has been too loose: where’s the inflation? Where has the overheated economy been visible?

So how can you reconcile repeated bubbles with an economy showing no sign of inflationary pressures? Summers’s answer is that we may be an economy that needs bubbles just to achieve something near full employment – that in the absence of bubbles the economy has a negative natural rate of interest. And this hasn’t just been true since the 2008 financial crisis; it has arguably been true, although perhaps with increasing severity, since the 1980s.

One way to quantify this is, I think, to look at household debt. Here’s the ratio of household debt to GDP since the 50s:

There was a sharp increase in the ratio after World War II, but from a low base, as families moved to the suburbs and all that. Then there were about 25 years of rough stability, from 1960 to around 1985. After that, however, household debt rose rapidly and inexorably, until the crisis struck.

So with all that household borrowing, you might have expected the period 1985-2007 to be one of strong inflationary pressure, high interest rates, or both. In fact, you see neither – this was the era of the Great Moderation, a time of low inflation and generally low interest rates. Without all that increase in household debt, interest rates would presumably have to have been considerably lower – maybe negative. In other words, you can argue that our economy has been trying to get into the liquidity trap for a number of years, and that it only avoided the trap for a while thanks to successive bubbles.

And if that’s how you see things, when looking forward you have to regard the liquidity trap not as an exceptional state of affairs but as the new normal.

3. Secular stagnation?

How did this happen? Larry explicitly invokes the notion of secular stagnation, associated in particular with Alvin Hansen (pdf).  He doesn’t say why this might be happening to us now, but it’s not hard to think of possible reasons.

Back in the day, Hansen stressed demographic factors: he thought slowing population growth would mean low investment demand. Then came the baby boom. But this time around the slowdown is here, and looks real.

Think of it this way: during the period 1960-85, when the U.S. economy seemed able to achieve full employment without bubbles, our labor force grew an average 2.1 percent annually. In part this reflected the maturing of the baby boomers, in part the move of women into the labor force.

This growth made sustaining investment fairly easy: the business of providing Americans with new houses, new offices, and so on easily absorbed a fairly high fraction of GDP.

Now look forward. The Census projects that the population aged 18 to 64 will grow at an annual rate of only 0.2 percent between 2015 and 2025. Unless labor force participation not only stops declining but starts rising rapidly again, this means a slower-growth economy, and thanks to the accelerator effect, lower investment demand.

By the way, in a Samuelson consumption-loan model, the natural rate of interest equals the rate of population growth. Reality is a lot more complicated than that, but I don’t think it’s foolish to guess that the decline in population growth has reduced the natural real rate of interest by something like an equal amount (and to note that Japan’s shrinking working-age population is probably a major factor in its secular stagnation.)

There may be other factors – a Bob Gordonesque decline in innovation, etc.. The point is that it’s not hard to think of reasons why the liquidity trap could be a lot more persistent than anyone currently wants to admit.

4. Destructive virtue

If you take a secular stagnation view seriously, it has some radical implications – and Larry goes there.

Currently, even policymakers who are willing to concede that the liquidity trap makes nonsense of conventional notions of policy prudence are busy preparing for the time when normality returns. This means that they are preoccupied with the idea that they must act now to head off future crises. Yet this crisis isn’t over – and as Larry says, “Most of what would be done under the aegis of preventing a future crisis would be counterproductive.”

He goes on to say that the officially respectable policy agenda involves “doing less with monetary policy than was done before and doing less with fiscal policy than was done before,” even though the economy remains deeply depressed. And he says, a bit fuzzily but bravely all the same, that even improved financial regulation is not necessarily a good thing – that it may discourage irresponsible lending and borrowing at a time when more spending of any kind is good for the economy.

Amazing stuff – and if we really are looking at secular stagnation, he’s right.

Of course, the underlying problem in all of this is simply that real interest rates are too high. But, you say, they’re negative – zero nominal rates minus at least some expected inflation. To which the answer is, so? If the market wants a strongly negative real interest rate, we’ll have persistent problems until we find a way to deliver such a rate.

One way to get there would be to reconstruct our whole monetary system – say, eliminate paper money and pay negative interest rates on deposits. Another way would be to take advantage of the next boom – whether it’s a bubble or driven by expansionary fiscal policy – to push inflation substantially higher, and keep it there. Or maybe, possibly, we could go the Krugman 1998/Abe 2013 route of pushing up inflation through the sheer power of self-fulfilling expectations.

Any such suggestions are, of course, met with outrage. How dare anyone suggest that virtuous individuals, people who are prudent and save for the future, face expropriation? How can you suggest steadily eroding their savings either through inflation or through negative interest rates? It’s tyranny!

But in a liquidity trap saving may be a personal virtue, but it’s a social vice. And in an economy facing secular stagnation, this isn’t just a temporary state of affairs, it’s the norm. Assuring people that they can get a positive rate of return on safe assets means promising them something the market doesn’t want to deliver – it’s like farm price supports, except for rentiers.

Oh, and one last point. If we’re going to have persistently negative real interest rates along with at least somewhat positive overall economic growth, the panic over public debt looks even more foolish than people like me have been saying: servicing the debt in the sense of stabilizing the ratio of debt to GDP has no cost, in fact negative cost.

I could go on, but by now I hope you’ve gotten the point. What Larry did at the IMF wasn’t just give an interesting speech. He laid down what amounts to a very radical manifesto. And I very much fear that he may be right.

Supplement 1: Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit (reprint)

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit - The Baffler

David Graeber

A secret question hovers over us, a sense of disappointment, a broken promise we were given as children about what our adult world was supposed to be like. I am referring not to the standard false promises that children are always given (about how the world is fair, or how those who work hard shall be rewarded), but to a particular generational promise—given to those who were children in the fifties, sixties, seventies, or eighties—one that was never quite articulated as a promise but rather as a set of assumptions about what our adult world would be like. And since it was never quite promised, now that it has failed to come true, we’re left confused: indignant, but at the same time, embarrassed at our own indignation, ashamed we were ever so silly to believe our elders to begin with.

Where, in short, are the flying cars? Where are the force fields, tractor beams, teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, tricorders, immortality drugs, colonies on Mars, and all the other technological wonders any child growing up in the mid-to-late twentieth century assumed would exist by now? Even those inventions that seemed ready to emerge—like cloning or cryogenics—ended up betraying their lofty promises. What happened to them?

We are well informed of the wonders of computers, as if this is some sort of unanticipated compensation, but, in fact, we haven’t moved even computing to the point of progress that people in the fifties expected we’d have reached by now. We don’t have computers we can have an interesting conversation with, or robots that can walk our dogs or take our clothes to the Laundromat.

As someone who was eight years old at the time of the Apollo moon landing, I remember calculating that I would be thirty-nine in the magic year 2000 and wondering what the world would be like. Did I expect I would be living in such a world of wonders? Of course. Everyone did. Do I feel cheated now? It seemed unlikely that I’d live to see all the things I was reading about in science fiction, but it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t see any of them.

At the turn of the millennium, I was expecting an outpouring of reflections on why we had gotten the future of technology so wrong. Instead, just about all the authoritative voices—both Left and Right—began their reflections from the assumption that we do live in an unprecedented new technological utopia of one sort or another.

The common way of dealing with the uneasy sense that this might not be so is to brush it aside, to insist all the progress that could have happened has happened and to treat anything more as silly. “Oh, you mean all that Jetsons stuff?” I’m asked—as if to say, but that was just for children! Surely, as grown-ups, we understand The Jetsons offered as accurate a view of the future as The Flintstones offered of the Stone Age.

Surely, as grown-ups, we understand The Jetsons offered as accurate a view of the future as The Flintstones did of the Stone Age.

Even in the seventies and eighties, in fact, sober sources such as National Geographic and the Smithsonian were informing children of imminent space stations and expeditions to Mars. Creators of science fiction movies used to come up with concrete dates, often no more than a generation in the future, in which to place their futuristic fantasies. In 1968, Stanley Kubrick felt that a moviegoing audience would find it perfectly natural to assume that only thirty-three years later, in 2001, we would have commercial moon flights, city-like space stations, and computers with human personalities maintaining astronauts in suspended animation while traveling to Jupiter. Video telephony is just about the only new technology from that particular movie that has appeared—and it was technically possible when the movie was showing. 2001 can be seen as a curio, but what about Star Trek? The Star Trek mythos was set in the sixties, too, but the show kept getting revived, leaving audiences for Star Trek Voyager in, say, 2005, to try to figure out what to make of the fact that according to the logic of the program, the world was supposed to be recovering from fighting off the rule of genetically engineered supermen in the Eugenics Wars of the nineties.

By 1989, when the creators of Back to the Future II were dutifully placing flying cars and anti-gravity hoverboards in the hands of ordinary teenagers in the year 2015, it wasn’t clear if this was meant as a prediction or a joke.

The usual move in science fiction is to remain vague about the dates, so as to render “the future” a zone of pure fantasy, no different than Middle Earth or Narnia, or like Star Wars, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” As a result, our science fiction future is, most often, not a future at all, but more like an alternative dimension, a dream-time, a technological Elsewhere, existing in days to come in the same sense that elves and dragon-slayers existed in the past—another screen for the displacement of moral dramas and mythic fantasies into the dead ends of consumer pleasure.

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Might the cultural sensibility that came to be referred to as postmodernism best be seen as a prolonged meditation on all the technological changes that never happened? The question struck me as I watched one of the recent Star Wars movies. The movie was terrible, but I couldn’t help but feel impressed by the quality of the special effects. Recalling the clumsy special effects typical of fifties sci-fi films, I kept thinking how impressed a fifties audience would have been if they’d known what we could do by now—only to realize, “Actually, no. They wouldn’t be impressed at all, would they? They thought we’d be doing this kind of thing by now. Not just figuring out more sophisticated ways to simulate it.”

That last word—simulate—is key. The technologies that have advanced since the seventies are mainly either medical technologies or information technologies—largely, technologies of simulation. They are technologies of what Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco called the “hyper-real,” the ability to make imitations that are more realistic than originals. The postmodern sensibility, the feeling that we had somehow broken into an unprecedented new historical period in which we understood that there is nothing new; that grand historical narratives of progress and liberation were meaningless; that everything now was simulation, ironic repetition, fragmentation, and pastiche—all this makes sense in a technological environment in which the only breakthroughs were those that made it easier to create, transfer, and rearrange virtual projections of things that either already existed, or, we came to realize, never would. Surely, if we were vacationing in geodesic domes on Mars or toting about pocket-size nuclear fusion plants or telekinetic mind-reading devices no one would ever have been talking like this. The postmodern moment was a desperate way to take what could otherwise only be felt as a bitter disappointment and to dress it up as something epochal, exciting, and new.

In the earliest formulations, which largely came out of the Marxist tradition, a lot of this technological background was acknowledged. Fredric Jameson’s “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” proposed the term “postmodernism” to refer to the cultural logic appropriate to a new, technological phase of capitalism, one that had been heralded by Marxist economist Ernest Mandel as early as 1972. Mandel had argued that humanity stood at the verge of a “third technological revolution,” as profound as the Agricultural or Industrial Revolution, in which computers, robots, new energy sources, and new information technologies would replace industrial labor—the “end of work” as it soon came to be called—reducing us all to designers and computer technicians coming up with crazy visions that cybernetic factories would produce.

End of work arguments were popular in the late seventies and early eighties as social thinkers pondered what would happen to the traditional working-class-led popular struggle once the working class no longer existed. (The answer: it would turn into identity politics.) Jameson thought of himself as exploring the forms of consciousness and historical sensibilities likely to emerge from this new age.

What happened, instead, is that the spread of information technologies and new ways of organizing transport—the containerization of shipping, for example—allowed those same industrial jobs to be outsourced to East Asia, Latin America, and other countries where the availability of cheap labor allowed manufacturers to employ much less technologically sophisticated production-line techniques than they would have been obliged to employ at home.

From the perspective of those living in Europe, North America, and Japan, the results did seem to be much as predicted. Smokestack industries did disappear; jobs came to be divided between a lower stratum of service workers and an upper stratum sitting in antiseptic bubbles playing with computers. But below it all lay an uneasy awareness that the postwork civilization was a giant fraud. Our carefully engineered high-tech sneakers were not being produced by intelligent cyborgs or self-replicating molecular nanotechnology; they were being made on the equivalent of old-fashioned Singer sewing machines, by the daughters of Mexican and Indonesian farmers who, as the result of WTO or NAFTA–sponsored trade deals, had been ousted from their ancestral lands. It was a guilty awareness that lay beneath the postmodern sensibility and its celebration of the endless play of images and surfaces.

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Why did the projected explosion of technological growth everyone was expecting—the moon bases, the robot factories—fail to happen? There are two possibilities. Either our expectations about the pace of technological change were unrealistic (in which case, we need to know why so many intelligent people believed they were not) or our expectations were not unrealistic (in which case, we need to know what happened to derail so many credible ideas and prospects).

Most social analysts choose the first explanation and trace the problem to the Cold War space race. Why, these analysts wonder, did both the United States and the Soviet Union become so obsessed with the idea of manned space travel? It was never an efficient way to engage in scientific research. And it encouraged unrealistic ideas of what the human future would be like.

Could the answer be that both the United States and the Soviet Union had been, in the century before, societies of pioneers, one expanding across the Western frontier, the other across Siberia? Didn’t they share a commitment to the myth of a limitless, expansive future, of human colonization of vast empty spaces, that helped convince the leaders of both superpowers they had entered into a “space age” in which they were battling over control of the future itself? All sorts of myths were at play here, no doubt, but that proves nothing about the feasibility of the project.

Some of those science fiction fantasies (at this point we can’t know which ones) could have been brought into being. For earlier generations, many science fiction fantasies had been brought into being. Those who grew up at the turn of the century reading Jules Verne or H.G. Wells imagined the world of, say, 1960 with flying machines, rocket ships, submarines, radio, and television—and that was pretty much what they got. If it wasn’t unrealistic in 1900 to dream of men traveling to the moon, then why was it unrealistic in the sixties to dream of jet-packs and robot laundry-maids?

In fact, even as those dreams were being outlined, the material base for their achievement was beginning to be whittled away. There is reason to believe that even by the fifties and sixties, the pace of technological innovation was slowing down from the heady pace of the first half of the century. There was a last spate in the fifties when microwave ovens (1954), the Pill (1957), and lasers (1958) all appeared in rapid succession. But since then, technological advances have taken the form of clever new ways of combining existing technologies (as in the space race) and new ways of putting existing technologies to consumer use (the most famous example is television, invented in 1926, but mass produced only after the war.) Yet, in part because the space race gave everyone the impression that remarkable advances were happening, the popular impression during the sixties was that the pace of technological change was speeding up in terrifying, uncontrollable ways.

Alvin Toffler’s 1970 best seller Future Shock argued that almost all the social problems of the sixties could be traced back to the increasing pace of technological change. The endless outpouring of scientific breakthroughs transformed the grounds of daily existence, and left Americans without any clear idea of what normal life was. Just consider the family, where not just the Pill, but also the prospect of in vitro fertilization, test tube babies, and sperm and egg donation were about to make the idea of motherhood obsolete.

Humans were not psychologically prepared for the pace of change, Toffler wrote. He coined a term for the phenomenon: “accelerative thrust.” It had begun with the Industrial Revolution, but by roughly 1850, the effect had become unmistakable. Not only was everything around us changing, but most of it—human knowledge, the size of the population, industrial growth, energy use—was changing exponentially. The only solution, Toffler argued, was to begin some kind of control over the process, to create institutions that would assess emerging technologies and their likely effects, to ban technologies likely to be too socially disruptive, and to guide development in the direction of social harmony.

While many of the historical trends Toffler describes are accurate, the book appeared when most of these exponential trends halted. It was right around 1970 when the increase in the number of scientific papers published in the world—a figure that had doubled every fifteen years since, roughly, 1685—began leveling off. The same was true of books and patents.

Toffler’s use of acceleration was particularly unfortunate. For most of human history, the top speed at which human beings could travel had been around 25 miles per hour. By 1900 it had increased to 100 miles per hour, and for the next seventy years it did seem to be increasing exponentially. By the time Toffler was writing, in 1970, the record for the fastest speed at which any human had traveled stood at roughly 25,000 mph, achieved by the crew of Apollo 10 in 1969, just one year before. At such an exponential rate, it must have seemed reasonable to assume that within a matter of decades, humanity would be exploring other solar systems.

Since 1970, no further increase has occurred. The record for the fastest a human has ever traveled remains with the crew of Apollo 10. True, the commercial airliner Concorde, which first flew in 1969, reached a maximum speed of 1,400 mph. And the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144, which flew first, reached an even faster speed of 1,553 mph. But those speeds not only have failed to increase; they have decreased since the Tupolev Tu-144 was cancelled and the Concorde was abandoned.

None of this stopped Toffler’s own career. He kept retooling his analysis to come up with new spectacular pronouncements. In 1980, he produced The Third Wave, its argument lifted from Ernest Mandel’s “third technological revolution”—except that while Mandel thought these changes would spell the end of capitalism, Toffler assumed capitalism was eternal. By 1990, Toffler was the personal intellectual guru to Republican congressman Newt Gingrich, who claimed that his 1994 “Contract With America” was inspired, in part, by the understanding that the United States needed to move from an antiquated, materialist, industrial mind-set to a new, free-market, information age, Third Wave civilization.

There are all sorts of ironies in this connection. One of Toffler’s greatest achievements was inspiring the government to create an Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). One of Gingrich’s first acts on winning control of the House of Representatives in 1995 was defunding the OTA as an example of useless government extravagance. Still, there’s no contradiction here. By this time, Toffler had long since given up on influencing policy by appealing to the general public; he was making a living largely by giving seminars to CEOs and corporate think tanks. His insights had been privatized.

Gingrich liked to call himself a “conservative futurologist.” This, too, might seem oxymoronic; but, in fact, Toffler’s own conception of futurology was never progressive. Progress was always presented as a problem that needed to be solved.

Toffler might best be seen as a lightweight version of the nineteenth-century social theorist Auguste Comte, who believed that he was standing on the brink of a new age—in his case, the Industrial Age—driven by the inexorable progress of technology, and that the social cataclysms of his times were caused by the social system not adjusting. The older feudal order had developed Catholic theology, a way of thinking about man’s place in the cosmos perfectly suited to the social system of the time, as well as an institutional structure, the Church, that conveyed and enforced such ideas in a way that could give everyone a sense of meaning and belonging. The Industrial Age had developed its own system of ideas—science—but scientists had not succeeded in creating anything like the Catholic Church. Comte concluded that we needed to develop a new science, which he dubbed “sociology,” and said that sociologists should play the role of priests in a new Religion of Society that would inspire everyone with a love of order, community, work discipline, and family values. Toffler was less ambitious; his futurologists were not supposed to play the role of priests.

Gingrich had a second guru, a libertarian theologian named George Gilder, and Gilder, like Toffler, was obsessed with technology and social change. In an odd way, Gilder was more optimistic. Embracing a radical version of Mandel’s Third Wave argument, he insisted that what we were seeing with the rise of computers was an “overthrow of matter.” The old, materialist Industrial Society, where value came from physical labor, was giving way to an Information Age where value emerges directly from the minds of entrepreneurs, just as the world had originally appeared ex nihilo from the mind of God, just as money, in a proper supply-side economy, emerged ex nihilo from the Federal Reserve and into the hands of value-creating capitalists. Supply-side economic policies, Gilder concluded, would ensure that investment would continue to steer away from old government boondoggles like the space program and toward more productive information and medical technologies.

But if there was a conscious, or semi-conscious, move away from investment in research that might lead to better rockets and robots, and toward research that would lead to such things as laser printers and CAT scans, it had begun well before Toffler’s Future Shock (1970) and Gilder’s Wealth and Poverty (1981). What their success shows is that the issues they raised—that existing patterns of technological development would lead to social upheaval, and that we needed to guide technological development in directions that did not challenge existing structures of authority—echoed in the corridors of power. Statesmen and captains of industry had been thinking about such questions for some time.

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Industrial capitalism has fostered an extremely rapid rate of scientific advance and technological innovation—one with no parallel in previous human history. Even capitalism’s greatest detractors, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, celebrated its unleashing of the “productive forces.” Marx and Engels also believed that capitalism’s continual need to revolutionize the means of industrial production would be its undoing. Marx argued that, for certain technical reasons, value—and therefore profits—can be extracted only from human labor. Competition forces factory owners to mechanize production, to reduce labor costs, but while this is to the short-term advantage of the firm, mechanization’s effect is to drive down the general rate of profit.

For 150 years, economists have debated whether all this is true. But if it is true, then the decision by industrialists not to pour research funds into the invention of the robot factories that everyone was anticipating in the sixties, and instead to relocate their factories to labor-intensive, low-tech facilities in China or the Global South makes a great deal of sense.

As I’ve noted, there’s reason to believe the pace of technological innovation in productive processes—the factories themselves—began to slow in the fifties and sixties, but the side effects of America’s rivalry with the Soviet Union made innovation appear to accelerate. There was the awesome space race, alongside frenetic efforts by U.S. industrial planners to apply existing technologies to consumer purposes, to create an optimistic sense of burgeoning prosperity and guaranteed progress that would undercut the appeal of working-class politics.

These moves were reactions to initiatives from the Soviet Union. But this part of the history is difficult for Americans to remember, because at the end of the Cold War, the popular image of the Soviet Union switched from terrifyingly bold rival to pathetic basket case—the exemplar of a society that could not work. Back in the fifties, in fact, many United States planners suspected the Soviet system worked better. Certainly, they recalled the fact that in the thirties, while the United States had been mired in depression, the Soviet Union had maintained almost unprecedented economic growth rates of 10 percent to 12 percent a year—an achievement quickly followed by the production of tank armies that defeated Nazi Germany, then by the launching of Sputnik in 1957, then by the first manned spacecraft, the Vostok, in 1961.

It’s often said the Apollo moon landing was the greatest historical achievement of Soviet communism. Surely, the United States would never have contemplated such a feat had it not been for the cosmic ambitions of the Soviet Politburo. We are used to thinking of the Politburo as a group of unimaginative gray bureaucrats, but they were bureaucrats who dared to dream astounding dreams. The dream of world revolution was only the first. It’s also true that most of them—changing the course of mighty rivers, this sort of thing—either turned out to be ecologically and socially disastrous, or, like Joseph Stalin’s one-hundred-story Palace of the Soviets or a twenty-story statue of Vladimir Lenin, never got off the ground.

After the initial successes of the Soviet space program, few of these schemes were realized, but the leadership never ceased coming up with new ones. Even in the eighties, when the United States was attempting its own last, grandiose scheme, Star Wars, the Soviets were planning to transform the world through creative uses of technology. Few outside of Russia remember most of these projects, but great resources were devoted to them. It’s also worth noting that unlike the Star Wars project, which was designed to sink the Soviet Union, most were not military in nature: as, for instance, the attempt to solve the world hunger problem by harvesting lakes and oceans with an edible bacteria called spirulina, or to solve the world energy problem by launching hundreds of gigantic solar-power platforms into orbit and beaming the electricity back to earth.

The American victory in the space race meant that, after 1968, U.S. planners no longer took the competition seriously. As a result, the mythology of the final frontier was maintained, even as the direction of research and development shifted away from anything that might lead to the creation of Mars bases and robot factories.

The standard line is that all this was a result of the triumph of the market. The Apollo program was a Big Government project, Soviet-inspired in the sense that it required a national effort coordinated by government bureaucracies. As soon as the Soviet threat drew safely out of the picture, though, capitalism was free to revert to lines of technological development more in accord with its normal, decentralized, free-market imperatives—such as privately funded research into marketable products like personal computers. This is the line that men like Toffler and Gilder took in the late seventies and early eighties.

In fact, the United States never did abandon gigantic, government-controlled schemes of technological development. Mainly, they just shifted to military research—and not just to Soviet-scale schemes like Star Wars, but to weapons projects, research in communications and surveillance technologies, and similar security-related concerns. To some degree this had always been true: the billions poured into missile research had always dwarfed the sums allocated to the space program. Yet by the seventies, even basic research came to be conducted following military priorities. One reason we don’t have robot factories is because roughly 95 percent of robotics research funding has been channeled through the Pentagon, which is more interested in developing unmanned drones than in automating paper mills.

A case could be made that even the shift to research and development on information technologies and medicine was not so much a reorientation toward market-driven consumer imperatives, but part of an all-out effort to follow the technological humbling of the Soviet Union with total victory in the global class war—seen simultaneously as the imposition of absolute U.S. military dominance overseas, and, at home, the utter rout of social movements.

For the technologies that did emerge proved most conducive to surveillance, work discipline, and social control. Computers have opened up certain spaces of freedom, as we’re constantly reminded, but instead of leading to the workless utopia Abbie Hoffman imagined, they have been employed in such a way as to produce the opposite effect. They have enabled a financialization of capital that has driven workers desperately into debt, and, at the same time, provided the means by which employers have created “flexible” work regimes that have both destroyed traditional job security and increased working hours for almost everyone. Along with the export of factory jobs, the new work regime has routed the union movement and destroyed any possibility of effective working-class politics.

Meanwhile, despite unprecedented investment in research on medicine and life sciences, we await cures for cancer and the common cold, and the most dramatic medical breakthroughs we have seen have taken the form of drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, or Ritalin—tailor-made to ensure that the new work demands don’t drive us completely, dysfunctionally crazy.

With results like these, what will the epitaph for neoliberalism look like? I think historians will conclude it was a form of capitalism that systematically prioritized political imperatives over economic ones. Given a choice between a course of action that would make capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and one that would transform capitalism into a viable, long-term economic system, neoliberalism chooses the former every time. There is every reason to believe that destroying job security while increasing working hours does not create a more productive (let alone more innovative or loyal) workforce. Probably, in economic terms, the result is negative—an impression confirmed by lower growth rates in just about all parts of the world in the eighties and nineties.

But the neoliberal choice has been effective in depoliticizing labor and overdetermining the future. Economically, the growth of armies, police, and private security services amounts to dead weight. It’s possible, in fact, that the very dead weight of the apparatus created to ensure the ideological victory of capitalism will sink it. But it’s also easy to see how choking off any sense of an inevitable, redemptive future that could be different from our world is a crucial part of the neoliberal project.

At this point all the pieces would seem to be falling neatly into place. By the sixties, conservative political forces were growing skittish about the socially disruptive effects of technological progress, and employers were beginning to worry about the economic impact of mechanization. The fading Soviet threat allowed for a reallocation of resources in directions seen as less challenging to social and economic arrangements, or indeed directions that could support a campaign of reversing the gains of progressive social movements and achieving a decisive victory in what U.S. elites saw as a global class war. The change of priorities was introduced as a withdrawal of big-government projects and a return to the market, but in fact the change shifted government-directed research away from programs like NASA or alternative energy sources and toward military, information, and medical technologies.

Of course this doesn’t explain everything. Above all, it does not explain why, even in those areas that have become the focus of well-funded research projects, we have not seen anything like the kind of advances anticipated fifty years ago. If 95 percent of robotics research has been funded by the military, then where are the Klaatu-style killer robots shooting death rays from their eyes?

Obviously, there have been advances in military technology in recent decades. One of the reasons we all survived the Cold War is that while nuclear bombs might have worked as advertised, their delivery systems did not; intercontinental ballistic missiles weren’t capable of striking cities, let alone specific targets inside cities, and this fact meant there was little point in launching a nuclear first strike unless you intended to destroy the world.

Contemporary cruise missiles are accurate by comparison. Still, precision weapons never do seem capable of assassinating specific individuals (Saddam, Osama, Qaddafi), even when hundreds are dropped. And ray guns have not materialized—surely not for lack of trying. We can assume the Pentagon has spent billions on death ray research, but the closest they’ve come so far are lasers that might, if aimed correctly, blind an enemy gunner looking directly at the beam. Aside from being unsporting, this is pathetic: lasers are a fifties technology. Phasers that can be set to stun do not appear to be on the drawing boards; and when it comes to infantry combat, the preferred weapon almost everywhere remains the AK-47, a Soviet design named for the year it was introduced: 1947.

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The Internet is a remarkable innovation, but all we are talking about is a super-fast and globally accessible combination of library, post office, and mail-order catalogue. Had the Internet been described to a science fiction aficionado in the fifties and sixties and touted as the most dramatic technological achievement since his time, his reaction would have been disappointment. Fifty years and this is the best our scientists managed to come up with? We expected computers that would think!

Overall, levels of research funding have increased dramatically since the seventies. Admittedly, the proportion of that funding that comes from the corporate sector has increased most dramatically, to the point that private enterprise is now funding twice as much research as the government, but the increase is so large that the total amount of government research funding, in real-dollar terms, is much higher than it was in the sixties. “Basic,” “curiosity-driven,” or “blue skies” research—the kind that is not driven by the prospect of any immediate practical application, and that is most likely to lead to unexpected breakthroughs—occupies an ever smaller proportion of the total, though so much money is being thrown around nowadays that overall levels of basic research funding have increased.

Yet most observers agree that the results have been paltry. Certainly we no longer see anything like the continual stream of conceptual revolutions—genetic inheritance, relativity, psychoanalysis, quantum mechanics—that people had grown used to, and even expected, a hundred years before. Why?

Part of the answer has to do with the concentration of resources on a handful of gigantic projects: “big science,” as it has come to be called. The Human Genome Project is often held out as an example. After spending almost three billion dollars and employing thousands of scientists and staff in five different countries, it has mainly served to establish that there isn’t very much to be learned from sequencing genes that’s of much use to anyone else. Even more, the hype and political investment surrounding such projects demonstrate the degree to which even basic research now seems to be driven by political, administrative, and marketing imperatives that make it unlikely anything revolutionary will happen.

Here, our fascination with the mythic origins of Silicon Valley and the Internet has blinded us to what’s really going on. It has allowed us to imagine that research and development is now driven, primarily, by small teams of plucky entrepreneurs, or the sort of decentralized cooperation that creates open-source software. This is not so, even though such research teams are most likely to produce results. Research and development is still driven by giant bureaucratic projects.

What has changed is the bureaucratic culture. The increasing interpenetration of government, university, and private firms has led everyone to adopt the language, sensibilities, and organizational forms that originated in the corporate world. Although this might have helped in creating marketable products, since that is what corporate bureaucracies are designed to do, in terms of fostering original research, the results have been catastrophic.

My own knowledge comes from universities, both in the United States and Britain. In both countries, the last thirty years have seen a veritable explosion of the proportion of working hours spent on administrative tasks at the expense of pretty much everything else. In my own university, for instance, we have more administrators than faculty members, and the faculty members, too, are expected to spend at least as much time on administration as on teaching and research combined. The same is true, more or less, at universities worldwide.

The growth of administrative work has directly resulted from introducing corporate management techniques. Invariably, these are justified as ways of increasing efficiency and introducing competition at every level. What they end up meaning in practice is that everyone winds up spending most of their time trying to sell things: grant proposals; book proposals; assessments of students’ jobs and grant applications; assessments of our colleagues; prospectuses for new interdisciplinary majors; institutes; conference workshops; universities themselves (which have now become brands to be marketed to prospective students or contributors); and so on.

As marketing overwhelms university life, it generates documents about fostering imagination and creativity that might just as well have been designed to strangle imagination and creativity in the cradle. No major new works of social theory have emerged in the United States in the last thirty years. We have been reduced to the equivalent of medieval scholastics, writing endless annotations of French theory from the seventies, despite the guilty awareness that if new incarnations of Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, or Pierre Bourdieu were to appear in the academy today, we would deny them tenure.

There was a time when academia was society’s refuge for the eccentric, brilliant, and impractical. No longer. It is now the domain of professional self-marketers. As a result, in one of the most bizarre fits of social self-destructiveness in history, we seem to have decided we have no place for our eccentric, brilliant, and impractical citizens. Most languish in their mothers’ basements, at best making the occasional, acute intervention on the Internet.

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If all this is true in the social sciences, where research is still carried out with minimal overhead largely by individuals, one can imagine how much worse it is for astrophysicists. And, indeed, one astrophysicist, Jonathan Katz, has recently warned students pondering a career in the sciences. Even if you do emerge from the usual decade-long period languishing as someone else’s flunky, he says, you can expect your best ideas to be stymied at every point:

You will spend your time writing proposals rather than doing research. Worse, because your proposals are judged by your competitors, you cannot follow your curiosity, but must spend your effort and talents on anticipating and deflecting criticism rather than on solving the important scientific problems. . . . It is proverbial that original ideas are the kiss of death for a proposal, because they have not yet been proved to work.

That pretty much answers the question of why we don’t have teleportation devices or antigravity shoes. Common sense suggests that if you want to maximize scientific creativity, you find some bright people, give them the resources they need to pursue whatever idea comes into their heads, and then leave them alone. Most will turn up nothing, but one or two may well discover something. But if you want to minimize the possibility of unexpected breakthroughs, tell those same people they will receive no resources at all unless they spend the bulk of their time competing against each other to convince you they know in advance what they are going to discover.

In the natural sciences, to the tyranny of managerialism we can add the privatization of research results. As the British economist David Harvie has reminded us, “open source” research is not new. Scholarly research has always been open source, in the sense that scholars share materials and results. There is competition, certainly, but it is “convivial.” This is no longer true of scientists working in the corporate sector, where findings are jealously guarded, but the spread of the corporate ethos within the academy and research institutes themselves has caused even publicly funded scholars to treat their findings as personal property. Academic publishers ensure that findings that are published are increasingly difficult to access, further enclosing the intellectual commons. As a result, convivial, open-source competition turns into something much more like classic market competition.

There are many forms of privatization, up to and including the simple buying up and suppression of inconvenient discoveries by large corporations fearful of their economic effects. (We cannot know how many synthetic fuel formulae have been bought up and placed in the vaults of oil companies, but it’s hard to imagine nothing like this happens.) More subtle is the way the managerial ethos discourages everything adventurous or quirky, especially if there is no prospect of immediate results. Oddly, the Internet can be part of the problem here. As Neal Stephenson put it:

Most people who work in corporations or academia have witnessed something like the following: A number of engineers are sitting together in a room, bouncing ideas off each other. Out of the discussion emerges a new concept that seems promising. Then some laptop-wielding person in the corner, having performed a quick Google search, announces that this “new” idea is, in fact, an old one; it—or at least something vaguely similar—has already been tried. Either it failed, or it succeeded. If it failed, then no manager who wants to keep his or her job will approve spending money trying to revive it. If it succeeded, then it’s patented and entry to the market is presumed to be unattainable, since the first people who thought of it will have “first-mover advantage” and will have created “barriers to entry.” The number of seemingly promising ideas that have been crushed in this way must number in the millions.

And so a timid, bureaucratic spirit suffuses every aspect of cultural life. It comes festooned in a language of creativity, initiative, and entrepreneurialism. But the language is meaningless. Those thinkers most likely to make a conceptual breakthrough are the least likely to receive funding, and, if breakthroughs occur, they are not likely to find anyone willing to follow up on their most daring implications.

Giovanni Arrighi has noted that after the South Sea Bubble, British capitalism largely abandoned the corporate form. By the time of the Industrial Revolution, Britain had instead come to rely on a combination of high finance and small family firms—a pattern that held throughout the next century, the period of maximum scientific and technological innovation. (Britain at that time was also notorious for being just as generous to its oddballs and eccentrics as contemporary America is intolerant. A common expedient was to allow them to become rural vicars, who, predictably, became one of the main sources for amateur scientific discoveries.)

Contemporary, bureaucratic corporate capitalism was a creation not of Britain, but of the United States and Germany, the two rival powers that spent the first half of the twentieth century fighting two bloody wars over who would replace Britain as a dominant world power—wars that culminated, appropriately enough, in government-sponsored scientific programs to see who would be the first to discover the atom bomb. It is significant, then, that our current technological stagnation seems to have begun after 1945, when the United States replaced Britain as organizer of the world economy.

Americans do not like to think of themselves as a nation of bureaucrats—quite the opposite—but the moment we stop imagining bureaucracy as a phenomenon limited to government offices, it becomes obvious that this is precisely what we have become. The final victory over the Soviet Union did not lead to the domination of the market, but, in fact, cemented the dominance of conservative managerial elites, corporate bureaucrats who use the pretext of short-term, competitive, bottom-line thinking to squelch anything likely to have revolutionary implications of any kind.

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If we do not notice that we live in a bureaucratic society, that is because bureaucratic norms and practices have become so all-pervasive that we cannot see them, or, worse, cannot imagine doing things any other way.

Computers have played a crucial role in this narrowing of our social imaginations. Just as the invention of new forms of industrial automation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had the paradoxical effect of turning more and more of the world’s population into full-time industrial workers, so has all the software designed to save us from administrative responsibilities turned us into part- or full-time administrators. In the same way that university professors seem to feel it is inevitable they will spend more of their time managing grants, so affluent housewives simply accept that they will spend weeks every year filling out forty-page online forms to get their children into grade schools. We all spend increasing amounts of time punching passwords into our phones to manage bank and credit accounts and learning how to perform jobs once performed by travel agents, brokers, and accountants.

Someone once figured out that the average American will spend a cumulative six months of life waiting for traffic lights to change. I don’t know if similar figures are available for how long it takes to fill out forms, but it must be at least as long. No population in the history of the world has spent nearly so much time engaged in paperwork.

In this final, stultifying stage of capitalism, we are moving from poetic technologies to bureaucratic technologies. By poetic technologies I refer to the use of rational and technical means to bring wild fantasies to reality. Poetic technologies, so understood, are as old as civilization. Lewis Mumford noted that the first complex machines were made of people. Egyptian pharaohs were able to build the pyramids only because of their mastery of administrative procedures, which allowed them to develop production-line techniques, dividing up complex tasks into dozens of simple operations and assigning each to one team of workmen—even though they lacked mechanical technology more complex than the inclined plane and lever. Administrative oversight turned armies of peasant farmers into the cogs of a vast machine. Much later, after cogs had been invented, the design of complex machinery elaborated principles originally developed to organize people.

Yet we have seen those machines—whether their moving parts are arms and torsos or pistons, wheels, and springs—being put to work to realize impossible fantasies: cathedrals, moon shots, transcontinental railways. Certainly, poetic technologies had something terrible about them; the poetry is likely to be as much of dark satanic mills as of grace or liberation. But the rational, administrative techniques were always in service to some fantastic end.

From this perspective, all those mad Soviet plans—even if never realized—marked the climax of poetic technologies. What we have now is the reverse. It’s not that vision, creativity, and mad fantasies are no longer encouraged, but that most remain free-floating; there’s no longer even the pretense that they could ever take form or flesh. The greatest and most powerful nation that has ever existed has spent the last decades telling its citizens they can no longer contemplate fantastic collective enterprises, even if—as the environmental crisis demands— the fate of the earth depends on it.

What are the political implications of all this? First of all, we need to rethink some of our most basic assumptions about the nature of capitalism. One is that capitalism is identical with the market, and that both therefore are inimical to bureaucracy, which is supposed to be a creature of the state.

The second assumption is that capitalism is in its nature technologically progressive. It would seem that Marx and Engels, in their giddy enthusiasm for the industrial revolutions of their day, were wrong about this. Or, to be more precise: they were right to insist that the mechanization of industrial production would destroy capitalism; they were wrong to predict that market competition would compel factory owners to mechanize anyway. If it didn’t happen, that is because market competition is not, in fact, as essential to the nature of capitalism as they had assumed. If nothing else, the current form of capitalism, where much of the competition seems to take the form of internal marketing within the bureaucratic structures of large semi-monopolistic enterprises, would come as a complete surprise to them.

Defenders of capitalism make three broad historical claims: first, that it has fostered rapid scientific and technological growth; second, that however much it may throw enormous wealth to a small minority, it does so in such a way as to increase overall prosperity; third, that in doing so, it creates a more secure and democratic world for everyone. It is clear that capitalism is not doing any of these things any longer. In fact, many of its defenders are retreating from claiming that it is a good system and instead falling back on the claim that it is the only possible system—or, at least, the only possible system for a complex, technologically sophisticated society such as our own.

But how could anyone argue that current economic arrangements are also the only ones that will ever be viable under any possible future technological society? The argument is absurd. How could anyone know?

Granted, there are people who take that position—on both ends of the political spectrum. As an anthropologist and anarchist, I encounter anticivilizational types who insist not only that current industrial technology leads only to capitalist-style oppression, but that this must necessarily be true of any future technology as well, and therefore that human liberation can be achieved only by returning to the Stone Age. Most of us are not technological determinists.

But claims for the inevitability of capitalism have to be based on a kind of technological determinism. And for that very reason, if the aim of neoliberal capitalism is to create a world in which no one believes any other economic system could work, then it needs to suppress not just any idea of an inevitable redemptive future, but any radically different technological future. Yet there’s a contradiction. Defenders of capitalism cannot mean to convince us that technological change has ended—since that would mean capitalism is not progressive. No, they mean to convince us that technological progress is indeed continuing, that we do live in a world of wonders, but that those wonders take the form of modest improvements (the latest iPhone!), rumors of inventions about to happen (“I hear they are going to have flying cars pretty soon”), complex ways of juggling information and imagery, and still more complex platforms for filling out of forms.

I do not mean to suggest that neoliberal capitalism—or any other system—can be successful in this regard. First, there’s the problem of trying to convince the world you are leading the way in technological progress when you are holding it back. The United States, with its decaying infrastructure, paralysis in the face of global warming, and symbolically devastating abandonment of its manned space program just as China accelerates its own, is doing a particularly bad public relations job. Second, the pace of change can’t be held back forever. Breakthroughs will happen; inconvenient discoveries cannot be permanently suppressed. Other, less bureaucratized parts of the world—or at least, parts of the world with bureaucracies that are not so hostile to creative thinking—will slowly but inevitably attain the resources required to pick up where the United States and its allies have left off. The Internet does provide opportunities for collaboration and dissemination that may help break us through the wall as well. Where will the breakthrough come? We can’t know. Maybe 3D printing will do what the robot factories were supposed to. Or maybe it will be something else. But it will happen.

About one conclusion we can feel especially confident: it will not happen within the framework of contemporary corporate capitalism—or any form of capitalism. To begin setting up domes on Mars, let alone to develop the means to figure out if there are alien civilizations to contact, we’re going to have to figure out a different economic system. Must the new system take the form of some massive new bureaucracy? Why do we assume it must? Only by breaking up existing bureaucratic structures can we begin. And if we’re going to invent robots that will do our laundry and tidy up the kitchen, then we’re going to have to make sure that whatever replaces capitalism is based on a far more egalitarian distribution of wealth and power—one that no longer contains either the super-rich or the desperately poor willing to do their housework. Only then will technology begin to be marshaled toward human needs. And this is the best reason to break free of the dead hand of the hedge fund managers and the CEOs—to free our fantasies from the screens in which such men have imprisoned them, to let our imaginations once again become a material force in human history.


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[Apr 06, 2020] For the central attribute is symmetry: the balancing of incentives and disincentives, people should also penalized if something for which they are responsible goes wrong and hurts others: he or she who wants a share of the benefits needs to also share some of the risks.

Apr 06, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Steve H. , April 6, 2020 at 8:22 am

Taleb Nassim on Skin in the Game:

For the central attribute is symmetry: the balancing of incentives and disincentives, people should also penalized if something for which they are responsible goes wrong and hurts others: he or she who wants a share of the benefits needs to also share some of the risks.

. . .

And in the absence of the filtering of skin in the game, the mechanisms of evolution fail: if someone else dies in your stead, the built up of asymmetric risks and misfitness will cause the system to eventually blow-up.

[medium.com/incerto/what-do-i-mean-by-skin-in-the-game-my-own-version-cc858dc73260]

vlade , April 6, 2020 at 8:38 am

Taleb's skin in the game ignores the disincentives the skin-in-the-game creates, which are often fat-tailed.

Feedback is not the same as skin-in-the-game.

Steve H. , April 6, 2020 at 9:30 am

I read your use of feedback as >reference to external stimuli (the real world).

With Taleb, I'm reading disincentives as penalties, and that lack of penalty/punishment warps the selection process of evolution. With respect to the post, that has created a lack of respect for risk by those who make decisions.

It can be taken a step farther, that the selection process has created perverse incentives. For example, the bailouts from 2008 made the FIRE sector qliphotically antifragile. In that scenario, risk becomes rewarding.

I want to be careful here about using the word feedback, its ambiguities could be confusing. Given that, I'm interested in knowing what you mean about ignoring the disincentives skin-in-the-game creates. Could you please expand on that?

vlade , April 6, 2020 at 10:07 am

Feedback as reference to external stimuli is ok.

My problem with Taleb's skin in the game is that, as he well knows, it's hard to distinguish luck (good or bad) and skill. How can we punish for luck though?

Think of a judge, who gets, through his skill, 99 out of 100 cases right. But the 100th – which, by pure luck, could be really large case – he gets wrong.

Or, even simpler. Technically, if you do one decision a day, and have 99% success rate, every three months you get somethign wrong (1-0.99^60 = 0.54) more likely than not. Should you be punished for this? If we yes, then people will start takin decisions where alternate history is hard to prove, i.e. you create a selection bias towards "do nothing". You can then be punished for "doing nothing" but most of the time "do nothing" is a safe choice. (it's a specific case of "go with the crowd")

Also, in decision making, context is extremely important (which is why courts go to super lenghts to establish it in judical cases). Taleb should know it, and he should also know that unless context is taken into account _in_full_ then the skin-in-the-game will not be seen as fair. But the problem is, the context can never be fully established, and rarely w/o the participation of the major decision maker. Who will have no incentive to participate. Which will hamper learning from it.

Skin in the game makes sense when you can clearly separate luck and skill, and clearly establish context. Even one of those is rare occasion, both is extremely so.

That said, you can often establish post fact when someone blew up (this is what the various enuiries do). And then you'd treat accordingly. But that's not skin-in-the-game, because again, the enquiry can establish that you acted in good faith, as most people would act at the time – and so assign no blame. So you may "fail honourably".

Skin in the game does not let you fail honourably – because it's not skin in the game anymore (because it can let you game the system again, via doing just enough to pass any future enquiry as "more could have been done, but there's no clear knowing dereliction of duty).

TLDR; skin-in-the-game is an attempt at simplictic solution to a complex problem. Taleb should know better.

Steve H. , April 6, 2020 at 10:58 am

Thanks, vlade. I shall ponder this.

[Apr 06, 2020] I wish it were so simple to merely say "private sector bad, government good". But the rot has set in from top to bottom across all aspects of how we manage our society and whether or not it started in the private sector, it has well and truly spread to infect the public sector, too.

Apr 06, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Clive , April 6, 2020 at 11:02 am

If only it was as simple as saying that services operated by the state were fine, it's private capital where the problem lies.

It's not. This is a societal and cultural problem.

There are employer "pushes" towards the deskilling and degrading of levels of operational competence. One is employers ( both public sector and private sector) do not want to pay for training and to retain a body of experienced employees because both of these cost money up-front with a payoff (in the form of competent, knowledgeable staff) that comes only slowly, later. And a churn of staff is seen as the sign, wrongly, but this is what the MBAs sell as snake oil, of a dynamic, healthy organization which is bringing in (through a process which never seems to be adequately explained) new talent.

Plus, of course, most obviously, younger and newer employees are cheaper so your average headcount cost is lower which is usually a management metric -- often one which is incentive-ised through reward.

There are also employee "pulls" -- and again, these are not just observed in the private sector. You see them in medicine, academia and even, most bizarrely, the arts. An example of these employee-instigated causes of a reduction in capability is that it becomes in-cultural-ated that if you spend too long in the same place, you're only doing so out of necessity because you're so useless, no-one else will employ you. So even if don't really want to move onto a different organization or a different field of work outside your skillset, you feel you have to, in order to avoid looking "stale", "resistant to change", "stuck in your comfort zone" or any other of the myriad of thought-crimes which you don't want, in today's job market, to be seen to having evidence of committing. And also, as collective union bargaining has gone the way of the dinosaur, more often than not, if you want a raise you have to threaten to quit to get one. But again, more often than not, your current employer will call your bluff and let you leave. So you have to have another job lined up to to go to, if you're not to fall into a trap of flouncing off in a huff but having no other work to walk straight into. While your current employer might not, if they were honest, want to lose you, the dynamics of the workplace being what they are, neither side can then climb down from the ultimatums they've just served.

Yes, there are some notable poster-children of how private enterprise has committed suicide through the wanton bloodletting of its skilled employees (Boeing being a recent case-in-point). But even if you cast your gaze in the direction of public employers, this same phenomena can be found in universities, colleges and K-12 schools (where faculties are no longer bolstered by a strong bench of tenured staff, contract and non-tenured hire-and-fire disposable staff are now the norm, I won't even go there on the effect of charter schools) healthcare (even in the UK's entirely public sector NHS, there is huge reliance on contract and agency staff which the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted and the government is trying, belatedly and without any clear indication it can do so in the short term to redress this and avoid being price-gouged). Or federal and state regulators which now simply do not understand the businesses they are supposed to be regulating and have to buy-in external "expertise" (and merely exacerbate the revolving door problem).

In summary, I wish it were so simple to merely say "private sector bad, government good". But the rot has set in from top to bottom across all aspects of how we manage our shared organizational maturity (or, should I say, now, fix our shared organizational immaturity) and whether or not it started in the private sector, it has well and truly spread to infect the public sector, too. This was the unmistakable point of the post, so it bears re-reading it again with a particular emphasis on understanding why this is the case.

[Apr 06, 2020] More about Bill Gates and hs efforts

Apr 06, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Prof K , Apr 5 2020 14:55 utc | 1

Another angle in your post is the interesting role of "enlightened" capitalists -- the Krafts, Bill Gates, and soon to be others.

They are trying to fill the chasm in infrastructure, supplies and social cohesion created by the capitalist state and private capital.

Some of their efforts might pan out and be useful.

But they represent the wrong politics.

The crisis is not just about a virus and the lack of a medical cure; it is systemic: the social, political and economic order of America is institutionally and culturally unable to mobilize for virus prevention and suppression.

It literally takes a peoples' war. China wasn't lying.

And the billionaire philanthropists actually don't want us to think and act that way. Don't praise them. They want us to return to the old normal of grotesque neoliberal capitalism that made them rich beyond words.

Living in a quiet Boston suburb, I can see this clearly. The poor are still going out to work, dying, or suffering at home. The rich are off to the Cape, having food deliveries from uninsured, precarious workers, and have no concept of a collective effort as they continue to work for themselves from home.

There is no peak coming soon any time soon.

[Apr 06, 2020] Patrick Armstrong

Apr 06, 2020 | turcopolier.typepad.com

02 April 2020 at 05:56 PM

div S omething seems to have happened. Germany story. OK. but something seems to have happened. https://www.politico.eu/article/trump-coronavirus-vaccine-germany-curevac/

Fred , 02 April 2020 at 09:11 PM

Patrick,

I'm sure something did. "to secure exclusive rights" is in that story. It sounds like somebody in Gemany is throwing that company under the bus. "There are open questions about CureVac's leadership. CEO Daniel Menichella, a U.S. citizen, had to abruptly leave the company after he participated earlier this month in a White House meeting where Trump reportedly approached him with his offer." Somebody got a promotion, now would a carefully leaked fake story manage that during times like this?

Did you hear the latest about 3M, N95 masks and distributorships prioritzation on Tucker Carlson tonight?

[Apr 05, 2020] John Maynard Keynes quote Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady...

As we see that during coronavirus epidemic Keynes some saying are more true then ever.
Apr 05, 2020 | www.azquotes.com

Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill done.

[Apr 05, 2020] Under neoliberalism the goverment failed to perform the most basic duty of any economic system: to protect and maintain public health and safety. U.S. capitalism's response to the coronavirus was too little, too late

Apr 05, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

In short, capitalism had built up vulnerabilities to another crash that any number of possible triggers could unleash. The trigger this time was not the dot.com meltdown of 2000 or the sub-prime meltdown of 2008/9; it was a virus. And of course, mainstream ideology requires focusing on the trigger, not the vulnerability. Thus mainstream policies aim to reestablish pre-virus capitalism. Even if they succeed, that will return us to a capitalist system whose accumulated vulnerabilities will soon again collapse from yet another trigger.

​In the light of the coronavirus pandemic, I focus criticism on capitalism and the vulnerabilities it has accumulated for several reasons. Viruses are part of nature. They have attacked human beings -- sometimes dangerously -- in both distant and recent history. In 1918, the Spanish Flu killed nearly 700,000 in the United States and millions elsewhere. Recent viruses include SARS, MERS andEbola. What matters to public health is each society's preparedness: stockpiled tests, masks, ventilators, hospital beds, trained personnel, etc., to manage dangerous viruses. In the U.S., such objects are produced by private capitalist enterprises whose goal is profit. It was not profitable to produce and stockpile such products, that was not and still is not being done.

Nor did the U.S. government produce or stockpile those medical products. Top U.S. government personnel privilege private capitalism; it is their primary objective to protect and strengthen. The result is that neither private capitalism nor the U.S. government performed the most basic duty of any economic system: to protect and maintain public health and safety. U.S. capitalism's response to the coronavirus pandemic continues to be what it has been since December 2019: too little, too late. It failed. It is the problem.

The second reason I focus on capitalism is that the responses to today's economic collapse by Trump, the GOP and most Democrats carefully avoid any criticism of capitalism. They all debate the virus, China, foreigners, other politicians, but never the system they all serve. When Trump and others press people to return to churches and jobs -- despite risking their and others' lives -- they place reviving a collapsed capitalism ahead of public health.

The third reason capitalism gets blame here is that alternative systems -- those not driven by a profit-first logic -- could manage viruses better. While not profitable to produce and stockpile everything needed for a viral pandemic, it is efficient. The wealth already lost in this pandemic far exceeds the cost to have produced and stockpiled the tests and ventilators, the lack of which is contributing so much to today's disaster. Capitalism often pursues profit at the expense of more urgent social needs and values. In this, capitalism is grossly inefficient. This pandemic is now bringing that truth home to people.

A worker-coop based economy -- where workers democratically run enterprises, deciding what, how and where to produce, and what to do with any profits -- could, and likely would, put social needs and goals (like proper preparation for pandemics) ahead of profits. Workers are the majority in all capitalist societies; their interests are those of the majority. Employers are always a small minority; theirs are the "special interests" of that minority. Capitalism gives that minority the position, profits and power to determine how the society as a whole lives or dies. That's why all employees now wonder and worry about how long our jobs, incomes, homes and bank accounts will last -- if we still have them. A minority (employers) decides all those questions and excludes the majority (employees) from making those decisions, even though that majority must live with their results.

Of course, the top priority now is to put public health and safety first. To that end, employees across the country are now thinking about refusing to obey orders to work in unsafe job conditions. U.S. capitalism has thus placed a general strike on today's social agenda. A close second priority is to learn from capitalism's failure in the face of the pandemic. We must not suffer such a dangerous and unnecessary social breakdown again. Thus system change is now also moving onto today's social agenda.


Mark , April 5, 2020 at 5:28 am

Don't blame capitalism. Blame the mistakes of our govenments and "leaders". Blaming 'capitalism' is misses the real failings of our governments.

Isotope_C14 , April 5, 2020 at 5:57 am

Capitalism requires continual growth. That isn't possible on a world of finite resources. No government operating under a capitalist dogma can solve this inherent predicament.

You can blame the leaders all you like, but they are constrained by the system that can't see beyond the next quarterly profit projection.

Jane , April 5, 2020 at 6:23 am

The "real" failing of government is that they value capitalism over public good forgetting that if there is no public there is no capitalism.

cnchal , April 5, 2020 at 7:01 am

The word "capitalism" is a euphemism for "totally corrupt system".

The totally corrupt system has failed.

For example, were this an honest system, Goldman 666 would have been wiped out in the GFC and Blankfein would be living in a cardboard box under a freeway overpass instead of bragging and gloating about doing gawd's work while soaking in his looted billion dollars.

[Apr 05, 2020] If there's one industry where private equity has done the most to directly harm American public, it's health care

Apr 05, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com

This KKR-Backed Healthcare Firm Just Slashed Doctors' Pay In The Middle Of An Unprecedented Pandemic

Even if they aren't exactly certain how the business model works, Twitter blue checks and the rest of the mainstream media - having been whipped into an anti-banker fervor by Bernie Sanders and the last glowing embers of Occupy - never pass up an opportunity to kick private equity in the nuts.

And if there's one industry where private equity has done the most to directly harm American public, it's health care.

Envision's Colorado headquarters

During the latter part of the Democratic primary campaign, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren primed the pump by extolling the evils of private equity to the public every chance they got, helping impress the term into the memory banks of legions of twentysomethings how the industry had contributed to America's health-care crisis, along with a multitude of other societal ills. Now, with the world in the grip of an unprecedented crisis, the industry is about to get pilloried once again - but this, much, much bigger than before, we suspect - as private equity-backed health-care companies, loaded down from their LBO debt binges, are forced to make cutbacks including slashing pay for doctors and nurses in the middle of a pandemic that has already killed nearly 9,500 Americans.

And now the KKR-backed Envision Healthcare Corp., one of the biggest medical providers backed by private equity, is poised to become the poster-child for Wall Street greed as it informs hundreds of doctors in its employ will not be receiving the bonus checks they had been expecting in April. Though we suspect this isn't a complete surprise, the cuts will deprive hundreds of doctors of roughly one-third of their total comp during an already extremely difficult time for them and their families. The company has promised to repay them at a later date once their financial situation has improved.

The move risks igniting a blowback that could make KKR one of "the most hated companies in the world. Just ask Martin Shkreli.

But the reason the company's financial position is so poor in the first place is because Envision carries more than $7 billion of debt. This debt was amassed during what was, according to data compiled by Bloomberg , the third-largest health-care LBO ever.

In a statement, Envision said it's "100% focused" on saving lives during this crisis, even though its business (ambulatory surgical centers and medical staffing) shrank more than 75% in two weeks, Bloomberg said. With so many Americans hiding at home and fearful of entering hospitals and doctor's offices, people are delaying elective and non-emergency care at unprecedented rates.

"We are on the front lines caring for patients during this unprecedented public health and economic crisis," the Nashville, Tennessee-based company said. "Envision Healthcare is 100 percent focused on saving lives and sustaining the nation's fragile health-care system. The safety net we provide for millions of patients must remain fully intact for when we get to the other side of this national crisis."

Like many companies, Envision completely drew down its two credit lines to provide financial flexibility in recent weeks (apparently it didn't listen to Larry Kudlow and Mnuchin). The company spends about $1.5 billion on compensation for physicians quarterly, an insider reportedly told BBG. The company has about $140 million to $150 million in debt payments due in the next two weeks, according to Mike Holland of Bloomberg Intelligence, and has $650 million of cash on its balance sheet. It has warned investors that it might need to raise more financing if circumstances continue to deteriorate.

The biggest problem for KKR, is that some of the physician groups are planning to sue the company; litigation could draw unwanted attention to KKR at a time when public anger is dangerously high.

But as the 'cockroach' theory suggests, Envision isn't alone: The boom in LBOs (part of the binge on corporate debt that also fueled the surge in buybacks) left many companies, especially in the health-care space, where many companies were built via a series of costly mergers and acquisitions.

[Apr 05, 2020] Did Bill Gates Just Reveal the Reason Behind the Lock-Downs

Apr 05, 2020 | off-guardian.org

Jane In summary, all who were rich will be infinitely richer, But we will also have a flood-tide of people who will always be poorer. This will be another consequence of this fake epidemic, perhaps, who knows, created on purpose.

A comment on Peter Hitchens' article in today's Mail on Sunday (5th April) provided a link to an interview with Italian nano-pathologist Dr Stefano Montanari. Since he doesn't appear in OffG among the first twelve or subsequent ten scientists questioning the official Covid-19 narrative I am providing the link here in case anyone is interested. The site itself seems to have a save white identity bias, but in these strange times, politics makes strange bedfellows. https://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2020/04/04/the-coronavirus-and-galileo-an-interview-with-a-italian-nano-pathologist-dr-stefano-montanari/ 2 0 Reply Apr 5, 2020 1:38 PM

George Mc ,

Interesting interview. This bit especially:

There is one point we did not touch -- the economic, which is not part of my competence. We are now blocking the world and, as for Italy, the economy was already at a low point. What do they do? They freeze all activities but keep the stock exchange open. Stocks reach a low bottom. What does it mean? The ultra billionaire can easily purchase companies that are now worth pennies.

When eventually it will be decided that the (coronavirus) farce is ended -- and nothing will end because this virus will continue undaunted to do what it's doing now (or its evolving strains will do), the ultra-billionaires will own everything. The rich (a degree below the billionaires) will have bought, say, 3–4 restaurants and/or 10 stores that had to close.

In summary, all who were rich will be infinitely richer, But we will also have a flood-tide of people who will always be poorer. This will be another consequence of this fake epidemic, perhaps, who knows, created on purpose.

[Apr 05, 2020] The Death of American Competence by Stephen M. Walt

Notable quotes:
"... John Allen , Nicholas Burns , Laurie Garrett , Richard N. Haass , G. John Ikenberry , Kishore Mahbubani , Shivshankar Menon , Robin Niblett , Joseph S. Nye Jr. , Shannon K. O'Neil , Kori Schake , Stephen M. Walt ..."
Mar 23, 2020 | foreignpolicy.com

No matter how the federal government responded, the United States was never going to escape COVID-19 entirely. Even Singapore, whose response to the virus seems to be the gold standard thus far, has several hundred confirmed cases . Nonetheless, U.S. President Donald Trump's administration's belated, self-centered, haphazard, and tone-deaf response will end up costing Americans trillions of dollars and thousands of otherwise preventable deaths. Even if the view that the dangers may have been exaggerated due to a lack of accurate data turns out to be correct, Trump's entire approach to governing and the administration's erratic response squandered public confidence and made a more measured reaction untenable. Despite his denials, he is still responsible for where the country is today.

But that's not the only damage the United States will suffer. Far from making "America great again," this epic policy failure will further tarnish the United States' reputation as a country that knows how to do things effectively.

For over a century, the United States' outsized influence around the world rested on three pillars. The first was the its awesome combination of economic and military strength. The United States had the world's largest and most sophisticated economy, the world's best universities and research centers, and a territory blessed with bountiful natural resources. These features eventually enabled the United States to create and maintain military forces that none of its rivals could match. Taken together, these combined assets gave the United States the loudest voice on the planet.

The second pillar was support from an array of allies. No country every agreed with everything Washington wanted to do, and some states opposed almost everything the United States sought or stood for, but many countries understood that they benefited from U.S. leadership and were usually willing to go along with it. Although the United States was almost always acting in its own self-interest, the fact that others had similar interests made it easier to persuade them to go along.

[ Mapping the Coronavirus Outbreak: Get daily updates on the pandemic and learn how it's affecting countries around the world.]

A third pillar, however, is broad confidence in U.S. competence. When other countries recognize the United States' strength, support its aims and believe U.S. officials know what they are doing, they are more likely to follow the United States' lead. If they doubt its power, its wisdom, or its ability to act effectively, U.S. global influence inevitably erodes. This reaction is entirely understandable: If the United States' leaders reveal themselves to be incompetent bunglers, why should foreign powers listen to their advice? Having a reputation for competence, in short, can be a critical force multiplier.

The glowing reputation that Americans used to enjoy was built up over many decades. It was partly a reflection of the United States' industrial might and world-class infrastructure: the network of highways, roads, railways, bridges, skyscrapers, dams, harbors, and airports that used to dazzle foreign visitors upon their arrival. Victory in World War II, the creation of the Bretton Woods economic institutions, innovative acts such as the Marshall Plan, and the successful moon landing all reinforced an image of the United States as a place where people knew how to set ambitious goals and bring them successfully to fruition.

Even blunders such as the Vietnam War did not fully tarnish the aura of competence that surrounded the United States. Indeed, the peaceful and victorious end of the Cold War and the smashing U.S. victory in the 1990-1991 Gulf War exorcized the ghosts of Vietnam and made the United States' model of liberal democratic capitalism seem like the obvious model for others to emulate. Add to that a continued stream of technological innovations -- the personal computer, the smartphone, and all those fancy weapons -- and one can understand why people around the world still looked upon the United States as a meritocratic, accomplished, and above all, competent country. Small wonder pundits such as Tom Friedman began to portray the United States as the only viable model for an increasingly globalized world , telling aspiring countries that if they wanted to succeed, they had to don the "Golden Straitjacket" and become more like the United States.

Over the past 25 years, however, the United States has done a remarkable job of squandering that invaluable reputation for responsible leadership and basic competence. The list of transgressions is long: there is former President Bill Clinton's irresponsible dalliance with a White House intern, former President George W. Bush's administration's failure to heed warnings of a terrorist attack before 9/11, the Enron and Madoff scandals, the bungled responses to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Maria in 2017, the inability to either win or end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the ill-advised interventions in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere, the Wall Street meltdown of 2008, the Boeing 737 Max debacle, the Republican-led gridlock in Washington, and so on. Nor should we forget the long-concealed criminal misdeeds of Harvey Weinstein (and many others) and the sordid tale of the very well-connected Jeffrey Epstein, whose conveniently timed demise in a New York jail may prevent us from ever knowing the full extent of his -- and others' -- misconduct.

Read More

How the World Will Look After the Coronavirus Pandemic

The pandemic will change the world forever. We asked 12 leading global thinkers for their predictions.

Analysis | John Allen , Nicholas Burns , Laurie Garrett , Richard N. Haass , G. John Ikenberry , Kishore Mahbubani , Shivshankar Menon , Robin Niblett , Joseph S. Nye Jr. , Shannon K. O'Neil , Kori Schake , Stephen M. Walt

And all the while the United States told itself it was the greatest country in the world, with the ablest officials, the best-run businesses, the most sophisticated financial firms, and the most virtuous leaders. Instead, former Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov's description of life in the Soviet Union may be a more accurate description of American life than Americans would like to admit: "[We] stole from ourselves, took and gave bribes, lied in the reports, in newspapers, from high podiums, wallowed in our lies, hung medals on one another. And all of this -- from top to bottom and from bottom to top."

Then came COVID-19. Trump's handling of the crisis has been an embarrassing debacle from the start -- despite repeated warnings -- but it was also utterly predictable. His long business career has shown that he was more of a showman than a leader, better at conning people out of money and evading responsibility than at managing complex business operations. His tawdry personal life offered equally clear warnings. Since taking office, Trump has perfected the art of the lie, while gradually purging his administration of people with genuine expertise and relying instead on B-list hacks, sycophants, and his unqualified son-in-law. When suddenly faced with a complicated problem requiring grown-up leadership, it was inevitable that Trump would mishandle it and then deny responsibility . It is a failure of character unparalleled in U.S. history, and it could not have come at a worse time . The amazing thing is that anyone is even remotely surprised.

How did the United States get here? How did it squander its reputation for knowing what it is doing, and for being able to get the right things done as well or better than anyone else? I'm not sure, but let me venture a few guesses.

Part of the problem is the hubris that comes from the United States' remarkably favorable history. It has been by far the luckiest country in the modern world, and Americans started to assume that success was their birthright instead of something that needed to be earned, nurtured, and protected. And with that complacency came a willingness to gamble on utterly untried leadership, despite all of the warning signs described above.

A related problem, I'm inclined to think, has been a broader relaxing of standards and a refusal to hold people accountable. One can see this at many universities, where grade inflation is well entrenched, faculty have few incentives to judge poor work harshly, and more attention is paid to sports teams than to genuine academic achievement. The recent college recruiting scandal exposed the lengths to which well-heeled parents would go to get their kids into colleges for which they weren't qualified, but universities have acted similarly when they reserved slots of alumni children ("legacies") or for the offspring of major donors.

I've focused on higher education because that's the business I know best, but this problem is hardly confined there. In the contemporary United States, CEOs mismanage a company such as Boeing and then depart with multimillion-dollar golden parachutes . Top officials in the George W. Bush administration and a chorus of outside cheerleaders deceive themselves and the country into a foolish war in the Middle East, yet hardly any of them suffer adverse professional or personal consequences. Wall Street firms can crater the economy through a combination of greed, indifference, and fraud, and no one gets investigated, let alone prosecuted. Highly decorated generals favor "staying the course" in distant battles, fail to achieve victory, and then retire to corporate boards and influential positions as respected pundits. Meanwhile, whistleblowers and dedicated public servants strive to fulfill their oaths of office, only to be vilified , fired, or worse. When integrity and dedication go unrewarded and failure carries no penalty, competence is bound to suffer.

To speculate further, I suspect a broader cultural current of selfishness is at work here as well. Former President John Kennedy was no saint, but he did devote his adult life to public service and told Americans to "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." By the time Ronald Reagan became president, however, Americans were being told that government was the enemy and (to quote the film Wall Street ) that "greed is good." The market was everything, public service was devalued, and taxes were for suckers. Having spent decades hollowing out many of their public institutions, Americans suddenly find themselves unprepared for a real public crisis. The apotheosis of this trend is Trump himself: How could a serious country possibly choose as its leader a narcissistic, manifestly unqualified self-promoter with a long track record of failure and deceit?

Am I overstating the case? Perhaps. There are plenty of American firms that still do terrific and innovative work; there are tens of thousands of scientists and scholars who remain more committed to searching for truth than to making a fast buck, and there are politicians and public servants at the local, state, and federal levels who are more interested in doing good than in getting reelected or feathering their own nests . There are dedicated teachers and hard-working students at every level of the U.S. educational system. But the rot is still widespread.

Absent a reversal of this trend, the United States' global influence will continue to recede. Not because the country has embraced "America First" and deliberately chosen to disengage, but because people around the world will not take its ideas or advice as seriously as they once did. They'll listen, perhaps, and they may agree with it from time to time, but the deference U.S. leaders used to be able to count on will fade. Once COVID-19 is over, Americans are likely to discover to their chagrin that other voices ( Beijing, anyone?) are receiving more respectful attention. That's not an omen of imminent disaster, but it will be a different world than the one Americans have been accustomed to inhabiting. At the margin, the broad contours of world politics and some important aspects of the world economy will no longer slant so heavily in the United States' favor.

Can this situation be fixed? I don't know. Cultural rot cannot be fixed by legislation, executive orders, or even jeremiads like this one. One may hope that the present crisis will remind enough Americans that having competent and reliable people in key leadership positions really matters, and that holding people more accountable for corruption, cronyism, or sheer incompetence is essential to effective public policies. Whether you favor a big welfare state or a small libertarian one, you should above all want it to be competently led and staffed with knowledgeable and dedicated experts. Whoever the next president is, he needs to staff his administration with people who have demonstrated qualifications for the jobs they are assigned, instead of being chosen for their personal loyalty or their talents as sycophants.

Americans will need to rethink a political system that recruits and rewards those who are most adept at selling themselves to the highest bidder. And there has to be something seriously wrong with a political system that has devoted many months and spent billions of dollars preparing for the 2020 election and ends up giving the country a choice between three old white guys. For that matter, Americans ought to rethink whether spending a full year electing someone to a four year term makes any sense at all . No other advanced democracy does it this way. And while we're at it, let's scrap the absurd Electoral College, an indefensible relic that systematically disempowers voters in most of the country.

Looking forward, the possibility of fundamental political change is the only silver lining I can see right now. America hasn't faced a crisis like this since the 1930s and 1940s, and it was in a better position to meet those challenges then than it is today. But a previous generation of Americans eventually rose to the occasion, and showed themselves and the world what their country could do. It is upon Americans now to remember that experience, put the past few decades of hubris, division, and indulgence aside, and prove that their country is still competent enough to figure out what it needs to do. And then they need to do it.

[Apr 04, 2020] The real problem may eventually be can we prevent the deaths and destruction caused by the corporate neoliberal virus.

Apr 04, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Blue Dotterel , Apr 3 2020 19:26 utc | 15

The real problem may eventually be can we prevent the deaths and destruction caused by the corporate neoliberal virus.

We can deal with Covid 19.

[Apr 02, 2020] Putin says 'the rich must pay' for the corona-virus by Mike Whitney

Apr 02, 2020 | www.unz.com

cassandra , says: Show Comment March 28, 2020 at 9:03 pm GMT

Putin, like western leaders, often discusses national problems during his appearances. But afterwards, he'll query responsible ministers about questionable policies, and will make sure that an effective solution will be put in place. He'll also mention problems during his speeches, and will then follow the discussion, usually in some detail, with how progress is being made to fix them.

Western leaders, on the other hand, engage in hand-wringing about how difficult the problems are, and that we'll have to learn to helplessly adapt ("It's a new economy", "These jobs aren't coming back."), or fob off their responsibility with dysfunctional suggestions ("Learn to code," as if that were a solution, or impose an economic package on Greece that will take until 2040 just to find out whether it might be working), or just pride themselves on realizing there's a problem (like the EU, who considers it an accomplishment to "identify challenges", and who adopted a policy of wait and see for COVID-19).

There's such a palpable difference between actual leadership and play-acting.

Trump, Sanders and Tulsi all share 3 things: 1) proposals for policies to improve circumstances that involve making real changes to the status quo 2) strong grassroots based on disgust with elite policies 3) accusations that they are agents of Putin.

I dunno, if the elites kep attempting to thwart competent domestic leadership, maybe we should shoot for an amendment that puts Putin directly on the ballot. At least he would know how to get elected. Then, we cut through the innuendo and make it clear that what voters want is actual leadership. What have we got to lose?

[Apr 02, 2020] NY paying 15 times going rate to get crucial medical equipment report TheHill

Apr 02, 2020 | thehill.com

New York is paying inflated rates as high as 15 times the regular price to get crucial medical equipment such as masks, as the state struggles to contain the coronavirus, ProPublica

reported Thursday.

The state with almost 40 percent of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country is paying 20 cents for gloves that typically cost three times less and $7.50 for masks, which is 15 times the regular price, according to an analysis of payment data by ProPublica.

New York also has paid more than twice the typical cost for infusion pumps. A portable X-ray machine cost the state $248,841, when it should be between $30,000 and $80,000.

States across the country have complained to the federal government about severe shortages of equipment. They say they've been forced to compete with other states or countries for precious materials.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has compared the situation to "being on eBay with 50 other states" and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

New York expects to lose $15 billion in costs and lost revenue from the pandemic.

"We know that New York and other states are in the market at the same time, along with the rest of the world, bidding on these same items, which is clearly driving the fluctuation in costs," budget office spokesman Freeman Klopott said in an email to ProPublica.

[Apr 01, 2020] One Of The Worst Coverups In Human History MSM Attention Turns To Chinese Biolab Near COVID-19 Ground Zero

Apr 01, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com

In late January we asked whether a prolific Chinese scientist who was experimenting with bat coronavirus at a level-4 biolab in Wuhan China was responsible for the current outbreak of a virus which is 96% genetically identical - and which saw an explosion in cases at a wet market located just down the street .

For suggesting this, we were kicked off Twitter and had the pleasure of several articles written by MSM hacks regarding our 'conspiracy theory' - none of which addressed the plethora of hard evidence linked in the post. These are the same people, mind you, who pushed the outlandish and evidence-free Trump-Russia conspiracy theory for years .

Whether or not the virus was engineered (scientists swear it wasn't) - it shouldn't take Perry Mason to conclude that a virulent coronavirus outbreak which started near a biolab that was experimenting with -- coronavirus -- bears scrutiny . Could a lab worker have accidentally infected themselves - then gone shopping for meat at the market over several days, during the long, asymptomatic incubation period?

In February, researchers Botao Xial and Lei Xiao published a quickly-retracted paper titled "The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus" - which speculated that the virus came from the Wuhan biolab.

Now, mainstream outlets are catching on - or at least have become brave enough to similarly connect the dots.

Earlier this week, Fox News ' Tucker Carlson suggested that COVID-19 may have originated in a lab.

Tucker Carlson is currently citing a report that he openly admits he can't confirm is true to question if coronavirus was made in a lab pic.twitter.com/CTxrJtw0Sh

-- Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) April 1, 2020

And now, the Washington Times is out with a report titled "Chinese researchers isolated deadly bat coronaviruses near Wuhan animal market."

Chinese government researchers isolated more than 2,000 new viruses, including deadly bat coronaviruses, and carried out scientific work on them just three miles from a wild animal market identified as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several Chinese state media outlets in recent months touted the virus research and lionized in particular a key researcher in Wuhan , Tian Junhua , as a leader in bat virus work.

The coronavirus strain now infecting hundreds of thousands of people globally mutated from bats believed to have infected animals and people at a wild animal market in Wuhan . The exact origin of the virus, however, remains a mystery. - Washington Times

"This is one of the worst cover-ups in human history, and now the world is facing a global pandemic," said Texas GOP Rep. Michael T. McFoul - a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee . McFoul believes China should be held accountable for the outbreak.

Meanwhile, a video from December funded by the Chinese government shows Tian collecting samples from captured bats and storing them in vials.

"I am not a doctor, but I work to cure and save people," said Tian, adding "I am not a soldier, but I work to safeguard an invisible national defense line."

The mainstream theory behind the virus is that it crossed over to humans after first infecting an intermediary species - such as a pangolin.

Read the rest of the report here .

[Apr 01, 2020] Pandemic-Related Unemployment And Shutdowns Are A Recipe For Social Unrest

Mar 31, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com
Authored by J.D.Tuccille via Reason.com,

Could the stalled economy we've inflicted on ourselves in our frantic efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic lead to civil disorder? History suggests that's a real danger.

Around the world, high unemployment and stagnant economic activity tend to lead to social unrest, including demonstrations, strikes, and other forms of potentially violent disruptions. That's a huge concern as forecasters expect the U.S. unemployment rate in the months to come to surpass that seen during the depths of the Great Depression.

"We're putting this initial number at 30 percent; that's a 30 percent unemployment rate" in the second quarter of this year as a result of the planned economic shutdowns, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard told Bloomberg News on March 22. Gross Domestic Product, he adds, is expected to drop by 50 percent.

Unlike most bouts of economic malaise, this is a self-inflicted wound meant to counter a serious public health crisis. But, whatever the reasons, it means businesses shuttered and people without jobs and incomes. That's risky.

"Results from the empirical analysis indicate that economic growth and the unemployment rate are the two most important determinants of social unrest," notes the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations agency that maintains a Social Unrest Index in an attempt to predict civil disorder based, in part, on economic trends. "For example, a one standard deviation increase in unemployment raises social unrest by 0.39 standard deviations, while a one standard deviation increase in GDP growth reduces social unrest by 0.19 standard deviations."

Why would economic shutdowns lead to social unrest? Because, contrary to the airy dismissals of some members of the political class and many ivory-tower types, commerce isn't a grubby embarrassment to be tolerated and avoided -- it's the life's blood of a society. Jobs and businesses keep people alive. They represent the activities that meet demand for food, clothing, shelter -- and that develop and distribute the medicine and medical supplies we need to battle COVID-19.

President Donald Trump may be overly optimistic when he hopes to have the country, including areas hard-hit by the virus, " opened up and just raring to go by Easter ," but he's not wrong to include the economy in his calculations.

By contrast, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's insistence that "if it's public health versus the economy, the only choice is public health," sounds fine and noble. But it reflects an unrealistic and semi-aristocratic disdain for the activities that make fighting the pandemic possible at all -- and that keep social unrest at bay.

While the ILO has tried to quantify the causes of social unrest, its researchers certainly aren't the first to make the connection between angry, unemployed people and trouble in the streets.

At the height of the Great Depression, when U.S. unemployment hit a peak of 24.9 percent , Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration saw make-work programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a means of getting the jobless -- especially young men -- safely into "quasi-military camps often far from home in the nation's publicly owned forests and parks," Joseph M. Speakman wrote for the Fall 2006 issue of Prologue Magazine , a publication of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

"Bringing an army of the unemployed into 'healthful surroundings,' Roosevelt argued, would help to eliminate the threats to social stability that enforced idleness had created," Speakman added.

The program mostly worked -- at least , it confined revolts to the camps themselves , where they were suppressed by Army officers. Those same officers commanded the men when they were drafted and dispatched to even more remote destinations with the coming of World War II.

In fact, the connection between unemployment, stagnant economies, and social unrest is so clear that an important indicator for a large underground economy is relative peace prevailing alongside a chronically high unemployment rate.

If 21 percent of the workforce "were jobless, Spain would not be as peaceful as, barring a few demonstrations, it has so far been, say economists and business leaders," the Financial Times noted in 2011. Sure enough, researchers found that off-the-books businesses and jobs thrived in Spain -- accounting for the equivalent of a quarter of GDP at one point -- keeping people employed and defusing tensions.

Bullard of the Fed doesn't propose shipping the jobless off to the wilderness -- at least, not yet -- and he doesn't seem inclined to rely on the black market to keep people fed, warm, and healthy. Instead, to defuse the impact of the social-distancing shutdowns of normal economic activity, he calls for lost income to be replaced by unemployment insurance and other payments that would make displaced workers and business owners whole.

He better be right that government checks -- drawing on money from the thin air and not generated by an economy that has largely halted, I'll note -- can offset the pain of lost jobs and businesses, because the first wave of the unemployment he predicts is already here.

"In the week ending March 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 3,283,000, an increase of 3,001,000 from the previous week's revised level," the United States Department of Labor announced on Thursday, March 26.

"This marks the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series."

Those disturbed by such economic collapse include public health professionals who take COVID-19 very seriously.

"I am deeply concerned that the social, economic and public health consequences of this near total meltdown of normal life -- schools and businesses closed, gatherings banned -- will be long lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself," wrote David L. Katz, former director of Yale University's Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, in The New York Times last week.

"The stock market will bounce back in time, but many businesses never will. The unemployment, impoverishment and despair likely to result will be public health scourges of the first order."

Unemployment, impoverishment, and despair are frightening outcomes in themselves. They're also a recipe for social unrest that will afflict even those of us who weather both the pandemic and the accompanying economic storm.

[Mar 31, 2020] The Covid-19 pandemic is the physical manifestation of a deeper disease plaguing the West: Class Warfare

The US government was caught without pants. No supply of masks. Can you imagine that for a country with trillion military budget.
Notable quotes:
"... Take a look around: Unemployment may reach 30%. The poor are starting to protest–actually strike! GM, Amazon, Chicago Teacher's Union, GE, Instacart ..."
"... As jobs were outsourced to slave labor camps in China and elsewhere, the rich and privileged smiled as their portfolios grew, as CEO raked in the cash and then buried it in off-shore accounts. ..."
"... When the working class complained about jobs being lost, factories being closed, it was told to get a better education, to make itself valuable to the bosses. What a joke! ..."
"... The DNC always plays footsie with the rich as does the GOP–equal plunderers. Universal Health Care is just too expensive! Their all monsters, crafty grifters. ..."
"... The mass media, now firmly serve the DNC and the GOP, studiously ignore this rot. A rotten building will fall. Times up. Game is Over. ..."
Mar 31, 2020 | angrybearblog.com
The Covid-19 pandemic is the physical manifestation of a deeper disease plaguing the West: Class Warfare. The veil has been lifted. Social distancing, a legitimate response to Covid-19, predominately affects the working class.

Fortunately, Covid-19 is an equal opportunity plague: As the rich and powerful congratulated each other, as they moved among the rightfully adoring crowds oops, I think I caught something! Just hazards of the games they play. Certainly, it was never contracted on the factory floor.

Suddenly the rich and privileged claim they are in the same boat. Really? Mega-yachts are handy get-aways, as are well-protected island boltholes.

And who is supposed to do the nasty work, who has little opportunity to run and hide, who must do the the work that makes actual existence possible? Not the rich.

Who can work from home and not lose his or her job?

Rich and powerful women now have to cut their own nails! Oh, the shame of it. They have to dye their own hair–coif themselves! What no colorist?

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics-news/friends-cant-get-nails-done-coronavirus-fox-news-973716/

The rich and powerful want the poor to go back to work. Who else will make them money? Who else will save the Stock Market? Meanwhile, the poor are losing their jobs; they do not have fall-back pensions or able to take advantage of Capital Gains. How will they pay their rent? Their bills? Their healthcare? Their debts?

Take a look around: Unemployment may reach 30%. The poor are starting to protest–actually strike! GM, Amazon, Chicago Teacher's Union, GE, Instacart

As jobs were outsourced to slave labor camps in China and elsewhere, the rich and privileged smiled as their portfolios grew, as CEO raked in the cash and then buried it in off-shore accounts.

When the working class complained about jobs being lost, factories being closed, it was told to get a better education, to make itself valuable to the bosses. What a joke!

When many tried to get an education, they were faced with absurd college costs, incredible debt, and thanks to those in control an inability to declare bankruptcy! Thanks, Joe.

And now, ever thoughtful Nancy Pelosi wants to reward the rich and privileged with ta ta!.., a lifting of the Salt Cap.

The DNC always plays footsie with the rich as does the GOP–equal plunderers. Universal Health Care is just too expensive! Their all monsters, crafty grifters.

Meanwhile, economists sang the praises of Free Trade. The GOP loved it; the DNC loved it. Neo-liberalism: the goose that always lays the golden eggs.

The mass media, now firmly serve the DNC and the GOP, studiously ignore this rot. A rotten building will fall. Times up. Game is Over.

likbez , March 31, 2020 9:27 pm

Thank you Stormy,

A very good analysis. A lot of emotions too ;-)

When the working class complained about jobs being lost, factories being closed, it was told to get a better education, to make itself valuable to the bosses. What a joke!

Neoliberalism is an ideology make on a set of myths. In other words this is a secular religion.

The DNC always plays footsie with the rich as does the GOP–equal plunderers. Universal Health Care is just too expensive! Their all monsters, crafty grifters.

No question they are. That's by design. The key role of DNC is to squash political forces to the left of Clinton faction, and to neutralize/coopt politicians which do not support the neoliberal/neocon consensus.

Meanwhile, economists sang the praises of Free Trade. The GOP loved it; the DNC loved it. Neo-liberalism: the goose that always lays the golden eggs.

Neoliberal revolution which culminated in the election of Reagan (which started under Carter) was a coup d'état by financial oligarchy. It signified that the New Deal consensus was broken and countervailing forces were weakened enough to ensure the success of the coup.

One thing with which I respectfully disagree:

The mass media, now firmly serve the DNC and the GOP, studiously ignore this rot. A rotten building will fall. Times up. Game is Over.

Not sure the game is over. I do not see powerful enough social forces that can oppose financial oligarchy. The anger does built up, but it is powerless. And their control of the state is absolute (which also means the control of intelligence agencies).

The population is brainwashed and disunited via identity politics.

In modern USA society that means that any attempt to build such a coalition with be squashed by the national security state.

[Mar 30, 2020] Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43

Mar 30, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

dennis , Mar 29 2020 17:12 utc | 14

Likklemore | Mar 29 2020 15:27 utc | 6

US prescient healthcare (for billionaires), this is the bomb that will detonate over the next month:

Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43
https://time.com/5806312/coronavirus-treatment-cost/

If allowed to happen, and without the appearance of a significant medical therapy tool across the USA - the fallout of foreseeable foreclosures will make it a nuclear weapon. Given bank turnaround timescales this will be just in time for next winter/elections... Faced with this Trump of all people may be forced to adopt some major socialist principles.

https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2020/what-are-state-officials-doing-make-private-health-insurance-work-better-consumers-during

[Mar 29, 2020] Why Didn't We Test Our Trade's 'Antifragility' Before COVID-19 by Gene Callahan and Joe Norman

Highly recommended!
Mar 28, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com

On April 21, 2011, the region of Amazon Web Services covering eastern North America crashed. The crash brought down the sites of large customers such as Quora, Foursquare, and Reddit. It took Amazon over a week to bring its system fully back online, and some customer data was lost permanently.

But one company whose site did not crash was Netflix. It turns out that Netflix had made themselves "antifragile" by employing software they called "Chaos Monkey," which regularly and randomly brought down Netflix servers. By continually crashing their own servers, Netflix learned how to nevertheless keep other portions of their network running. And so when Amazon US-East crashed, Netflix ran on, unfazed.

This phenomenon is discussed by Nassim Taleb in his book Antifragile : a system that depends on the absence of change is fragile. The companies that focused on keeping all of their servers up and running all the time went completely offline when Amazon crashed from under them. But the company that had exposed itself to lots of little crashes could handle the big crash. That is because the minor, "undesirable" changes stress the system in a way that can make it stronger.

The idea of antifragility does not apply only to computer networks. For instance, by trying to eliminate minor downturns in the economy, central bank policy can make that economy extremely vulnerable to a major recession. Running only on treadmills or tracks makes the joints extremely vulnerable when, say, one steps in a pothole in the sidewalk.

What does this have to do with trade policy? For many reasons, such as the recent coronavirus outbreak, flows of goods are subject to unexpected shocks.

Both a regime of "unfettered" free trade, and its opposite, that of complete autarchy, are fragile in the face of such shocks. A trade policy aimed not at complete free trade or protectionism, but at making an economy better at absorbing and adapting to rapid change, is more sane and salutary than either extreme. Furthermore, we suggest practicing for shocks can help make an economy antifragile.

Amongst academic economists, the pure free-trade position is more popular. The case for international trade, absent the artificial interference of government trade policy, is generally based upon the "principle of comparative advantage," first formulated by the English economist David Ricardo in the early 19th century. Ricardo pointed out, quite correctly, that even if, among two potential trading partners looking to trade a pair of goods, one of them is better at producing both of them, there still exist potential gains from trade -- so long as one of them is relatively better at producing one of the goods, and the other (as a consequence of this condition) relatively better at producing the other. For example, Lebron James may be better than his local house painter at playing basketball, and at painting houses, given his extreme athleticism and long reach. But he is so much more "better" at basketball that it can still make sense for him to concentrate on basketball and pay the painter to paint his house.

And so, per Ricardo, it is among nations: even if, say, Sweden can produce both cars and wool sweaters more efficiently than Scotland, if Scotland is relatively less bad at producing sweaters than cars, it still makes sense for Scotland to produce only wool sweaters, and trade with Sweden for the cars it needs.

When we take comparative advantage to its logical conclusion at the global scale, it suggests that each agent (say, nation) should focus on one major industry domestically and that no two agents should specialize in the same industry. To do so would be to sacrifice the supposed advantage of sourcing from the agent who is best positioned to produce a particular good, with no gain for anyone.

Good so far, but Ricardo's case contains two critical hidden assumptions: first, that the prices of the goods in question will remain more or less stable in the global marketplace, and second that the availability of imported goods from specialized producers will remain uninterrupted, such that sacrificing local capabilities for cheaper foreign alternatives.

So what happens in Scotland if the Swedes suddenly go crazy for yak hair sweaters (produced in Tibet) and are no longer interested in Scottish sweaters at all? The price of those sweaters crashes, and Scotland now finds itself with most of its productive capacity specialized in making a product that can only be sold at a loss.

Or what transpires if Scotland is no longer able, for whatever reason, to produce sweaters, but the Swedes need sweaters to keep warm? Swedes were perhaps once able to make their own sweaters, but have since funneled all their resources into making cars, and have even lost the knowledge of sweater-making. Now to keep warm, the Swedes have to rapidly build the infrastructure and workforce needed to make sweaters, and regain the knowledge of how to do so, as the Scots had not only been their sweater supplier, but the only global sweater supplier.

So we see that the case for extreme specialization, based on a first-order understanding of comparative advantage, collapses when faced with a second-order effect of a dramatic change in relative prices or conditions of supply.

That all may sound very theoretical, but collapses due to over-specialization, prompted by international agencies advising developing economies based on naive comparative-advantage analysis, have happened all too often. For instance, a number of African economies, persuaded to base their entire economy on a single good in which they had a comparative advantage (e.g, gold, cocoa, oil, or bauxite), saw their economies crash when the price of that commodity fell. People who had formerly been largely self-sufficient found themselves wage laborers for multinationals in good times, and dependents on foreign charity during bad times.

While the case for extreme specialization in production collapses merely by letting prices vary, it gets even worse for the "just specialize in the single thing you do best" folks once we add in considerations of pandemics, wars, extreme climate change, and other such shocks. We have just witnessed how relying on China for such a high percentage of our medical supplies and manufacturing has proven unwise when faced with an epidemic originating in China.

On a smaller scale, the great urban theorist Jane Jacobs stressed the need for economic diversity in a city if it is to flourish. Detroit's over-reliance on the automobile industry, and its subsequent collapse when that industry largely deserted it, is a prominent example of Jacobs' point. And while Detroit is perhaps the most famous example of a city collapsing due to over-specialization, it is far from the only one .

All of this suggests that trade policy, at any level, should have, as its primary goal, the encouragement of diversity in that level's economic activity. To embrace the extremes of "pure free trade" or "total self-sufficiency" is to become more susceptible to catastrophe from changing conditions. A region that can produce only a few goods is fragile in the face of an event, like the coronavirus, that disrupts the flow of outside goods. On the other hand, turning completely inward, and cutting the region off from the outside, leaves it without outside help when confronting a local disaster, like an extreme drought.

To be resilient as a social entity, whether a nation, region, city, or family, will have a diverse mix of internal and external resources it can draw upon for sustenance. Even for an individual, total specialization and complete autarchy are both bad bets. If your only skill is repairing Sony Walkmen, you were probably pretty busy in 2000, but by today you likely don't have much work. Complete individual autarchy isn't ever really even attempted: if you watch YouTube videos of supposedly "self-reliant" people in the wilderness, you will find them using axes, radios, saws, solar panels, pots and pans, shirts, shoes, tents, and many more goods produced by others.

In the technical literature, having such diversity at multiple scales is referred to as "multiscale variety." In a system that displays multiscale variety, no single scale accounts for all of the diversity of behavior in the system. The practical importance of this is related to the fact that shocks themselves come at different scales. Some shocks might be limited to a town or a region, for instance local weather events, while others can be much more widespread, such as the coronavirus pandemic we are currently facing.

A system with multiscale variety is able to respond to shocks at the scale at which they occur: if one region experiences a drought while a neighboring region does not, agricultural supplementation from the currently abundant region can be leveraged. At a smaller scale, if one field of potatoes becomes infested with a pest, while the adjacent cows in pasture are spared, the family who owns the farm will still be able to feed themselves and supply products to the market.

Understanding this, the question becomes how can trade policy, conceived broadly, promote the necessary variety and resiliency to mitigate and thrive in the face of the unexpected? Crucially, we should learn from the tech companies: practice disconnecting, and do it randomly. In our view there are two important components to the intentional disruption: (1) it is regular enough to generate "muscle memory" type responses; and (2) it is random enough that responses are not "overfit" to particular scenarios.

For an individual or family, implementing such a policy might create some hardships, but there are few institutional barriers to doing so. One week, simply declare, "Let's pretend all of the grocery stores are empty, and try getting by only on what we can produce in the yard or have stockpiled in our house!" On another occasion, perhaps, see if you can keep your house warm for a few days without input from utility companies.

Businesses are also largely free of institutional barriers to practicing disconnecting. A company can simply say, "We are awfully dependent on supplier X: this week, we are not going to order from them, and let's see what we can do instead!" A business can also seek out external alternatives to over-reliance on crucial internal resources: for instance, if your top tech guy can hold your business hostage, it is a good idea to find an outside consulting firm that could potentially fill his role.

When we get up to the scale of the nation, things become (at least institutionally) trickier. If Freedonia suddenly bans the import of goods from Ruritania, even for a week, Ruritania is likely to regard this as a "trade war," and may very well go to the WTO and seek relief. However, the point of this reorientation of trade policy is not to promote hostility to other countries, but to make one's own country more resilient. A possible solution to this problem is that a national government could periodically, at random times, buy all of the imports of some good from some other country, and stockpile them. Then the foreign supplier would have no cause for complaint: its goods are still being purchased! But domestic manufacturers would have to learn to adjust to a disappearance of the supply of palm oil from Indonesia, or tin from China, or oil from Norway.

Critics will complain that such government management of trade flows, even with the noble aim of rendering an economy antifragile, will inevitably be turned to less pure purposes, like protecting politically powerful industrialists. But so what? It is not as though the pursuit of free trade hasn't itself yielded perverse outcomes, such as the NAFTA trade agreement that ran to over one thousand pages. Any good aim is likely to suffer diversion as it passes through the rough-and-tumble of political reality. Thus, we might as well set our sites on an ideal policy, even though it won't be perfectly realized.

We must learn to deal with disruptions when success is not critical to survival. The better we become at responding to unexpected shocks, the lower the cost will be each time we face an event beyond our control that demands an adaptive response. To wait until adaptation is necessary makes us fragile when a real crisis appears. We should begin to develop an antifragile economy today, by causing our own disruptions and learning to overcome them. Deliberately disrupting our own economy may sound crazy. But then, so did deliberately crashing one's own servers, until Chaos Monkey proved that it works.

Gene Callahan teaches at the Tandon School of Engineering at New York University. Joe Norman is a data scientist and researcher at the New England Complex Systems Institute.

My Gana 20 hours ago
Most disruptive force is own demographic change of which govts have known for decades. Caronovirus challenge is nothing compared to what will happen because US ed system discriminated against the poor who will be the majority!
PierrePaul 12 hours ago
What Winston Churchill once said about the Americans is in fact true of all humans: "Americans always end up doing
the right thing once they have exhausted all other options". That's just as true of the French (I write from France) since our government stopped stocking a strategic reserve of a billion breathing-masks in 2013 because "we could buy them in Chine for a lower costs". Now we can't produce enough masks even for our hospitals.

[Mar 29, 2020] The Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Is a $2 Trillion Slush Fund for Washington Cronies by Marshall Auerback

Mar 29, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. Produced by Economy for All , a project of the Independent Media Institute

When historians look back on our current government's response to a public health emergency and resultant economic depression, there won't be many paeans to profiles in courage. It may seem impressive that Congress has approved legislation worth $2 trillion to help sustain the American economy, but it's no New Deal. Rather it's a massive economic slush fund that does its utmost to preserve the old ways of doing things under the guise of masquerading as a response to a public health emergency. In reality, the relief provisions are barely adequate.

Had this been another financial crisis like 2008, it is doubtful that America's oligarch class would be able to secure such huge provision for themselves again. Under the guise of a public health emergency, though, serial corporate predators are being given dollops from this massive public trough with no means of engendering the kind of economic reconstruction that is truly needed right now, or even preventing a sufficiently robust response if this virus comes back in a second or third wave.

As one might expect in a massive bill (representing around 10 percent of U.S. GDP), there are some decent scraps in this dog's breakfast, but overall the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act represents yet another sad indictment of the American polity, even as it provides an excellent civics lesson in teaching us where power truly lies. There's $150 billion allocated to hospitals, many of which are already stretched to capacity, but that's nothing compared to the trillions directed to corporations with minimal disclosure on how those sums are to be allocated, or any conditionality attached. In fact, we appear not to have learned some lessons from 2008, when at least some members of Congress made efforts to scrutinize how we were spending the money. Pam and Russ Martens's superbly informative digging into the more than 800-page-long bill reveals that :

a) The Fed will leverage the bill's $454 million bailout slush fund into $4.5 trillion, and will hand it out through the New York Fed.

b) To ensure that they don't have to answer embarrassing questions about which of their cronies got the money, the bill suspends the Freedom of Information Act for the Fed.

Bloomberg has also confirmed that the NY Fed has outsourced picking the lucky recipients for this slushy cornucopia to a private contractor, BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager (Goldman Sachs apparently has done enough of " God's work " this time). The more things change in Washington, the more they stay the same.

By contrast, the relief provisions are barely adequate. They expand unemployment insurance (an additional $600 per week for up to four months), feature one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. However, the bill neither addresses the chronic inequality that now characterizes the U.S. economy, nor is there provision for the self-employed or the millions of independent contractor workers who have no employee benefits.

A better template would have been something along the lines of what was legislated in Norway, although it is unrealistic to expect a U.S. Senate dominated by hardline Republicans to acquiesce to something proposed by a Scandinavian social democracy. But highlighting the contrast, Norwegian journalist Ellen Engelstad writes : "Workers put on leave will now get full pay for twenty days (an improvement even on the pre-coronavirus situation), but employers will only cover the first two days, while the rest will be paid by the state. After that period, a worker on leave will receive 80 percent of their previous salary, up to [about $29,000] a year, and 62.4 percent of everything they received on top of that."

So long as we continue to embrace a lockdown strategy, generous relief is key to securing widespread support for its maintenance. It will become politically impossible to sustain a government-mandated lockdown where workers are forced to stay at home, absent some income support to facilitate compliance with that order. So it is good that the government has also recognized that this relief had to take the form of grants, not loans, because additional private debt assumption would exacerbate long-term economic distress. The provision of $350 billion in "forgivable loans" to businesses are in reality grants, as these "loans" will be forgiven if the businesses targeted maintain payroll. That's precisely the kind of conditionality that should be attached to the relief provisions.

There will undoubtedly be other measures required once the scale of the economic fallout becomes clearer. But when we get past relief packages and move toward taking the economy out of its current cryogenically frozen state, the U.S. government must engage in a broader effort of reconstruction so as to finally make this an economy that works for all. Policy should not simply be about getting people back into resorts, malls or restaurants, or exhorting mass consumption as a patriotic duty ( as George W. Bush suggested after 9/11 ). Rather, we should be focused on ramping up mass-production essential goods such as food, as well support for the health care systems via expansion of testing kits, surgical masks, ventilators and palliative care, not only for this crisis, but also to ensure that the system is not overwhelmed in the event of future pandemics (or a possible recurrence of this one as we return to work and reintegrate with one another). It also goes without saying that we should also expend vast sums on research and development to find treatments and a vaccine, as well as rapid training of new medical workers. Substantial increases in funding to the National Institutes of Health would be a good place to start.

As for conditionality, a case has been made that a force majeure "Act of God" is not the time to play a "game of chicken" and impose major conditions for aid , especially as it is government policy itself that has precipitated the crisis. On the other hand, political realities and historic precedent suggest that crisis conditions are the only time one gets dramatic reforms; otherwise the elites regain their balance and suppress them (as occurred after 2008). Plus, there are corporate bailout recipients in this bill, such as Boeing, that were heading toward a death spiral , even before the epidemic.

Let's also make clear distinctions here: An "Act of God" argument was invoked in 2008 . That financial crisis was described as a "once in a 50-year event," something that couldn't have been planned for or insured against, etc. This was a lie. The banks were not blameless, and there was causation between the crash and their behavior. But Wall Street's bad actors weren't punished. There were, however, a lot of blameless victims who were and are still paying a price. They didn't receive compensation and received pain and punishment as if they were responsible, when they were in fact collateral damage.

In many respects, this crisis is even worse. We may not have a financial contagion, but we have a physical contagion that is literally exposing us to conditions comparable to the 1930s . But unlike the 1930s or, indeed, the 2008 global financial contagion, policymakers have a twin task with seemingly incompatible goals: stopping the spread of the virus in many ways exists in tension with the need to arrest the indirect economic fallout from the pandemic. The longer the economic restrictions apply to eliminate the health risk, the greater the economic fallout, which is precisely the dilemma President Trump exposed (in his typically inelegant way), when he signaled his desire to restart the U.S. economy by mid-April .

Trump's public musings were rightly denounced. His moral calculus is skewed; this president is transparently consumed by the desire to safeguard his narrow economic interests and the presidency (along with the fact that he stripped public health agencies of the staffing, resources, and authority they needed to function ). A serious president would send teams of epidemiologists to study other countries' success models, and adopt them. Instead, Trump is literally gambling with the lives of potentially millions of people as he tries to place this bet on an Easter miracle. Unlike Jesus, those lives lost won't be resurrected, even if the economy ultimately revives.

Beyond that is the question of how best to assist businesses paralyzed for the sake of public health. This is perhaps the most politically loaded part of the process when it comes to assessing how far we go in terms of changing the behavior of our corporate sector versus the notion of simply compensating businesses for losses sustained by an action deemed to be a public health emergency.

Oren Cass, executive director of the soon-to-be-launched think tank American Compass , has made the case for compensating businesses on the basis of the takings clause of the U.S. Constitution , which states that "private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation." Establishing "just compensation" is often in the eye of the beholder, and Cass suggests that a just principle is compensating businesses for the fixed costs they would normally incur in the event that they were able to function as normal operating concerns (as opposed to making estimates of likely profitability and compensating on that basis). The goal is clearly to avoid providing unfair windfalls but to keep businesses solvent until they reopen.

On the other hand, one of the principal complaints directed against the bailouts granted (especially to the banks) in 2008 is that bad corporate actors who were responsible for creating the crisis were given money with no strings attached. In that regard, the bailouts not only allowed them to revive profitability quickly (as the status quo ante was restored), but also actively lobbied against any kind of regulation to prevent a recurrence of the activities that created the crash in the first place.

The lessons many drew from the experience was that the only time to extract concessions and induce changes in behavior from bad corporate actors is at a time when they are economically vulnerable, even if the precipitating cause of that vulnerability was the government-mandated shutdown of the economy. It is impossible to remake an economy if, for example, corporate bailouts are used to perpetuate behavior that undermines economic prosperity. While the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act does introduce some restrictions on buybacks and limiting stock dividends, it "avoids the more restrictive language that was included in the House version of the legislation," according to Defense News .

Many are trying to distinguish this bailout from 2008 (i.e., this time is a non-economic shock, something that couldn't have been planned for or insured against; businesses that are failing right now are doing so through no fault of their own and they're still good/healthy businesses), because saying "this is just how creative destruction works" is clearly untenable right now. In reality, the collapse in aggregate demand caused by the 2008 financial crisis arguably was just as exogenous to the consumer economy. Fatuous distinctions to justify further corporate predation simply provide another illustration that what we had before the coronavirus pandemic clearly was not working for most people. The truth is that for decades we've had a hollowing out of democracy, and a massive expansion of wealth inequality accompanied by Mussolini-style crony capitalism.

During the Great Depression, legislation was implemented to prevent a recurrence of the 1920s bubble. Roosevelt's New Deal did not legislate to restore the status quo ante but rather to create a very different sort of economy.

Under the cover of a public health emergency, however, the so-called "new normal" is looking a lot like the old normal. This bill gives the pigs yet another big feed at the public trough, and Congress is happily ladling out the goodies. Much like the 1930s, then, the very legitimacy of liberal capitalist democracy is at stake. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be an FDR ready to lead us in this acute moment of need.


Nicholas Crowley , March 28, 2020 at 6:25 am

Aloha,

Last week I was unable to apply for unemployment in my state, Hawaii, because I am self employed. I get kicked out of the application process after the first few qualifying questions in the online application process. Today, it went straight through. You make yourself your own ex employer and that's it. I'm assuming this has to do with this federal package. On a side note I am one of many self employed registered legal tour guide operators in the state that rely heavily on visitors and all of us are up in arms that somehow this bill is also going to give money to Uber and Lyft drivers who are not even legal in the state. Only partially in the county of Oahu.

Michael , March 28, 2020 at 9:54 am

I did something similar during the GFC.
I have a C Corp in Calif with myself as the only employee.
I applied for UI and received it for about a year.
However, my contribution rate ramped up and my rating declined to F. Still worth it.

Calif also borrowed a lot of money from the Feds last time and had to pay it back.
Employers were assessed a portion each year. Finally repaid after 5 or so years.

john bougearel , March 28, 2020 at 7:22 am

Rep Thomas Massey did some math. $2T from congress, and $4T from Feds so far = $68,000 per family of new Nat'l debt and dollar devaluation. Yet each household is likely to see only about $3000 of that $68000. Massey may have a point, perhaps there is just a tinge of maldistribution afoot here. And isn't that always the case in Crisis Capitalism, to never let a good crisis go to waste? Just maybe they could be doing a better job in the distribution of this package?

While many things were discussed about Covid and the Covid Recovery plan on Friday, what struck me was a reference to this stimulus bill that this is our Marshall Plan. While that sounds good, is it really? And another thing that struck me was how many striking similarities there are.

The final striking observation was Pelosi et al reminding us, that this is not the last stimulus bill that will be related to stimulating an economic recovery. In short, what Pelosi's telling us this is the prefatory Helicopter monies from our new "Helicopter Avenging Angels." Economist Murray Rothbard told a story about an angel looking down at the woes of mankind and decided that everyone would feel better if they all had an extra $1000. So, that is what the angel did, deposited $1000 into everyones bank account one night. Next morning, everyone woke up to an extra $1000. Those that spent it first on goods benefited most. Those that waited to spend it, got less bang for their buck bc the cost of goods rose.

So, it is with this stimulus story littered with maldistribution. Velocity of money in an economy increases most and therefore GDP or gross output if it is in the hands of households and consumers.

Over the past 12 yrs or so, fiscal and monetary stimulus packages have been referred to as bazookas. Today, they have mushroomed into "Nukes." And the Nukes, themselves, are mushrooming.

If Pelosi is right, this will not be the last stimulus bill relating to coronavirus, then this is not far from what happened with the Marshall Plan. The 1947-48 Marshall Plan was replaced by the Mutual Security Plan in 19951. The MSP plan was extended from 1951-1961. The MSP plan gave away about $7.5 billion annually until 1961 when it was replaced by yet another program – he United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The USAID is now one of the largest official aid agencies in the world, and accounts for more than half of all U.S. foreign assistance -- the highest in the world in absolute dollar terms.

In short, the Marshall Plan kept transmuting itself into something new. Until it became a "perpetual entity."
And it is not so different than the Federal Reserve's QE programs or other so-called "temporary" facilities that somehow are resurrected, transmuted or whatever. But somehow, these programs mange to live on like zombies.

Zombie, Zombie, Zombie. They are fighting, With their tanks and their bombs, And their bombs and their guns.

It's the same old theme since the 1947 Marshall Plan
In your head, in your head, Their still fighting,
With their tanks and their bombs And their bombs and their guns

But I digress.

The question then becomes, how well did the Marshall Plan work to generate economic growth. According to Marshall Plan's own accounting, the MP only accounted for an increase of less than ½% of GDP growth a year. That ain't much folks! So be prepared to be underwhelmed! Very underwhelmed.

And this is precisely why our policymakers will be back with more and more stimulus ..mushrooming their bazookas into Nukes, and Nukes into what? Death Stars next?

The cost of the Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) resulted in the United States transference of over $12 billion (equivalent to over $128 billion as of 2020)[1] in economic recovery programs to Western European economies after the end of World War II. During the four years the plan was in effect, the United States donated $17 billion (equivalent to $202.18 billion in 2019)

Despite the billions of dollars each year thrown at the EU recovery the Marshall Plan which transmuted into the Mutual Security Plan, these plans have apparently contributed little to the EU economic recovery.

Over the past 12 years, central banks and gov'ts have thrown trillions of dollars at the fiscal system, and yet our financial and monetary system still doesn't function properly. Their solution: throw trillions more at the most recent crisis du jour. TINA baby! Surely with their Nuclear-sized Stimulus Package, this will solve and repair everything.

But perhaps, under a crisis capitalism, the aim is to ensure a crisis never goes to waste. So perhaps, the aim of these stimulus programs is never to fix the broken window. Only to give the appearance the window is being fixed. If you actually fixed the broken window, then there would be no need to perpetually repeat these stimulus programs that can be so damn self-serving to those closest to the monies. Then where would Nancy and her Cohorts be?

The Covid Bill our Marshall Plan are fiscal responses to disasters. To this extent, they both that into the context of French Economist Frederic Bastiat's Parable of the Broken Window.

"Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas" ("That Which We See and That Which We Do Not See") to illustrate why destruction, and the money spent to recover from destruction, is not actually a net benefit to society.The parable seeks to show how opportunity costs, as well as the law of unintended consequences, affect economic activity in ways that are unseen or ignored. The belief that destruction is good for the economy is consequently known as the broken window fallacy or glazier's fallacy. And yet, destruction of the economy can be quite beneficial to the "first financial responders" to the destruction of the economy.

My apologies Yves, I should have forwarded this to you as a separate post. Feel free to post if you like

Oh , March 28, 2020 at 10:37 am

Thanks for the informative comment. I'm not surprised to know that the Marshall Plan resulted in an increase of less than 1/2 % of GDP growth. I assume that you're referring to the GDP of Europe.
I contend that the billions doled out via the Marshall Plan helped the FInancial institutions and later, since we had destroyed all of the manufacturing facilities in Europe, it helped all large US corporations who had a ready made market in Europe.

Susan the other , March 28, 2020 at 10:59 am

What an interesting comment. From my perspective – long time observer of things never working properly – I think the Covid Crisis is just another example of the pointless but dedicated pursuit of profits – unless of course there is a "Treasury" willing to provide any and all shortfall to each and every private profiteer. Then it works in a very wasteful and illogical manner. It requires also bailing out the hapless consumers occasionally. Somehow I think we could do better.

john bougearel , March 28, 2020 at 11:51 am

Susan,

I don't see the powers that be as anxious to fix the broken windows. They want the broken windows to remain broken so they can continue to throw bazookas and nukes through them.

And I wonder,. and I think you too need to wonder why the Marshall Plan became the Mutual Security Plan after 1951. Presumably, the rapid EU economic recovery no longer necessitated the Marshall Plan. Facing an existential crisis as such, the Marshall Plan had to morph into some other purpose, such as "Mutual Security" to keep access to those slush funds alive and well.

Susan the other , March 28, 2020 at 3:20 pm

I'd say off the top it is because neoliberal capitalism cannot withstand competition from democracy – good social democracy. So we morphed into the policeman of the world and pretended like we were critical to the cause of a failing economic ideology. It has never worked and it has gradually become nonsense because we are continuously forced to save society. No matter that we never to a good job of it – we still do it to insure profits. I'd be more upset about it except for the fact that it is so transparently absurd and I like to think it proves it own uselessness. What more do we need?

Grebo , March 28, 2020 at 8:24 pm

I'm no expert on the Marshall plan but as a European I get the impression it was much appreciated. From the US' point of view though it had a geopolitical purpose. By getting Europe on its economic feet again it fended off the threat of Communism and created a customer for US exports. The Plan's successors are also primarily aimed at maintaining and extending US hegemony, they are merely dressed up as charity.

rd , March 28, 2020 at 1:56 pm

I think the primary problem over the past decade is the assumption that the wealthy need to be returned/maintained to their wealthy to trickle the wealth down. That clearly has not been working efficiently.

So I am a fan of saving companies that are stable in the absence of major crisis, but require large-scale management changes, and dramatically scale back executive compensation for several years. If the executives can find a better job with better pay in an un-bailed out company, they should take it. If the company would clearly have gone under due to massive debt-loads, then a pre-package bankruptcy like GM with the government holding equity in the final company should be the route.

The financial cries are simply creating bigger and bigger TBTF companies that can build up debt again to fund shareholder buybacks until they get bailed out by the Fed and Treasury. That cycle needs to stop. The country worked fine when there were many companies competing with each other.

michael99 , March 28, 2020 at 3:48 pm

This coronavirus relief act expands TBTF. It's not just the big banks and other finance/insurance/real estate corporations anymore. It seems to be about protecting financial wealth wherever it resides. It's moral hazard writ large. Why behave prudently if the Fed has your back?

I agree with "saving companies that are stable in the absence of major crisis, but require large-scale management changes, and dramatically scale back executive compensation for several years", and "if the company would clearly have gone under due to massive debt-loads, then a pre-package bankruptcy like GM with the government holding equity in the final company should be the route."

The government could enact an automatic stabilizer program to cover furloughed worker wages during economic crises while employers continued to cover fixed costs and worker benefits such as health insurance. Large corporations could be managed to cover theses things if required to.
Even better, pass M4A and take employee health insurance off their books.

Charles D Myers , March 28, 2020 at 7:50 am

Why does the Uber/Lyft bailout have to be funded by workers who have put money into unemployment insurance?

If they want to bail out the gig economy they should have said straight up we are bailing them out.

The States have to come up with the funding for the unemployed. So you can bet there will be a shortfall.

Why does the gig economy always takes but never give?

The biggest problem is laid off employees getting thru to the unemployment agencies.Then they throw millions of Uber/Lyft drivers to clog up the Queue.

Brooklin Bridge , March 28, 2020 at 8:18 am

I'm wondering what AOC did or didn't do re this package? A lot has been said about Sanders, but I'm fuzzy on AOC. I can't imagine she liked the thing. Did she have any way of throwing a stick in in it?

Troglin , March 28, 2020 at 8:41 am

AOC is an actor -- an Obama for the new generation.

Oh , March 28, 2020 at 10:39 am

Will she be eligible for the Best Actress Award?

Kiers , March 28, 2020 at 6:26 pm

that would "explain" her previous incumbent, a most malignant connected big money DNC machine pol, "stepping aside" for her. Watch out. Likely future Manchurian afoot. (Like showbama).

flora , March 28, 2020 at 10:00 am

Pelosi ordered a voice vote, not a recorded vote. There's no way to know how any Rep. voted. They can say they voted yea or nay, but there's no proof.

Brooklin Bridge , March 28, 2020 at 5:18 pm

Thanks, not surprised.

John Wright , March 28, 2020 at 7:27 pm

Here is a definition of a voice vote:

"A vote in which the presiding officer states the question, then asks those in favor and against to say "Yea" or "Nay," respectively, and announces the result according to his or her judgment. The names or numbers of senators voting on each side are not recorded."

If this bill was so G*d d**n important and potentially costly for the country it would seem that courageous politicians would have WANTED their wise and considered yea/nay votes known to their constituents.

I can see a voice vote for something trivial like a Proclamation of National Highway Appreciation Day, but not something this consequential.

Preserving the option of telling constituents in the future "I (voice) voted against this package" is hardly a profile in courage.

hermeneut , March 28, 2020 at 11:47 am

https://thehill.com/homenews/house/489863-ocasio-cortez-blasts-22t-coronavirus-stimulus-package-as-shameful-on-house

"What did the Senate majority fight for?!" Ocasio-Cortez asked. "One of the largest corporate bailouts with as few strings as possible in American history. Shameful! The greed of that fight is wrong for crumbs for our families."

Pelosi dallies on instituting remote voting, thereby strengthening her own powers and that of the House leadership. AOC, like everyone else in the House, had to participate in a "voice vote".

Bobby Gladd , March 28, 2020 at 8:42 am

" The Mnuchin Opaque Autonomy Act of 2020 ."

There. Fixed the title.

human , March 28, 2020 at 9:00 am

I simply can not understand where $4T is going to go! As we here know, inanimate objects do not have agency. I demand to know whose pockets are about to be lined.

Another observation: As each "crisis" becomes more expensive, there appear to be additional lined pockets.

urblintz , March 28, 2020 at 10:40 am

first and foremost they saved the bond market i think . Powell has already used 4 trillion for "liquidity" whatever that means I have no working knowledge of economics so I don't begin to understand what any of it means except that we got family-blogged again.

JR , March 28, 2020 at 9:21 am

You know, there is common ground amongst and between the AOCs and Massies of the world. It is time to build those bridges.

Edr , March 28, 2020 at 10:04 am

The flu kills between 12,000 to 30,000 a year in the U S. Every year. In 30 some years of adulthood, I know 1 person that died of pneumonia in their 60s. When the confinement is over and people look around and ask around and can't name anybody they personally know who was affected with anything more than a cold????

I hope this whole thing isn't just hysterics because that would not be a positive sign of anything.

Oh , March 28, 2020 at 10:50 am

Knowing our politicians it's probably a lot of hysterics. The DimRats have been fooling their diehards with Russia! Russia! Russia! Now it's time to use CV to pay back their corporate supporters while throwing a few crumbs to their loyal followers with the chant Econmy! Economy! Economy!

Bob , March 28, 2020 at 1:17 pm

What are you talking about? Have you not been reading all the experts' reports on exactly how dangerous this disease is? Have you not seen the pictures and stories coming from Spain and Italy with morgues and trucks full of bodies? Have you not read the stories of medical personnel and hospitals being overwhelmed by this pandemic? How many have to die for this to matter to you? Sorry to be blunt but you lack of concern is frankly shocking. (P.S. I have a kid on the front line of this disaster and we are very very worried for him)

jonboinAR , March 28, 2020 at 2:11 pm

I keep hearing, mostly from people I know, how the CV is not much more than a way over-publicized version of the common cold or flu. I would counter that the common cold or even the annual flu pandemic does not threaten to entirely overwhelm the health care system of the countries and regions it infects. See Lombardy and New York, for example. Clearly, in terms of the seriousness of its symptoms anyway, the CV is pretty far beyond the flu.

Kurtismayfield , March 28, 2020 at 3:18 pm

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-york-coronavirus-andrew-cuomo-728-deaths-covid-19/?intcid=CNI-00-10aaa3a

It's up to 700+ deaths in NY.

When do you think we should have taken these measures to slow the virus? When it hit 1000? 5000? 30,000? Tell me a number that you will be ok with so that we can hit that, then we can hit the emergency button.

The problem with this virus is that it hits the healthcare system all at once, and they have to choose who lives and dies Would you like to be chosen to live or die based upon an algorithm?

Kiers , March 28, 2020 at 6:29 pm

I don't think it's hysterics, but "was it planned" is a good question: operation covfefe.
"They" are not done with it yet, a mass fear op like this is too good to leave without milking further. THIS will be "THE" anchor event for the NEXT 20+ years of "policy". Mark my word. The top can not leave this gold.

John , March 28, 2020 at 10:11 am

About that Republican $500 billion corporate bailout slush fund the Dems said they won oversight on:

Trump Axed Congressionally-Mandated Pandemic Recovery Oversight with Stimulus Bill Signing Statement

In a signing statement, the president undermined a key safeguard Democrats had insisted upon as a condition of approving $500 billion in corporate relief in the $2 trillion law.

Susan the other , March 28, 2020 at 11:09 am

Could we ask for better proof that neoliberal capitalism not only doesn't work, it's a catastrophe all by itself. And nobody is saying a word about it. That will come later in disguised language just as the money is going out now in disguised give-aways.

tegnost , March 28, 2020 at 11:48 am

And nobody is saying a word about it
Rule #1. Don't mess with a dog that's not barking

There will be a price to pay for this, and I don't think the robot dogs will be up to the fight

steven , March 28, 2020 at 10:54 am

The population of Italy is (or was) 60.8 million. As of this morning, 9,134 Italians have died – and the disease hasn't crested yet. The population of the United States is 327.2 million. If our experience is similar to theirs (and with the 'leadership' exhibited by Trump and the US Congress it looks like it might be worse), we can anticipate ‭49,155 deaths.

That sure doesn't sound like "just hysterics" to me.

human , March 28, 2020 at 11:07 am

https://www.statnews.com/2018/09/26/cdc-us-flu-deaths-winter/

A normal and expected season then.

hermeneut , March 28, 2020 at 12:03 pm

https://www.nytimes.com/video/nyregion/100000007052136/coronavirus-elmhurst-hospital-queens.html?smid=tw-share

Please spit out the kool-aid. You're ignoring the magnitudes faster pace of this pandemic, as well as the fact that it falls on top of our regular flu season, not to mention other medical emergencies. If you have time to spread misleading information, please consider doing your homework and helping share helpful facts.

DJG , March 28, 2020 at 12:30 pm

hermeneut: Thank you. Naked Capitalism has had an informal policy against agnotology, which is culturally induced ignorance or doubt.

I see it often on the larger WWW, where facts regularly are gummed to death by the self-ignorant among us.

The coronavirus is producing death rates that are orders of magnitude above the flu's death rate estimated at 0.01 percent. Coronavirus is wildly contagious compared to the flu. Further, we don't know its long-term effects on anyone. People think that children may not be affected–until we have a spate of lung disease ten years from now.

Upthread, there are a couple of agnotologists discussing how they don't know anyone who has died of the flu or pneumonia. They must not get out much. Pneumonia is a co-factor in many deaths, so much so that doctors call it the old man's friend, old person's friend. Pneumonia means falling asleep and not waking up in the morning.

human , March 28, 2020 at 1:12 pm

I was responding to stevens' 49K calculation. Please take issue with his comment. I fully expect the mortality rate to increase beyond seasonal averages due to additional and more severe complications.

Cuibono , March 28, 2020 at 2:48 pm

what was misleading there? Trying to understand this the number of flu deaths wasnt that high or ?

neplusultra , March 28, 2020 at 12:14 pm

Yep, China enacted unprecedented lockdown measures just for fun. Good call buddy

Travis Bickle , March 28, 2020 at 12:17 pm

Ah, someone who wasn't paying attention to their lessons. Unlike flu there is no vaccine and the population is essentially a virgin host. Some people may be able to slough it off, but it'll be by happenstance, and they'll still be carriers.

Hence, the progress of the disease will be exponential, less the temporary suppression and mitigation you can see in countries like China and South Korea. The economic cost of these measures will eventually be too much, they'll have to ease off, and the disease will take off again. If you want to track the various countries "score" as this inevitability unfolds, go to http://91-divoc.com/pages/covid-visualization/

As to your "calculations", this disease will have its way and will need to run its course. It will increase exponentially and circle back in successive waves until the available supply of hosts has been exhausted or developed immunity. In the aggregate, the US will meet its wave in < a week, but every community will be hit at a different time depending on all sort so things; Italy has only really taken a significant hits in a few provinces and the fun for them is yet to come. The infection is just now gaining traction in the rest of Italy due to effective mitigation and the WAVE of casualties is yet to come, as soon as they raise their guard.

All this money being spent is just buying time and lining pockets. This is not a two hour movie, where Brad Pitt has a blaze of insight and cooks up a cure for the zombie apocalypse in a busy afternoon.

steven , March 28, 2020 at 1:06 pm

This is ever so cool! Thank you! track the various countries "score" as this inevitability unfolds

cnchal , March 28, 2020 at 1:57 pm

> . . . The economic cost of these measures will eventually be too much, they'll have to ease off, and the disease will take off again.

I agree and a link from the links page illustrates that.

China Shuts Down All Cinemas, Again Hollywood Reporter

On further reflection (I have a comment on this post that is either in moderation or disappeared) it seems that the pittance to workers with the right paperwork is to give the appearance of doing something but ultimately it is to starve people into submission, so that getting back to making money for the billionaires becomes the only alternative.

jonboinAR , March 28, 2020 at 2:30 pm

It taking off again is what I fear when I imagine what's likely to occur down the road. Trump is right at least when he points out that eventually we'll all have to return to work. Otherwise the economy will collapse completely, leaving us in some kind of Mad Max chaos. Eventually. So, what happens when the voluntary lock-down is lifted, whether that be Easter or a month or 2 or 3 later? If this thing is not completely eliminated by then will it not just roar right back and we'll be in the same situation we find ourselves in currently, only most of us even more precarious, financially? I can't seem to puzzle our current strategy out in my mind without finding a horribly disastrous outcome at the end.

It seems, then, like fairly severe social distancing is mandated by circumstance way into the future. If that's the case, then our previous ways of living, I mean a great deal of it, all or the casual gathering and traveling around we've been accustomed to is dead, whether we realize it now, or not. What the heck does this mean? What do we do with a good part of our work-force and many if not most of our small business owners? I ask these questions without any reasonable or acceptable answers in mind.

Travis Bickle , March 28, 2020 at 3:47 pm

..Here's the deal:

We are collectively going to have to take our licks here, painful though it will be, sooner or later. Countries which have managed to keep things tamped down, for the moment only, need to use that time to refine their hospital procedures and re-supply to save as many as they can when the lid has to be taken off. That means having triage protocols in place for COVID-19, as well as everyone else who comes in the door. Refer to the graphic in appendix B of the Imperial College forecast for the US. Hospitals are going to be overwhelmed in any of their scenarios, although every locality will have its encounter at at different time and the precise circumstances will vary.

The initial UK strategy of angling for "herd immunity' was roundly ridiculed and sheepishly withdrawn, but it was and is the only logical course. The disease simply doesn't give a whit about the "But, but, but, but every life is priceless whinning" of those who cannot face the reality. There is a BIG culling on the way, and all those Red State denialisms, and sanctimonious bigots at Liberty University are going to get a big dose of this, along with everyone else. This wave is coming, and all that can really be done is to delay it, which may reduce the pain in a given locality, depending on their unique circumstances and if the local authorities do their job right. This will be a battle fought on a thousand hills (a thousand public health settings), and some will do better or worse than others, even as the timing of the wave will vary for each: take notes on what is only now beginning to happen in NYC, and how events unfold over the next month or two there. This story will not be over by the eleven o'clock news or even next weekend.

Taking it up-front DOES help preserve the economy, allowing for recovery afterwards, and that's key. Otherwise, we start drifting toward the Mad Max scenario alluded to above. Even now, how are all the bodies going to be taken care of? Healthcare staff is already dying, and staffs can be expected to desert as events unfold in NYC and elsewhere. All the support people who make things work with their marginal salaries are noble, but stupid, if they stick around those places, which are nothing but huge disease vectors. Then there's the food supply chain, etc, etc, etc

Anyway we go this movie is not going to end well, and it won't end next week or even next month. The disease will keep on coming back around until there is nobody left for it grab hold of: meaning either there is a vaccine or herd immunity (usually thought of as 60-70% of the population having had its brush with the thing).

JBird4049 , March 28, 2020 at 7:41 pm

As a Californian, "Red State denialisms, and sanctimonious bigots at Liberty University" is an extremely unfair appellation given that I can see the same here in the Uber-Blue San Francisco Bay Area.

While the improved efficiencies of the medical services are not quite as deep as in the Red areas of California and in other states, the bigotry is just as strong. Only the targets are changed. The deplorables, the poor, conservatives, and, of course, the homeless tend to be fair game.

An infectious disease like COVID19 doesn't care about anything except reproduction and is taking advantage of our situation; both political parties have been quite happy hollowing out our nation-state condemning our nation to needless mass deaths and country's government to possible collapse in fealty to the wealthy and in increasing the size of their personal bank accounts.

Eclair , March 28, 2020 at 3:21 pm

Here is a link to a paper just made public by the University of Washington, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. It's predicting Washington's peak at around April 14th. Also, they evaluate each state, calculate its peak, and list the its available hospital beds and ICU beds and note the estimated shortfalls (as well as shortfalls in ventilators) at peak.

Looking at their projections for New York State, one can understand Governor Cuomo's urgency.

Travis Bickle , March 28, 2020 at 4:03 pm

For some reason your link didn't work, I found it with a quick google search and it really is quite worthwhile:

https://globalhealth.washington.edu/news/2020/03/26/new-covid-19-forecasts-us-hospitals-could-be-overwhelmed-second-week-april-ihme

All the credible studies I've reviewed in their own way have supported the essential thesis of the Imperial College curve, and this is no exception.

gc54 , March 28, 2020 at 5:06 pm

The simulator here has adjustable parameters for the pandemic and resolution down to county level in many states of the US. Of course we can expect patient transport between at least counties if not states until ICUs are saturated. Very sobering to see how long this may play out. Cases and outcomes are plotted too.

Kiers , March 28, 2020 at 6:42 pm

I ran a regression with Governor Cuomo's numbers (for NY State); Between March 3rd to March 23rd was the confirmed raw data, before extrapolating; a social isolation program was begun on the March 20th, so the data is pure "natural" "do nothing" dynamics; I fit the curve to the data, and it showed 100% of NY State population affected by April 12th. The data showed a slope co-efficient of 1.46 every day (46% increase in new cases every day). R-squared for the fit: 96% (yes, rather high, which tells me this virus rolls out like clockwork). However, we learn, even in Wuhan, a hard lockdown took two-three weeks to "begin to bend the curve". We are in for the herd situation no question. It's been too little too late by far. (but even one day saved from the 100% terminus is still quite a large population: we are talking exponential time, not linear.).

When "early" (really drastically "late": being in first weeks of March) estimates from Fauci, and other talking heads said US would likely see ~70% of population infected, that translates to ONLY being able to shave ONE DAY off 100% herd exposure given my regression showing just how contagious this is.

(It's my belief they lied to us, it's not just "droplets" but it is very nicely aerosolized: breathing and exhaling in the wrong quarters is enought to do it; but thats' just me, however do note, the Covid briefings at the top were state secret, not open to journalists. We only get the vaudeville versions of everything, highly politicized to boot).

Jeremy Grimm , March 28, 2020 at 1:50 pm

The Corona flu [I like Corona because it sounds better -- more like cholera -- as in Love in the time of Corona] is not the pandemic we need to worry about. That pandemic is still coming. The Corona flu is bad but it is only a 'test' of our healthcare systems and government, our knowledge, and our Media -- a live exercise. The U.S. is failing miserably in all these areas. The CARES package -- I can't think of a more catchy name for this bill and it really deserves a catchy name -- will do nothing to remedy the failings of our healthcare systems and government, our knowledge, and our Media but it reveals how unprepared we are for when the 'real' pandemic arrives.

[Mar 29, 2020] Don't believe the myth that we must sacrifice lives to save the economy by Jonathan Porte

Mar 25, 2020 | www.theguardian.com

Jonathan Portes Governments must do whatever it takes -- and whatever it costs -- in the interests of our health and our collective wealth

• Jonathan Portes is a former senior civil servant

Coronavirus -- latest updates

See all our coronavirus coverage

Wed 25 Mar 2020 14.13 EDT Last modified on Wed 25 Mar 2020 17.50 EDT Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via Email 'if, as the scientists predict, the result of loosening the restrictions was an acceleration in infections, then pretty soon many firms would simply stop functioning, as workers became sick.' Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images I s the cure worse than the disease? The Times claimed today: "If the coronavirus lockdown leads to a fall in GDP of more than 6.4% more years of life will be lost due to recession than will be gained through beating the virus." It's hard to know where to start with this nonsense. It's based on a paper currently under review at a journal entitled Nanotechnology Perceptions, which simply assumes that a fall in GDP translates mechanically and directly into a fall in life expectancy.

It's this sort of reasoning that appears to be leading President Trump to call for an early end to restrictions in the US, claiming that far more people would die of suicide from a "terrible economy" than from the virus.

But the premise is simply wrong. A recession -- a short-term, temporary fall in GDP -- need not, and indeed normally does not, reduce life expectancy. Indeed, counterintuitively, the weight of the evidence is that recessions actually lead to people living longer. Suicides do indeed go up, but other causes of death, such as road accidents and alcohol-related disease, fall.

So at the most basic level, this argument ignores what the evidence says. But perhaps more importantly, the idea that the way to minimise the economic damage is to remove the restrictions before they've done their job -- definitively suppressing the spread of the virus -- is a terrible one.

Does anyone believe that, whatever the government said, we could get back to "normal", or something close to it, any time soon? If we were all allowed to return to work, many or most of us would, quite rationally, choose not to, for fear of catching the virus. And if, as the scientists predict, the result of loosening the restrictions was an acceleration in infections, then pretty soon many firms would simply stop functioning, as workers became sick, or had to stay at home to look after family members.

More broadly, restoring the economy to normal requires, above all, confidence. Amid continuing uncertainty both about their own finances and the wider economy, households won't spend and businesses won't invest. And that simply isn't going to happen until the spread of the diseases has been contained.

So there is no tradeoff here. Health and economic considerations point in exactly the same direction in the short term. Do whatever it takes -- and whatever it costs -- and do it now, in the interests both of our health and our collective wealth.

But what comes next? It is entirely reasonable to point out that serious damage to the economy, if it persists over the longer term, will reduce our welfare and maybe even -- as austerity and its aftermath have done -- life expectancy. The last 10 days have seen universal credit claims rise more than five-fold , to half a million, while YouGov data suggests that 2 million people may have lost their job. The recession is already here.

But this need not, and should not, be permanent. The risk here is that we allow the inevitable fall in GDP that results from shutting down the economy to drive firms out of business and workers into long-term unemployment. And there is nothing inevitable at all about this.

After all, many European countries, such as France or Italy, probably, see their GDP fall by 10% or 20% or so in absolute terms every August when workers take their summer holidays. No one notices -- the numbers are "seasonally adjusted" to take account of holidays, which means it doesn't show up in the published data -- nor does it do any damage. Workers continue to be paid, and businesses don't go bust just because they're not making any money. Come September, everyone gets back to work as normal.

Of course this is very different -- that won't happen automatically with Covid-19. The impacts are more widespread and long-lasting -- and we don't know how long -- than an enforced extra holiday. But rapid and appropriate action by government can go a long way. Keeping workers in jobs and firms in business needs to be the priority. In the circumstances, the government's made a good start, although there's lots more to do .

So what we should be worried about -- both from an economic and a health perspective -- is not how much GDP falls. It's going to fall by a lot, and that's a good thing. If it didn't -- if people were still going to work despite being told not to -- then the lockdown wouldn't be working and we'd still see economic consequences further down the line. It's what happens to GDP in a year or 18 months that matters.

And the long-term consequences? It wasn't the sharp fall in GDP in 2008-9 that reduced, over the course of the next decade, life expectancy for the poorest in our society . It was how the government chose to address the economic fallout of the global financial crisis -- by underfunding and understaffing the NHS and social care, and by eroding the basic welfare safety net that people depend on when times are hard. As we are now discovering, these were false economies that left us less, not more, prepared for this crisis.

Similarly, if we allow Covid-19 to permanently damage our economic and social fabric, it will be our own fault, not that of the virus. This time we can, and must, do better.

• Jonathan Portes is professor of economics and public policy at King's College London and a former senior civil servant


WhereAreYourMorals , 25 Mar 2020 17:48

Compulsory procurement of half a dozen luxury yachts would go a long way with funding, as would the uber wealthy PAYING THEIR CORPORATE TAX.

These extreme right-wing leaders in this world are evil. They all claim to be practicing Christians, unbelievably. Anti-Christ more like. I'm not religious, but blind Freddy would tell you if Jesus had existed, then these guys are the Romans that killed him. They simply don't give a shit; swathes of people are expendable.

Didn't a corrupted prime minister get eaten by his people one time? Just sayin'.

kent_rules -> FMIIII , 25 Mar 2020 17:48
We have been weaning people off tobacco for a long time and this virus seems to love compromised lungs - tragically, young and fit Americans may succumb due to unregulated vaping products and decriminalised cannabis products - particularly if one survives but with severely damaged lungs.
chainedtomydesk , 25 Mar 2020 17:48
I’m sorry but recessions do cause a spike in suicide, mental health issues and stress related cancer deaths. The most vulnerable in society, on the breadline, will as usual be the people who struggle the most. To suggest life expectancy goes up in a recession is a fallacy.
Elias_Artifex , 25 Mar 2020 17:47
The latest US Trump policy (US open for business, do the right thing weaklings and die for the sake of the nation's financial interests) is basically identical with the original UK Cummings policy. Over the next few weeks are we going to see this policy re-asserted in the UK - probably. Why - because the alternative would be to attempt containment of Covis 19 - which would require a South Korean style program of testing and quarantine. And there is absolutely indication of any political appetite for doing so in the UK whatsoever.
Hornplayer , 25 Mar 2020 17:41
The risk here is a replay of austerity that we saw after the 2008 financial crisis, with many people left aside. Economically, this was to rebalance the books after the government injected cash to support the banks. Socially it was damaging.
If we repeat the same pay back and austerity model (on steroids this time) the social and political fallout could be horrendous.
But what are the alternatives?
FFC800 -> AJVC1991 , 25 Mar 2020 17:40

it really does strike me as unfair that their plan was "to do nothing" - I think it seems to be a bit nuanced than that; and terribly communicated

Yes, the plan was not 'do nothing', it was 'get at risk groups to isolate themselves and assume that the NHS could deal with the small proportion of low risk groups needing hospitalisation'. This is essentially what Sweden and NL are doing, with (like us last week) the addition of social distancing to slow down transmission.

This is a better idea than trying to avoid everyone getting it ('containment'), because as soon as you lift containment, you still have no immunity so you're basically at day 0 again. Unless the plan is to be under lockdown forever, the containment approach is a panic, not a strategy.

If you're going for herd immunity you do need to slow the infections down enough that the serious cases don't overwhelm your health service. That's what the social distancing and WFH guidelines are about, and outside the cities and a few visitor spots it was working well last week.

Continentalcyclist , 25 Mar 2020 17:38
Spot on.

What made European economies grow in 1948? Confidence, investment, a social security network, education for all, and building, building, building homes badly needed in destroyed cities and for the homecoming of millions of veterans and the ensuing baby boom.

The post-war recession feared by economists did not occur. Instead there was a quarter century of prosperity. Never had there been there so many people, and never before had they had it so good. Until the arrival of the family butchers. Who sold the family silver and sacrificed welfare on the altar of m-m-m-monetarism. Said Ssupermac in his maiden speech in the Lords.

[Mar 29, 2020] Medical Expert Who Corrects Trump Is Now a Target of the Far Right

Money quote " There is this sense that experts are untrustworthy, and have agendas that aren't aligned with the people"
That was always true about neoliberal economists. So it might well be true about mecuacl bureaucrats like Fauci. Did he disclose his stock holdingd and financial interests? Is he a part of neoliberal "medical-industrial complex" which wants to rake profits at the expense of people health?
His email to Hillary suggest that he is medical professional but a politician.
Actually any top medical honcho in Washing is compromised as they did nothing to stop "balance billing" fraud and too over of ambulance business by private equity sharks.
Notable quotes:
"... There is this sense that experts are untrustworthy, and have agendas that aren't aligned with the people ..."
"... In the email, Dr. Fauci praised Mrs. Clinton for her stamina during the 2013 Benghazi hearings. The American Thinker falsely claimed that the email was evidence that he was part of a secret group who opposed Mr. Trump. ..."
Mar 29, 2020 | www.nytimes.com

Adding that Dr. Fauci is bearing the brunt of the attacks, Mr. Bergstrom said: " There is this sense that experts are untrustworthy, and have agendas that aren't aligned with the people . It's very concerning because the experts in this are being discounted out of hand."

... ... ...

Anti-Fauci posts spiked, according to Zignal Labs. Much of the increase was prompted by a March 21 article in The American Thinker, a conservative blog, which published the seven-year-old email that Dr. Fauci had written to an aide of Mrs. Clinton.

In the email, Dr. Fauci praised Mrs. Clinton for her stamina during the 2013 Benghazi hearings. The American Thinker falsely claimed that the email was evidence that he was part of a secret group who opposed Mr. Trump.

... ... ...

In an interview, Mr. Fitton said, "Dr. Fauci is doing a great job." He added that Dr. Fauci "wrote very political statements to Hillary Clinton that were odd for an appointee of his nature to send."

...One anti-Fauci tweet last Sunday read: "Dr. Fauci is in love w/ crooked @HillaryClinton. More reasons not to trust him."

[Mar 29, 2020] The EU's Betrayal of Italy May Be Its Undoing by Francesco Giubile

Notable quotes:
"... The coronavirus emergency has exposed the failures and flaws of the European Union, while underscoring the importance of nation-states. In Europe, we've observed a series of events that have demonstrated the collapse of the supra-national model. First, the borders shut down -- Austria and Slovenia acted unilaterally, without asking approval from Italy's government. The move was also symbolic: Italy was not only isolated, it was abandoned to its own devices. ..."
"... Globalization may have its efficiencies, but an overwhelmed health care system suffers in the absence of internal production of the necessary materials -- life-saving ventilators, infection-preventing hazmat vests, face masks. The global evolution of supply chains exported manufacturing and relied heavily on the cheap imports of essential products from abroad. But with the spread of the coronavirus, many states are now forbidding the export of medical equipment. A good example is Turkey, a country that readily accepts EU funds and that many liberals would like to bring into the Union. Ankara blocked a shipment of 200,000 face masks already purchased by Italy for the hard-hit northern regions of Marche and Emilia Romagna. ..."
Mar 28, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a greater toll on Italy than any other nation. The Italians are facing their most severe crisis since the Second World War, with Lombardy in the industrial north particularly hard hit. Yet for all its rhetoric about global citizenship and solidarity, the European Union has all but abandoned them. That's even though communist China, arguably globalization's greatest and shrewdest state beneficiary, is ready to fill the void and help Italy put out the fire its own virus started.

The coronavirus first appeared in Italy on January 31 when two Chinese tourists from the Hubei province tested positive in Rome, eight days after they'd landed at the Milan airport in Lombardy. The two were immediately isolated and quarantined in the Roman Spallanzani hospital, and the situation seemed under control -- until February 21. That day, Italy confirmed 16 new coronavirus cases, 14 in Lombardy and two in Veneto. A 38-year-old Italian from Codogno near Milan with acute respiratory symptoms was identified as patient zero. Despite Italy's attempts to contain the virus by locking down the city of Codogno, coronavirus infections spread.

In just a few days, Italy had the highest number of infections in Europe, with Lombardy as the pandemic's epicenter. To avoid the spread of infections to the rest of Italy, the government locked down the entire region of Lombardy and other areas in northern Italy, effectively quarantining 17 million people. A few days later, as the situation deteriorated, the whole of Italy was declared an "orange zone" -- all "non-essential" commercial activities were shut down and the free movement of citizens was limited to grocery and pharmaceutical shopping and work obligations deemed by the state as of "prime importance."

The economic repercussions of a complete shutdown loomed large. Consequently, Italy asked the EU for more flexibility on its accounts and requested that emergency measures be deployed to support Italian citizens and businesses. At the time, the crisis was hardly felt in the European powerhouses, France or Germany. The EU's response was slow and inefficient, and Italians started to feel abandoned by European institutions. As the original signer of the Treaty of Rome, Italy is a founding member of the EU and the third largest economy in the eurozone.

On March 12, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), Christine Lagarde, marked a point of no return -- she gave a highly anticipated speech outlining the measures the bank would introduce to combat the effects of the coronavirus. Lagarde decided not to cut interest rates, arguing against the policy of "whatever it takes," as had been outlined by former ECB president Mario Draghi. To Italians, the EU's indifference was a betrayal. The consequences of her words were immediate -- and disastrous for Italian stocks. Even the pro-EU president of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, released a harsh statement asking the EU to correct its ways in the "common interest" of Europe.

The EU did change its position on the COVID-19 response, but not until the health care crisis had spread to France and Germany, making it their problem, too. By then, the damage done to the Italians' trust in European institutions was already beyond repair. With few viable options left, Italy's government is now considering the European "Save the State Funds," asking the EU to implement the €500 billion emergency bailout program from the European Stability Mechanism designed for EU member states -- a risky move that may saddle Italy with long-term debt on a scale similar to Greece.

The coronavirus emergency has exposed the failures and flaws of the European Union, while underscoring the importance of nation-states. In Europe, we've observed a series of events that have demonstrated the collapse of the supra-national model. First, the borders shut down -- Austria and Slovenia acted unilaterally, without asking approval from Italy's government. The move was also symbolic: Italy was not only isolated, it was abandoned to its own devices.

Globalization may have its efficiencies, but an overwhelmed health care system suffers in the absence of internal production of the necessary materials -- life-saving ventilators, infection-preventing hazmat vests, face masks. The global evolution of supply chains exported manufacturing and relied heavily on the cheap imports of essential products from abroad. But with the spread of the coronavirus, many states are now forbidding the export of medical equipment. A good example is Turkey, a country that readily accepts EU funds and that many liberals would like to bring into the Union. Ankara blocked a shipment of 200,000 face masks already purchased by Italy for the hard-hit northern regions of Marche and Emilia Romagna.

The Italians are coming together to fight the pandemic. Many Italian companies have converted production at home: those working in the textile industry have started producing face masks. Italy's only manufacturer of respiratory equipment, in the province of Bologna, is not able to meet the current needs and relieve the national shortage of ventilators. Army technicians are now helping to increase production capacity.

What has the coronavirus in Italy taught us so far? A great nation is doing what it can to become self-sufficient as the crisis proves daily that the propaganda of the prophets of globalization is false. We see that there are strategic sectors, such as health care, transport, energy, defense, and telecommunications, that have to be considered from the perspective of national security and not strictly business.

This is a new, unspoken understanding that unites Italy today. We have witnessed a return of patriotism: flags are hanging from windows and Italians are singing the national anthem. But there is something else to consider: our freedom. Some politicians, including former prime minister Matteo Renzi, are proposing to monitor the movements of individuals using their phones and data from telecommunication companies to police compliance with the lockdown rules and assess penalties for violations. This smacks of the Big Brother surveillance state. The collection of metadata for statistical ends, as practiced in Lombardy, should be separated from the indiscriminate control of individual citizens. Otherwise an Orwellian precedent will be set. Such an anti-democratic attitude seems to be one of the collateral ideological effects of what President Trump refers to as a "Chinese virus."

... ... ...

Francesco Giubilei is an entrepreneur, author, and independent journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is founder and president of the Nazione Futura magazine and foundation.

[Mar 28, 2020] With CODEK-19 epidemic revealing all the flaws of neoliberal globalization it looks like neo-liberalism is begging to be replaced

Mar 28, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

bevin , Mar 27 2020 22:33 utc | 58

john@39
This article might interest you. The author makes the point that neo-liberalism is begging to be replaced.

"...Crises like these call for an interventionist state to keep the system together, or for mutual aid and solidarity, especially among people abandoned or targeted by the state. In some countries, the legitimacy of state administration and planning will grow, in others political legitimacy will fall precipitously, leading not just to mutual aid networks, but to attempts to build dual power.

"What economic paradigm – if any – may become dominant isn't clear. The prestige of Chinese-style state capitalism is growing. Keynesian and Modern Monetary Theory economists will find jobs in high places, and market socialism-with-nationalisations will continue to strengthen its position as the dominant economic doctrine on the left.

"However, the economic and ecological unsustainability of growth will raise hard questions of how to distribute or redistribute the losses in a non-growth world. Fascism and populist welfare chauvinism will offer the false security of disaster nationalism, national hoarding and resource wars.

Degrowth's offer of a planned and willed exit from growth will continue to gain followers, and communist strategies will grow in importance, as the surpluses that can be divided between contending classes shrink. Ecological breakdown and an absence of growth will pose questions that are already imposing themselves in the intense isolation of the lockdown: what are the joys of deceleration, what to do with an abundance of time and interdependence? And, more forcefully, it will radically narrow the space for social and political compromise.

"Struggle is unavoidable. The question is who will organise it and how."

https://novaramedia.com/2020/03/26/pandemic-insolvency-why-this-economic-crisis-will-be-different/

At the same site there is another piece on the way ion which the crisis has changed the NHS in the UK overnight.

https://novaramedia.com/2020/03/27/coronavirus-has-destroyed-the-nhs-internal-market-overnight-proving-that-it-never-worked/

[Mar 28, 2020] COVID-19 Is Forcing The World To Re-Think The Idea Of Monetary Value by Matthew Ehret

Notable quotes:
"... Decades of this modern religion have resulted in an incredibly tragic situation: a disproportionate wealth distribution in the hands of the 0.1%, an over-bloated services/consumer driven economy, increased rates of poverty and despair internationally as well as a dismal loss of vital skills, and productive capacity once enjoyed by advanced industrial nations just four decades ago. Vital infrastructure built up during the 1930s-1960s has been permitted to decay through simple neglect while un-payable debts have reached record highs. ..."
"... Banks in Spain have been nationalized (albeit only "temporarily") to force finance to act in accordance with the needs of society. ..."
"... This renewal of national sovereign powers breaks all of the monetary "laws of the neoliberal order" and with that defiance of globalization, a genuine positive potential for a paradigm shift is visible... ..."
Mar 28, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Matthew Ehret via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Western society has long been gripped by a deep seeded belief in money. Trillions of dollars of bank notes tied to ever-growing mountains of un-payable national debts has taken on a life of its own over the years. As the post-1971 years rolled by, society increasingly lost a sense that this human invention called "money" was created to serve humanity rather than rule it, and with that lost sense, money became an idol of worship.

Decades of this modern religion have resulted in an incredibly tragic situation: a disproportionate wealth distribution in the hands of the 0.1%, an over-bloated services/consumer driven economy, increased rates of poverty and despair internationally as well as a dismal loss of vital skills, and productive capacity once enjoyed by advanced industrial nations just four decades ago. Vital infrastructure built up during the 1930s-1960s has been permitted to decay through simple neglect while un-payable debts have reached record highs.

Then like a thief in the night, the illusion was ripped away.

The Confused Response to the Crisis

This ripping away took the form of an international pandemic which has resulted in western nations' economies grinding to a halt with a new $2 Trillion government emergency spending bill unveiled on March 24. The Washington Post reports that this bill will authorize "hundreds of billions of dollars sent to Americans in the form of checks as a way to flood the country with money in an effort to blunt the dramatic pullback of spending that has resulted from the coronavirus outbreak."

Governments across the Trans-Atlantic have also announced national interventions into banks and private industry in order to force production quotas of vital equipment like ventilators, masks and other medical necessities to meet the increased demand. Banks in Spain have been nationalized (albeit only "temporarily") to force finance to act in accordance with the needs of society. In America, the Defense Authorization Act and broader War Powers Act passed by President Trump gives the executive broad powers to take over vital industries if needed in order to mobilize the nation to respond to the crisis.

This renewal of national sovereign powers breaks all of the monetary "laws of the neoliberal order" and with that defiance of globalization, a genuine positive potential for a paradigm shift is visible...

... but something vital is still missing.

This "missing something" is clearly demonstrated by the continued obsession with money as new bailouts of the collapsing speculative banks have now risen to a $1 trillion/day overnight repo loan to collapsing banks which is added to the $1 Trillion 14 week loans offered every week that will dramatically increase the $9 trillion already emitted since helicopter money began in earnest in September 2019. With the mass panic and economic shutdown instigated by COVID-19, markets have lost over 30% of their value and fears of a new great depression have spread far and wide.

Rather than impose serious bank regulation like Glass-Steagall to break up the commercial from speculative banks as was done in 1933, the American government has merely unleashed unlimited money printing. This bipolar response is akin to trying to stop a raging fire with a combination of water and gasoline.

We thus find that the greatest crisis facing humanity is not caused by the market crisis, or even the coronavirus per se, but rather society's profound inability to understand the source of real from fictitious value.

What is REAL Value? Lincoln and FDR Revisited

"The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of Government, but it is the Government's greatest creative opportunity. By the adoption of these principles, the long-felt want for a uniform medium will be satisfied. The taxpayers will be saved immense sums of interest, discounts and exchanges. The financing of all public enterprises, the maintenance of stable government and ordered progress, and the conduct of the Treasury will become matters of practical administration. The people can and will be furnished with a currency as safe as their own government. Money will cease to be the master and become the servant of humanity. Democracy will rise superior to the money power."

These words were uttered by none other than America's 16th president Abraham Lincoln as he fought to take federal control of credit vis a vis the "greenbacks" that not only allowed him to win the war of secession but also construct the greatest infrastructure and industrialization programs of history driven by the trans continental railway . The dramatic success of Lincoln's "American System" not only saved the union, but spread successfully across the world from Japan's Meiji restoration, Russia's trans Siberian rail development, Bismarck's Zollverein in Germany and Sadi Carnot's France. This powerful spread of what German economist Friedrich List called "the American System of Political Economy" nearly annihilated the money-worshipping system of Adam Smith's Free Trade doctrine from the earth and only failed in this task via a plenitude of London-directed assassinations, and a couple of imperially-orchestrated wars and revolutions along the way.

The world spun out of control between the murder of the "last Lincoln republican" William Mckinley in 1901 and the orchestrated meltdown of the U.S. economy known as the great depression of 1929.

Amidst this dark period, Franklin Roosevelt called for the Democrats to claim the legacy of Lincoln from the corrupt republican party and faced a Wall Street-backed coup d'etat , survived a freemasonic assassination attempt and subverted a City of London-orchestrated bankers' dictatorship all in his first year in office. During his March 4, 1933 inaugural address, the president rallied the American people saying:

"I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption."

As I have outlined in my recent paper How to Crush a Bankers' Dictatorship , FDR took control of credit in a similar manner as Lincoln by forcing the Federal Reserve to obey a national mandate for the first time since the private bank was set up in 1913. He did so by imposing his ally Mariner Eccles into the position of Chairman who understood that money had to create infrastructure and industrial growth in order to acquire any claim to having actual "value". This was a stark break from the "hands off/laissez-faire" policy of President Hoover and his JP Morgan-run cabinet. FDR also emitted Lincoln-styled productive credit through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) to fuel the New Deal. The RFC issued over $33 billion in low-interest loans by the end of the war (more than all private banks combined).

Describing his moral philosophy of political economy, FDR stated:

"We seek not merely to make government a mechanical implement, but to give it the vibrant personal character that is the very embodiment of human charity. We are poor indeed if this nation cannot afford to lift from every recess of American life the dread fear of the unemployed that they are not needed in the world. We cannot afford to accumulate a deficit in the books of human fortitude."

What is missing today

Today's America is confronting an existential crisis similar to that which both Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt battled in their time. Just as the proto-deep state of 1865 ran Lincoln's assassination from Montreal Canada, and took over the White House minutes after FDR's untimely death in 1945, today's deep state has attempted in vain to overthrow President Trump while successfully undermining the political viability of other "outsiders" like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.

The difference is that today's crisis combines elements of all previous crises of 1861-1865, 1929-1933 and 1938-1945: the very real new threat of chaos and civil war within, NATO-led wars with China and Russia without and economic collapse across the entire trans-Atlantic bubble economy. The other difference is located in the current presidency's inability to FOCUS with a clear mind on principled solutions to this multi-faceted crisis while instead finding itself trapped within contradictory impulses.

While FDR and Lincoln understood that VALUE was located the physically productive forces of labor which sustained and improved the lives of people and gave the constitution's pre-amble a real living character, today's American leadership has displayed a far greater ignorance to this basic fact of life. The vital difference between "need" vs "want" which has been obscured by decades of free market ideology has resulted in a loss of moral judgment necessary to properly put out the fires threatening to unleashing civil war, chaos and fascist global government "solutions" across the Trans Atlantic today.

The new multipolar alliance led by Russia and China have demonstrated what modern day New Deal policies can do. The Belt and Road Initiative as well as the Strategic Eurasian Partnership, Polar Silk Road and bold space exploration projects all reflect the type of principles of win-win cooperation and long term planning that characterized both FDR and Lincoln earlier. The Health Silk Road announced earlier this week by President Xi Jinping provides a brilliant maneuver to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic under a non-Malthusian worldview. This Multipolar Alliance exists as a form of a life raft for anyone wishing to escape the fate of the Titanic and embark on a new epoch of growth and cooperation.

The question is: Do western powers have the ability to act according to a scientific (and moral) standard of value by aligning with this multipolar alliance or will they choose to remain in Orwell's dystopic cage and succumb to a fate which Lincoln, FDR and other great leaders gave their lives to prevent?

[Mar 28, 2020] People's lives have absolutely zero value to these monsters at the top, who have gotten where they are because they are so ruthless and selfish.

Mar 28, 2020 | www.unz.com

Mustapha Mond , says: Show Comment March 27, 2020 at 2:49 pm GMT

@tomo Hi tomo!

Yes, I would believe it.

I was a partner in a law firm where I was ultimately responsible for all civil litigation we handled. I was continually shocked and disgusted by what I saw. It was incredible. People's lives have absolutely zero value to these monsters at the top, who have gotten where they are because they are so ruthless and selfish.

We, as a society, carefully select for these psychopathic types in all high-level competitive endeavors where large sums are hanging in the balance. Their only loyalty is 1.) to themselves; 2.) to the shareholders/partners, firmly in that order, and they are VERY highly rewarded for it. That the commoner's well being holds no value to them aside from how it can be exploited to their businesses' advantage, is a truism revealed and reinforced daily. The Ford Pinto, Dalkon Shield and other horrifying high profile cases (from the era when I practiced) come immediately to mind.

Pig Pharma is by no means alone in their utter disregard for the everyday man and woman, it's just that we intuitively expect people in the medical field to want to heal the sick, not prolong it. But as the Wall Street analysts remind the heads of Pig Pharma on a daily basis: curing disease is a bad business model. Prolonging and worsening illness, just short of death, is optimal. Just ask the lovely Sackler family.

Very sad to learn it's as bad or worse across the pond, but I guess that's to be expected.

I suspect the worst of it exists in the military environment, where service men and women are apparently routinely used as guinea pigs, and often completely unknowingly. But at least they know when they sign up that they are 100% expendable ..

[Mar 28, 2020] Covid-19 Hits the Dual Economy Incomes Destroyed at the Bottom, Profits Supported at the Top

Mar 28, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

By Lance Taylor, Arnhold Professor of International Cooperation and Development, New School for Social Research. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

This note presents broad brush illustrations from a simple accounting model of the impacts of the coronavirus epidemic on macroeconomic balance, with emphasis on fiscal interventions. The premise is that supporting effective demand is essential for sustaining economic activity. The covid-19 epidemic created mass unemployment by shutting activity down. The resulting income loss undoubtedly reduced household consumption which makes up two-thirds of GDP. The only way to restore consumption is for the government acting as the "borrower of last resort" to raise its deficit and transfer the proceeds to households. A numerical example presented below suggests that an increase of ten percentage points in the ratio of government net borrowing (spending on goods and services plus transfers to households minus tax revenues) to GDP would do the trick.

The stimulus legislation now before Congress does not go far enough. Its size -- $2.2 trillion or ten percent of GDP – is the right order of magnitude but the breakdown of spending is biased away from households and toward business, viz. , payments that may flow more or less directly to households – checks in the mail, more unemployment insurance, small business support, state and local government support, and less than $100 billion to food stamps and disaster relief – come to $1.2 trillion or 5.7% of GDP.

Big business support in the form of loans and a range of other payments amounts to $800 billion or 3.8% of GDP. No doubt, politics aside, some of this money will be usefully spent, but its contribution to aggregate demand will be slow and indirect.

Before getting into the details of demand management, a few background observations are needed.

One is that both government and business have substantial debt overhangs. The simulations suggest that an increase of about $3 trillion in the deficit of the government sector (close to the total built into the various packages now in place or being enacted) is needed to offset the macro shock that the epidemic creates. Outstanding Federal debt is $22 trillion. New issues of three trillion may be difficult for markets to absorb.

Even worse, the corporate sector's outstanding debt is $10 trillion, five times total profits before depreciation, interest, and taxes. Share buybacks, largely financed by borrowing and ranging in the upper hundreds of billions per year, have been an important driver of growth of debt. The production side of once dominant firms – think of General Electric and Boeing – has been hollowed out by financial engineering. Politics will continue to be influenced by pressures to solve financial problems for firms created by their past mistakes.

On the real side of the economy, over the last two or three decades the share of employment in sectors with low real wages, productivity, and profits increased by around twenty percent. The share of profits in national income grew at around 0.4% per year for five decades, mostly flowing through various channels to households in the top one percent of the size distribution of income. Households at the bottom of the distribution became especially vulnerable.

The major impact on economic activity will come from falling consumption of goods and services due to income losses caused by businesses shutting down. Starting from an initial income level, household saving or the difference between income and spending will shoot up with further multiplier effects on output. High profit activities such as real estate rental and leasing, finance, and information will be protected. Sectors with high employment and low wages and productivity such as retail, accommodation and food, and other services will be hard hit (education and health will be the main exception). To offset the impacts, fiscal demand creation by the government will be essential, with the required outlays depending on the size of the consumption drop and other shocks such as lower private investment and exports.

We begin with details about differences across sectors, and go on to the macroeconomic effects of the coronavirus epidemic on incomes and output.

Dual Economy

The shifts in the structure of production just mentioned created an American dual economy with prosperity at the top and near subsistence living at the bottom. Table 1 presents details for sixteen sectors, ordered from the higher to lower rows by decreasing estimates of payments per hour to labor (including "supplements" or contributions for pensions and insurance).

Real wages and productivity vary over wide ranges. The same is true of sectoral profits. Real estate takes the lion's share, followed by manufacturing, finance, business services, and information. Profits are meager from retail on down the rows, while output and especially employment shares are relatively high. The three sectors mentioned above -- retail, accommodation and food, and other services – provide around 46 million jobs, more than one-quarter of the 162 million total. Their labor payments amount to $263 billion, about one percent of GDP of $21 trillion. This number can be contrasted with $600 billion of profits in real estate. Incomes of low-wage workers do not matter

greatly in the grand macroeconomic scheme of things, but for them even a ten percent income loss would be devastating.

Table 1: Structure of production in 2016 Wages and output used to calculate wage rate per hour and productivity per hour are deflated by the GDP deflator (2019=100). Shares of real output are deflated based on each sector's own industry price index (2009=100).

Macroeconomic Balance

Before turning to the impacts of covid-19, it makes sense to review previous macroeconomic shocks such as the great recession and the smaller Trump tax reduction of 2018. A simple accounting scheme can be built around "net borrowing" (NB) levels of four institutional sectors – households (HH), corporate business, government at all levels, and the rest of the world.

For households and business, NB is equal to gross fixed capital formation plus changes in inventories ("investment") minus saving. For government, it is current spending on goods and services plus investment minus the excess of tax receipts over fiscal transfers to households. Broadly speaking, foreign NB is the current account surplus or exports minus imports. It is negative for the USA. In the jargon, investment, government spending, and exports are demand "injections." HH and business saving, taxes minus fiscal transfers, and imports are "leakages." Overall macroeconomic balance requires that the sum of NB levels across sectors should equal zero (subject to a "statistical discrepancy" between estimates of spending and incomes in the national accounts). Table 2 summarizes data for selected years. The "rates" are calculated with respect to the relevant year's real GDP.

Table 2: Net borrowing behavior in the USA for selected years (levels in trillions of dollars at prices of 2019, rates are relative to GDP)

Each year's "multiplier" is the inverse of the sum of the four leakage rates. The multiplier times the sum of injections equals output.

In a further illustration, Figure 1 shows annual net borrowing rates in the form of a bar chart. High net borrowing by the government in response to the financial crisis stands out. Even more striking at the far right of the diagram is the fiscal response to the consumption loss due to the coronavirus as estimated in Table 3 below.

Figure 1: Annual sectoral net borrowing (in the past and estimated for 2020)

The diagram and table show that business retained earnings usually provide the main source of saving, with resources also coming from households and negative net borrowing by the rest of the world (positive net lending to the US economy). The government is the principal net borrower, as underlined by its role in recent macroeconomic events and especially now.

Recession and the Trump Tax Cut

The 2007-09 recession was precipitated by private sector retrenchment in wake of the financial crisis. Household consumption was flat, while private investment fell by 30%. Household saving and business retained earnings went up, meaning that the overall private saving rate rose from 19% to 22%. Output rose between 2007 and 2009. It would have dropped dramatically if the net government tax-minus-transfer rate had been stable. But in fact it fell from 15% to 6% due to automatic stabilizers and the Obama stimulus package of around 5% of GDP. The overall impact was that private net borrowing fell by 10.2% of output while government borrowing went up by 8.6%. Reduction of the external deficit by 1.7% made up the difference.

In sum, the recession was not a disaster because of fiscal realignment. Causality ran from a private sector shock to automatic and discretionary government responses. It went the other way for the more modest Trump tax cut. The tax-minus-transfer rate fell from 11.6% to 10.7%, or about $185 billion. Output did go up by 2.9%, but the increase would have been greater if there had been a strong business investment boom instead of only a $320 billion increase. Lower business taxes were in large part distributed via dividends and share buybacks to households at the top of the income ladder with high saving rates.

Both episodes show that changing government net borrowing plays a key role in macroeconomic adjustment. More government spending on goods and services (unimportant in 2007-09) will also have to help absorb the covid-19 shock

Coronavirus and Consumption

The biggest immediate impact of the epidemic is loss of economic activity as businesses shut down in a "supply" shock. Unless they reopen rapidly, both payments to labor and profits will fall. Household consumption makes up almost 70% of GDP and will drop accordingly.

As an illustration, we can consider a consumption decrease over 2020 of $1.5 trillion from a 2019 level of $14.6 trillion, or 10% (a high but not unreasonable estimate). That amounts to seven percent of GDP. Because they have low or negative saving rates, households hit by loss of low-wage jobs at the bottom of the Table 1 ladder would be major contributors.

For households, saving basically equals income minus spending for consumption, (mostly) residential investment, and taxes. A decrease in consumption translates into higher saving, or in Table 3 a jump of the HH saving rate from 0.086 to 0.156. More saving means less demand creation so that output falls from 21.06 to 18.34 trillion dollars.

Table 3: Possible effects of the coronavirus shock

In a quirk of national accounting, HH net borrowing falls from -0.045 to -0.108, or net lending to the rest of the economy rises to close to 11% of GDP. Presumably the higher "lending" would take the form of paying off debt. In practice, that will not happen. The proper policy response would be a decrease in the government's tax-minus-transfer rate from 0.101 to 0.031, taking the form of a $1.5 trillion transfer to households, which could hold consumption spending and output stable over the year. Government borrowing would rise by 7% of GDP, or from $1.56 to $3.03 trillion (compare the two rightmost bars of Figure 1). This hypothetical percentage increase exceeds the actual change between 2007 and 2009 recorded in Table 2.

In other words, the only way to maintain economic activity is for the government to borrow to transfer money to households to support consumption. Ideally, a few hundred billion could be targeted specifically at the poorly paid quarter of the work force in the sectors in the lower part of Table 1, along with poor households who don't receive labor income.

There are more potential complications. Table 2 shows that private investment fell by around 30% between 2007 and 2009. Lower capital formation along with stable profits drove up retained earnings so that business net borrowing fell. Broadly similar shifts could be expected during the epidemic. Exports could decrease as well. On the other hand, increased government spending on goods and services would raise aggregate demand. In the rightmost column of Table 3, a plausible outcome would be a visible recession, despite government borrowing of 17% of GDP, or $3.4 trillion.

Reality check

The initial impact of covid-19 has been to annihilate labor income through the loss of employment. The challenge is to create demand to offset lost wages and consumer spending. The calculations herein are illustrative at best, although government net borrowing in Table 3 is close to the total outlay of stimulus packages approved by Congress. But there are further complications.

` As noted at the outset, more than three trillion dollars of new government debt is a non-trivial increase over the $22 trillion outstanding. Advocates of Modern Monetary Theory suggest that the Federal Reserve could absorb the new issues, adding to the 15% of government paper that it already holds. In the USA such an experiment is yet to be run.

The Fed has offered to intervene massively to buy up corporate debt, which would also run up its balance sheet. Nevertheless, bailouts for business will remain in political competition with transfers to households in bottom tiers of the income distribution which really need the money. The Obama stimulus directed less than half its outlays toward households. There could be better targeting under present circumstances.

Table 1 suggests that profits in some sectors could be taxed to help offset transfers. Real estate, finance, and information jump to attention.

Timing matters. GDP over one year is the reference frame for Table 3. If, as is likely, job losses and demand decreases are not offset over a shorter period, the effects on economic activity could be devastating.

Finally, immediate direct action is needed to overcome supply shortfalls for vast amounts of new medical and caretaker services, not to mention production of personal protective gear for caregivers.

Support from INET and help from Özlem Ömer are gratefully acknowledged.


Another Scott , March 27, 2020 at 7:13 am

One issue I take with this article is that it often classifies money as going to either labor or profits. There is a third category – suppliers. In my experience payments to suppliers has dried up since the beginning of the coronavirus shutdown. Whether because AP and AR aren't considered essential functions, because businesses, even essential businesses, don't have enough cash to pay employees and suppliers, or because they simply don't want to pay supplier. This is creating a cash crunch for businesses, who are cutting down on discretionary activities like advertising and even turning away new sales out of fears new customers won't pay. I have not seen any analysis on the impact of the loss of trade credit.

Jesper , March 27, 2020 at 8:38 am

The importance of trade-credit has been ignored for decades. I had hopes that one positive effect of the ultra-low interest-rates would have been that large customers would stop paying their suppliers so late. It hasn't happened, banks love it as they force the small suppliers to go to the bank and borrow money at high(er) interest-rate and the money lent out by banks would be the low(er) interest-rate provided by the customer.
There is a risk now that the supply-chains freeze completely due to suppliers not being paid and suppliers then stopping supply – either voluntaritly or due to going under. It might be necessary to legislate and enforce maximum payment terms.
What might possibly be happening is more and better automation of the AP/AR-functions. The current automation is often so bad that it increases employment instead of what might be the intended reduction of employment, the next automation (done by skilled professionals, not like now by when it is often done talkers) might (in my opinion very likely) permanently reduce employment.

Grayce , March 27, 2020 at 11:49 am

Aren't suppliers also the likeliest creditors to lose out in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy? Time to write to legislators for nuance in the regs.

notabanktoadie , March 27, 2020 at 2:36 pm

AP? AR?

Now maybe I'm blind but I see no definition of those abbreviations.

Have a little mercy on laymen, please?

Jesper , March 27, 2020 at 2:51 pm

AP=Accounts Payable
AR=Accounts Receivable (most senior executives might not know they have AR, they believe they only have cash-collectors .)

notabanktoadie , March 27, 2020 at 3:25 pm

Thanks, those definitions also just occurred to me on my walk to the grocery store.

It's amazing how the mind works – if I'll just give it time.

But more accurately, in my considered opinion and experience, is this:

Lamentations 3:25-26

Vag , March 27, 2020 at 3:08 pm

accounts payable, accounts receivable

notabanktoadie , March 27, 2020 at 3:27 pm

Thanks to you also; no businessman I, except as a paper boy in High School.

jackiebass , March 27, 2020 at 8:25 am

This has been the M.O. forever and will continue to be the M.O. Te rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

[Mar 27, 2020] How coronavirus epidemics crushed neoliberal globalism: Now Germany one of the citadels of neoliberals in Europe prohibited export of ventilators to other countries

Mar 27, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

augusto , Mar 26 2020 20:46 utc | 41

We know how the USofA has been over last months now harassing, blackmailing an' threatening other countries NOT to adopt the chinese HUawei 5G technologies.
Many nations were threatened, UK, Berlin, Brazil etc

Now Germany the first vassal of the Empire, 'primus inter pares' has seemingly prohibited the exportation of breathers to other countries - who of course need them most.

So what is globalism after all.

A nice idea the rich sell the morons, and tamed nations of the world. But which gets zeroed as soon as their main interests are menaced.

[Mar 26, 2020] COVID-19 and Class in the United States by Lambert Strether

Notable quotes:
"... Today supermarkets are playing a ground-zero role in our struggle to adapt to restrictions imposed by COVID-19. And grocery workers are bearing much of the the brunt of our anxiety and frustration, as we [who?] descend on depleted stores. ..."
Mar 26, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

In the United States, #COVID-19 began with globalization and globalizers. One thing we can be of is that grovery workers -- to whom the virus will "trickle down" soon enough -- didn't create the conditions for it, or introduce it. Let's take a look at the grocery workers before dollying back to the global. From the Los Angeles Times, " Column: How coronavirus turned supermarket workers into heroes ":

Today supermarkets are playing a ground-zero role in our struggle to adapt to restrictions imposed by COVID-19. And grocery workers are bearing much of the the brunt of our anxiety and frustration, as we [who?] descend on depleted stores.

Without masks or barriers, employees are working long hours, risking infection and battling exhaustion to do their jobs. They connect us to material essentials, like bread and toilet paper. But they're also part of the social fabric that holds us together in unsettling times.

That friendly chat with the guy restocking the egg case this morning might be my only social interaction on this shelter-at-home day. And I feel better whenever I see my favorite cashier at her register. There's something reassuring about the familiar in a world where everything has changed.

Markets are about the only place we're still allowed to gather en masse. And their employees -- pressed into service in ways they never expected -- are our new first responders. They're apt to see us at our worst, and they aim to ease our strain.

"They're dealing with a public that's fearful, apprehensive and frustrated, and it gets hostile," [said John Grant, a former meatpacker who is president of the union that represents grocery employees in Southern California]. "This wasn't what they signed up for, but they realize it's their responsibility. They've cursed how vulnerable they are, and yet they keep going out of their profound dedication to their communities."

Funny thing. The people who "connect us to material essentials" are suddenly more important than Senators and Represenatives (who can fly home), or all the MBAs in the head office, or the CEOs. Heaven forfend they collectively decided to withdraw their labor!

"Vulnerable" as the grocery workers are, they didn't bring #COVID19 on themselves or us. First, I'll look at how globalization made the "material essentials" to deal with #COVID19 so hard to obtain. Then, I'll look at how globalizers were vectors for the diseases spread.

Globalization

The story of how the United States 1% deindustrialized American by moving our manufacturing base offshore (mostly to China) is well known and I will not rehearse it here. From the New York Times, " How the World's Richest Country Ran Out of a 75-Cent Face Mask ":

The answer to why we're running out of protective gear involves a very American set of capitalist pathologies -- the rise and inevitable lure of low-cost overseas manufacturing, and a strategic failure, at the national level and in the health care industry, to consider seriously the cascading vulnerabilities that flowed from the incentives to reduce costs.

(By "reduce costs," of course, we mean "increase profits.") The shortage of masks has been the dominant narrative, but we don't make anything . If masks had not been "the long pole in the tent," as project managers say, something else would have been or will be: ventilators , gloves , nasal swabs for testing, extraction kits and pipettes , reagents , whatever. The real issue is not a shortage of this or that material essential, but a forty-year policy of globalization, supported by the ruling class as a whole, that has led to a shortage of all material essentials (and that's not even taking austerity and the general gutting of public services into account). I have altered the famous "flattening the curve" chart (here with "dotted line to show capacity") to show the effect"

Lack of "material essentials" reduces our capacity ("How many very sick people hospitals can treat"); it pushes the dotted line down. So we either have to flatten the curve further than we would otherwise have to do, or we don't, and lose lives. Thank you, globalization! And with that, let's turn to the globalizers.

Globalizers

By globalizers, I mean the 1% on down, plus the PMC (Professional Manager Class) who own and manage our globalized system. One effect of globalization has been the vast expansion of air transport and international travel, so that globalizers can do their jobs. And tha t's how SARS-COV-2 was brought to the United States :

The man who would become Patient Zero for the new coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. appeared to do everything right. He arrived Jan. 19 at an urgent-care clinic in a suburb north of Seattle with a slightly elevated temperature and a cough he'd developed soon after returning four days earlier from a visit with family in Wuhan, China.

(I'm not blaming any individual; I travel internationally myself, and there are many good reasons to do it. But international air travel was the vector that brought the virus to the United States. That is the system. I'm assuming Patient Zero travelled for professional reasons, since Wuhan is an unlikely tourist destination.)

We can make a highly suggestive correlation between globalizers and COVID-19 if we look at two simple maps. First, as is well known , one of the main distinctions between the places that are " optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward " (i.e., globalizers) and the dull provincials in flyover is the possession of passports. (A passport is a likely marker for the sort of person who asks "Why don't they just leave?"; "front-row kids," in Chris Arnade's parlance, as distinguished from, say, grocery workers, who he calls "back-row" kids.) Here is a map of passport ownership by state:

http://maps.unomaha.edu/Map_Sites/US_Passport_Map.htm

And here is a map of COVID-19 outbreaks:

The correlation is rather neat, don't you think? It makes sense that the first case was in a globalist, passport-owning city like Seattle on the West Coast; and it makes sense that the world capital of globalization, passport-owning New York City, now has a major outbreak.

Oh, and the ability to travel by air correlates to income (a proxy for class):

If one hypothesizes, as I am doing, that COVID-19 will trickle from globalizers downward, we might ask ourselves how that will happen. One answer, of course, is social interaction between the globalizers themselves. The New York Times describes " Party Zero: How a Soirée in Connecticut Became a 'Super Spreader ':"

About 50 guests gathered on March 5 at a home in the stately suburb of Westport, Conn., to toast the hostess on her 40th birthday and greet old friends, including one visiting from South Africa. They shared reminiscences, a lavish buffet and, unknown to anyone, the coronavirus.

Then they scattered.

The Westport soirée -- Party Zero in southwestern Connecticut and beyond -- is a story of how, in the Gilded Age of money, social connectedness and air travel, a pandemic has spread at lightning speed. The partygoers -- more than half of whom are now infected -- left that evening for Johannesburg, New York City and other parts of Connecticut and the United States, all seeding infections on the way.

Westport, a town of 28,000 on the Long Island Sound, did not have a single known case of the coronavirus on the day of the party. It had 85 on Monday, up more than 40-fold in 11 days.

It is the globalizers' ability to "scatter," in other words -- both internationally and domestically -- that made them such effective vectors. The Westport hot-spot was innocent, since nobody knew enough about COVID-19. Other examples are not innocent at all, where globalizers infect all those around them by trying to escape the disease. The Hamptons example is famous. From the New York Post, " 'We should blow up the bridges' -- coronavirus leads to class warfare in Hamptons ":

Every aspect of life, most crucially medical care, is under strain from the sudden influx of rich Manhattanites panic-fleeing, bringing along their disdain and disregard for the little people -- and in some cases, knowingly bringing coronavirus.

The Springs resident says her friend, a nurse out here, reported that a wealthy Manhattan woman who tested positive called tiny Southampton Hospital to say she was on her way and needed treatment.

The woman was told to stay in Manhattan.

Instead, she allegedly got on public transportation, telling no one of her condition. Then she showed up at Southampton Hospital, demanding admittance.

"Someone else took a private jet to East Hampton and did not tell anybody 'til he landed," the resident says. "That's the most horrendous aspect. The virus is already here, and we don't have any medical resources."

Everybody loves a "rich people behaving badly" story, but here's a second one. From the Los Angeles Times, " Some of Mexico's wealthiest residents went to Colorado to ski. They brought home coronavirus ":

The frantic effort to find the ski trip participants has highlighted an uncomfortable fact: It is people wealthy enough to travel outside the country who have brought the coronavirus back to mostly poor Mexico. Yet if the disease spreads, it is those with the least who will probably suffer the most.

"The virus is imported by people with the economic capacity to travel," wrote actor Tenoch Huerta on Twitter. "Those who ask that everything be closed and all economic activity stop, hurting the people who live day-to-day, why didn't they voluntarily isolate for three weeks so as not to spread it? Or should only the poor be responsible?"

The same dynamic can be inferred in Blaine Country, Idaho, home of ski resort Sun Valley :

Idaho has 123 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the state's coronavirus website. That includes 37 in Ada County and eight in Canyon County. Blaine County, where Sun Valley is located, has the most confirmed cases at 52. Idaho's first case was reported 12 days ago, in Ada County. The number of people tested in the state is now up to 2,188.

(Many of the cases around the state came from travel to Blaine County.)

Finally, Berkshire County, MA:

In my home area of Berkshire County, MA, the superrich from the city who own second homes have come up en masse, buying up all the food and refusing to quarantine. The latter means they will overwhelm an already insufficient healthcare system.

-- Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) March 25, 2020

Conclusion

Of course, this rough-and-ready, anecdotal analysis is no substitute for formal, scientific contact tracing. But I don't think, at this point, we will ever be able trace the original outbreaks. And I didn't see anybody else making this argument, so I thought I'd throw it against the wall and see if it sticks. All I can say is that when I think of the grocery workers -- and all the workers -- in the Hamptons, Mexico, Idaho, and Massachusetts having COVID-19 brought to them, I become very ticked off. For pity's sake, at least can we practice social distancing by traveling only when it's essential?

[Mar 25, 2020] Rumour in the markets has it WHO held out as long as possible to avoid triggering the provisions of World Bank Pandemic Bonds

This is clearly corruption...
Mar 25, 2020 | www.unz.com

The Alarmist , says: Show Comment March 25, 2020 at 10:42 am GMT

@Oddly Enough

The WHO declared a pandemic 50 days later on March 11th.

Rumour in the markets has it WHO held out as long as possible to avoid triggering the provisions of World Bank Pandemic Bonds, for which investors enjoyed relatively high coupon rates in the current low interest-rate environment in exchange for running the risk of losing their principal investment if a pandemic was declared in the window period.

[Mar 25, 2020] By blockading health care products, most proably the same people who have caused all this, may seek that public health care collapsing gives a bad impression so as to get them privatized once the country in depression.

Mar 25, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

H.Schmatz , Mar 24 2020 23:57 utc | 112

WTF?
Six million protection masks for Germany disappeared at the Kenya airport. They were valued at a million dollars. Theft is suspected or that the manufacturer (Belgium) decided to destroy them. Nothing is accidental in disaster capitalism.

https://twitter.com/berlinConfid/status/1242413373830115329

I wonder whether those who seak war at all costs, are now trying to get us fighting for masks and ventilators....

Seeing the comments at SST on the necessities of NYC major, it seesm to me that the same people who seeks always confrontation is always ready to start a fight with its nationals for whatever reason....

In Spain, as I am seeing, even counting with the inability and greed of those at the helms, it seems to me that a "USSR 1990" effect on dissapearing health care items from the market to then make them appear at multiple times their price could be happening right now...

By blockading health care products, most proably the same people who have caused all this, may seek that public health care collapsing gives a bad impression so as to get them privatized once the country in depression.

[Mar 25, 2020] So if you are talking about people in SE Asia and the West hating Chinese for their behaviour, exemplified by the behaviour of Amy Chua to her own daughters and of her family to its Filipino servants, and the behaviour of people in Hong Kong and Singapore with their status-seeking and selfish materialist values, and their adherence to extreme Protestant Christian beliefs, bear in mind where they learned their lessons.

Mar 25, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Moa , Mar 25 2020 0:43 utc | 120

Jen, yes, I am very familiar with the program as I have an acquaintance who helps usher in very wealthy Chinese into Canada for a hefty fee.

That doesn't change the fact the Chinese are hated everywhere they go. This is very well documented in the book entitled World on Fire, by a Chinese American author Amy Chua who also wrote the book Hymn of the Dragon Mother.

She brags about how she pushes her children to achieve more in the second book.

In the first, she explains how her Chinese aunt was murdered by their Filipino servants because the servants were badly treated. Now, you can tell me if the two have any relation to each other.

Apart from TCM which the Chinese got from the Indians and developed, the entire Chinese civilization needs to be scrapped and started over.

Jen , Mar 25 2020 1:27 utc | 122

Moa @ 120:

The Chinese "scrapped" their civilisation starting in the 1950s. By then it was on its last legs anyway, after over 100 years of degradation from mass opium addiction brought by the British, followed by decades of foreign interference and the consequences of that interference: a messianic cult culminating in the Taiping rebellion in the 1860s and then the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 20th century, among other things.

Amy Chua is just one person whose mother's family came from Fujian province in SE China and settled in the Philippines, along with several other families from that part of China. (Former Philippines President Corazon Aquino also had family from Fujian.) People living in Fujian and Guangdong (the old Canton province) were exposed to more Western / European influences than other parts of China. Fujian and Guangdong are also the areas where most overseas Chinese communities living in SE Asia and the West, up to the 1980s, hailed from.

So if you are talking about people in SE Asia and the West hating Chinese for their behaviour, exemplified by the behaviour of Amy Chua to her own daughters and of her family to its Filipino servants, and the behaviour of people in Hong Kong and Singapore with their status-seeking and selfish materialist values, and their adherence to extreme Protestant Christian beliefs, bear in mind where they learned their lessons.

I speak as one of those you damn.

[Mar 25, 2020] Senator Rand Paul wisely proposed cutting war spending to help pay for the relief package. We should go much, much farther than he proposed and slash hundreds of billions of dollars in annual military spending and instead give it directly to US Citizens here at home.

Mar 25, 2020 | www.unz.com

RadicalCenter , says: Show Comment March 24, 2020 at 4:22 am GMT

@Anon As for people with jobs supposedly not needing the relief checks, speak for yourself. Completely out of touch with how much tens of millions of working Americans are living and struggling, and not just the poor or minimum-wage workers by any means.

Middle-income and upper-middle-income people in many places are struggling with housing costs and medical costs above all, and their situation generally is not improving in recent years.

As a factual correction, the proposals on both sides are not for $1,000 per family; they are for $1,000 or $1,200 or more to each adult, plus $500 for each child, and I'm glad they are.

This would be a better use of taxpayer money -- or money conjured out of thin air by the federal reserve -- than most of what the fed gov has been doing. That includes the vast sums we have spent on unnecessary wars and occupations that are neither defensive nor retaliatory.

Senator Rand Paul wisely proposed cutting war spending to help pay for the relief package. We should go much, much farther than he proposed and slash hundreds of billions of dollars in annual military spending and instead give it directly to US Citizens here at home.

We should also consider placing a permanent floor under Americans, not just a fleeting relief package that ends when this virus quiets down. Very large cuts to the warfare state and the welfare-state bureaucracy alike can provide funding for a substantial monthly universal basic income for all US Citizens age 21 and over -- with less government borrowing than we have now.

Public ownership of our God-given natural resources could provide another large source of funding for the UBI -- without any government borrowing at all.

Of course, these ideas are too responsible for either Dems or Republicans to even debate. Instead, they'll do a sensible and just thing, directly helping Americans rather than big connected corporations and banks, but they'll recklessly borrow to do so.

There is a middle way and we should be negotiating it.

[Mar 25, 2020] When one of Reagan's top bureaucrats is calling for writing down the debt and nationalisation, it is obvious that neo-liberalism is dying

Mar 25, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

bevin , Mar 24 2020 19:20 utc | 38

1/ @35 And you can include Ontario in that farewell too.

2/ When one of Reagan's top bureaucrats is calling for writing down the debt and nationalisation, it is obvious that neo-liberalism is dying.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/54068.htm

3/ Isn't chloroquine just a new name for Jesuit's (Peruvian) bark? Or quinine. The tonic in gin and tonic?

4/ Tom Paine's 1796 pamphlet 'The English System of Finance' and Cobbett's 'Paper against Gold' are coming into their own. What Disraeli called the Dutch system of finance is what is collapsing, almost 500 years after it began. That was the contradiction in globalisation, one that Rosa Luxemburg had pointed out more than a century ago: we have reached the limits of constant expansion. And not just in environmental terms.

[Mar 24, 2020] We are headed into the unknown. Like the first stages of the collapse of the soviet union.

Mar 24, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Peter , Mar 24 2020 10:59 utc | 212

A User
Six months down the track, duopoly voting majority may perhaps be looking to do more than vote for the duopoly, but that's only a maybe. It will take a lot of hardship to pull them away from reality tv...meantime, your comment fits in here like another brick in the wall. Another pissed off human having a winge.

Doing something... seems to me a group with structure, a plan and an endgoal is required and this got out to the wider public. End goal needs to be something that would be accepted by the reality tv watching public and step by step plan to get there...
We havn't hit bottom yet, still a long way from it. Any plan will have to match the situation at the bottom and the way back. But first you gotta get two people to agree on a plan.

We are headed into the unknown. Like the first stages of the collapse of the soviet union.

Putin when asked about Gorbochov and Yeltsin he just says "everyone knew we had to change but nobody knew how to go about it."
Here is somewhat different because in the mainstream types, nobody knows we have to change.
We are likely to go through something akin to the soviet nineties and only then will the population know we need to change because the old ways failed.
Best to play it by ear until that point. Nothing can be done untill the wider population realise that all they have known has failed and a different start must be made. I doubt too many of our countries will have a Putin that can pull us out of the shit. And by a Putin, I mean somebody that has a vision acceptable to the majority and comes to be trusted by the majority and also has the nous and ability required.


[Mar 24, 2020] I got the "flu" in November 2019 and I had the same symptoms as Coronavirus - I thought it was going to kill me

Mar 24, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Tim E. , Mar 23 2020 23:52 utc | 111

@68 - antares

I got the "flu" in November 2019 and I had the same symptoms as Coronavirus - I thought it was going to kill me - and while I missed some work - work demanded me back - and so I worked through some terrible times. Everyone at work was sick with different levels of symptoms. To this day I have still not 100% recovered - but I am poor and have no health insurance - and, well, everybody has been exposed for months so it doesn't even matter anymore. No one has died - but everyone has a low level persistent respiratory illness.


c1ue , Mar 24 2020 0:24 utc | 114

Again: if nCOV was really already in the US in November - where was the surge in hospitalizations? Regardless of age, ~20% of those who get it, get pneumonia or worse and need hospital care.

We don't even have that right now despite a huge number of cases. Maybe the US and Germany are different - we'll see in about 2 weeks.

Tim E. , Mar 24 2020 0:29 utc | 117
Again: if nCOV was really already in the US in November - where was the surge in hospitalizations?

Because most in US can't afford Hospitals or even have health insurance.

[Mar 24, 2020] Trump owns hotels and casinos which will be devastated. that might explain his position on the virus and initial downplaying of the danger

Mar 24, 2020 | www.unz.com

Tor597 , says: Show Comment March 22, 2020 at 3:30 pm GMT

Actually, Trump was downplaying Corona Virus as late as March 9th.

https://mobile.twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1237027356314869761

One thing I think played a role that is not mentioned is Trumps business that he owns. He owns hotels and casinos which will be devastated. Trump wont rule out government assistance for himself.

For Trump to shut down the economy and produce an effective containment, he would have had to do this knowing that his own business would be devastated.

https://mol.im/a/8138335

[Mar 24, 2020] Many Italians in Northern Italy sold their leather goods and textiles companies to China. Italy then allowed 100,000 Chinese from Wuhan/Wenzhou to move to Italy to work in these factories, with direct Wuhan flights. Result: Northern Italy is Europe's hotspot for Wuhan Coronavirus

Mar 24, 2020 | www.unz.com

Felix Keverich , says: Show Comment March 22, 2020 at 4:37 pm GMT

@Anatoly Karlin There is apparently a large colony (100.000) of Chinese workers in Lombardy, with direct flights between Lombardy and Wuhan, so this Italian outbreak is not a coincidence.

Many Italians in Northern Italy sold their leather goods and textiles companies to China. Italy then allowed 100,000 Chinese from Wuhan/Wenzhou to move to Italy to work in these factories, with direct Wuhan flights. Result: Northern Italy is Europe's hotspot for Wuhan Coronavirus

-- George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) March 18, 2020

UK had a "herd immunity" strategy from the beginning. They made no real effort at containment. British government allowed their people to become infected, and only began to change course after public outrage.

Europe Europa , says: Show Comment March 22, 2020 at 4:48 pm GMT
@Felix Keverich The large Chinese population in Italy has been completely ignored by the media, in fact China itself seems to have been let completely off the hook. The focus is now on how terrible Britain and the native British people are.

Someone even posted a Tweet above by a Vietnamese person trying to claim that BRITAIN of all countries is responsible for the outbreak in Vietnam, I mean what kind of ridiculous logic is that? Vietnam bloody BORDERS China, the origin and epicentre of the Coronavirus outbreak, and the Vietnamese are trying to say Britain is the cause? It beggars belief.

[Mar 24, 2020] Manufacturing in cheap Third World countries and rewarding the local compradors with a permission to migrate to the West as contributing factor to the coronavirus epidemic

Mar 24, 2020 | www.unz.com

Beckow , says: Show Comment March 22, 2020 at 6:56 pm GMT

@AP

less globalization outside North America/Europe/Japan/Australia

You are missing the point of globalization: manufacturing in cheap Third World countries and rewarding the local compradors with a permission to migrate to the West. That's the deal, that's what globalization is.

With NA-Europe-Japan all you get is tourism and travel. I would be surprised if we can at this point convince Chinese and the other cheap labor countries to do the work and forgo the hope of migration. It was a Faustian deal and those as we know end in hell.

utu , says: Show Comment March 22, 2020 at 7:01 pm GMT
@AP Calm down, man and stop the stupid blaming game. It seems that your Banderite spin also includes bashing Chinese which, on the second thought, should not be surprising as there is only one paymaster. Perhaps you should specialize in Ukraine only and leave China to more competent haters.

Compare Canada and Italy on Chinese residents: Canada has 5 times more Chinese than Italy but 62 times less infection cases and 539 times less fatalities than Italy (as of March 16). Furthermore France and UK have more Chinese than Italy.

What about tourists: In Canada 0.75 mil Chinese tourist but in Italy 3.5 mil Chinese tourists. So it must be the tourists, right?

So compare Japan with Italy on Chinese tourists: 8.4 mil Chinese tourist in Japan vs. 3.5 mil Chinese tourists in Italy. How many cases in Japan?

So what I am trying to convey is that the expression of the epidemic in different countries is not congruent with the number of Chinese residents or Chinese tourist.

We will never know where the patients zero (yes plural, there are many patients zero) really came from. For various political reasons we will not be told and what we will be told we must be skeptical about. I found interesting data about the first infected in British Columbia that has huge rather affluent Chinese population. There were as many Iranians as non-Iranians on the list.

In British Columbia cases 1 to 5 were from China though it does not appear they infected others while cases 6, 7, , 12 and 14, 15, 19 were traced to Iran. Then the case 22 was from Iran and also case 31. Case 32 was from Italy, case 35 was from Egypt and case 37 was from Germany. So out of first 37 cases over 50% were people came form Iran, Egypt, Germany and Italy. My point is that while Canada has huge Chinese population (1.7 mil) and gets 700,000 Chinese visitors per year it does not look like China was the main vector. In BC it is Iran and Europe.

https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/covid-19-coronavirus-canadian-cases

One should consider a possibility whether virus introduction to Iran and the Middle East did precede its introduction in China.

Now let's return to Italy. Most Chinese tourists go to Rome, Florence and Venice. These cities were not affected as much as Lombardy where there is not that many tourists. So we are told that Chinese workers could carry the virus. So look at Prato (in Tuscany near Florence) which has the highest density of Chinese population in Italy. Wiki lists 11,882 (6.32%) for Prato while the highest absolute number is Milan 18,918 (1.43%). The numbers are probably outdated as most likely they do not include illegal residents.

On March 11 Italy had 12,246 cases.
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/italy/

So I checked what Prato had on March 11:

https://iltirreno.gelocal.it/prato/cronaca/2020/03/11/news/coronavirus-casi-triplicati-a-prato-e-il-giorno-piu-nero-1.38580402
Coronavirus, casi triplicati a Prato: è il giorno più nero

"In a single day the positive cases of coronavirus in the province of Prato have tripled: from 7 to 21 . It is the darkest day since the outbreak began. According to what was announced in the afternoon of today, March 11, by the bulletin of the regional council "

"Therefore, 314 patients are currently positive in Tuscany. This is the subdivision by signaling areas: 71 Florence, 32 Pistoia, 21 Prato (total Asl center: 124), 43 Lucca, 40 Massa Carrara, 34 Pisa, 16 Livorno (total North West Asl: 133), 12 Grosseto, 37 Siena , 14 Arezzo (total Asl southeast: 63)."

So clearly the 2nd largest Chinese community in Italy (and first in density) with 21 cases (out of 12,246 cases in Italy) did not contribute a lot to the corona virus outbreak in Italy.

utu , says: Show Comment March 22, 2020 at 7:01 pm GMT
@AP Calm down, man and stop the stupid blaming game. It seems that your Banderite spin also includes bashing Chinese which, on the second thought, should not be surprising as there is only one paymaster. Perhaps you should specialize in Ukraine only and leave China to more competent haters.

Compare Canada and Italy on Chinese residents: Canada has 5 times more Chinese than Italy but 62 times less infection cases and 539 times less fatalities than Italy (as of March 16). Furthermore France and UK have more Chinese than Italy.

What about tourists: In Canada 0.75 mil Chinese tourist but in Italy 3.5 mil Chinese tourists. So it must be the tourists, right?

So compare Japan with Italy on Chinese tourists: 8.4 mil Chinese tourist in Japan vs. 3.5 mil Chinese tourists in Italy. How many cases in Japan?

So what I am trying to convey is that the expression of the epidemic in different countries is not congruent with the number of Chinese residents or Chinese tourist.

We will never know where the patients zero (yes plural, there are many patients zero) really came from. For various political reasons we will not be told and what we will be told we must be skeptical about. I found interesting data about the first infected in British Columbia that has huge rather affluent Chinese population. There were as many Iranians as non-Iranians on the list.

In British Columbia cases 1 to 5 were from China though it does not appear they infected others while cases 6, 7, , 12 and 14, 15, 19 were traced to Iran. Then the case 22 was from Iran and also case 31. Case 32 was from Italy, case 35 was from Egypt and case 37 was from Germany. So out of first 37 cases over 50% were people came form Iran, Egypt, Germany and Italy. My point is that while Canada has huge Chinese population (1.7 mil) and gets 700,000 Chinese visitors per year it does not look like China was the main vector. In BC it is Iran and Europe.

https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/covid-19-coronavirus-canadian-cases

One should consider a possibility whether virus introduction to Iran and the Middle East did precede its introduction in China.

Now let's return to Italy. Most Chinese tourists go to Rome, Florence and Venice. These cities were not affected as much as Lombardy where there is not that many tourists. So we are told that Chinese workers could carry the virus. So look at Prato (in Tuscany near Florence) which has the highest density of Chinese population in Italy. Wiki lists 11,882 (6.32%) for Prato while the highest absolute number is Milan 18,918 (1.43%). The numbers are probably outdated as most likely they do not include illegal residents.

On March 11 Italy had 12,246 cases.
https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/italy/

So I checked what Prato had on March 11:

https://iltirreno.gelocal.it/prato/cronaca/2020/03/11/news/coronavirus-casi-triplicati-a-prato-e-il-giorno-piu-nero-1.38580402
Coronavirus, casi triplicati a Prato: è il giorno più nero

"In a single day the positive cases of coronavirus in the province of Prato have tripled: from 7 to 21 . It is the darkest day since the outbreak began. According to what was announced in the afternoon of today, March 11, by the bulletin of the regional council "

"Therefore, 314 patients are currently positive in Tuscany. This is the subdivision by signaling areas: 71 Florence, 32 Pistoia, 21 Prato (total Asl center: 124), 43 Lucca, 40 Massa Carrara, 34 Pisa, 16 Livorno (total North West Asl: 133), 12 Grosseto, 37 Siena , 14 Arezzo (total Asl southeast: 63)."

So clearly the 2nd largest Chinese community in Italy (and first in density) with 21 cases (out of 12,246 cases in Italy) did not contribute a lot to the corona virus outbreak in Italy.

Daniel Chieh , says: Show Comment March 22, 2020 at 7:10 pm GMT
@AP

If this started in the USA and spread elsewhere the world would have good cause to condemn the USA and to judge any subsequent efforts by Americans to help others as "the least they could do."

Chinese shipments of medical goods are actually to the risk of the own population, where hospitals are still recovering. While in some ways it is a blatant PR play, its quite a significant cost amd self-risk that goes beyond "the least they could do."

[Mar 24, 2020] Actual morality reinforces social solidarity, which is why our neoliberal overlords have been attempting to destroy it for so long.

Mar 24, 2020 | www.unz.com

Dutch Boy , says: Show Comment March 23, 2020 at 3:59 pm GMT

Actual morality reinforces social solidarity, which is why our overlords have been attempting to destroy it for so long. Social solidarity is the key to overcoming crises in general and not just the present Covid 19 pandemic.

[Mar 23, 2020] The West was exposed, not only for not being able to handle a pandemic, but also for having a ponzi scheme economy.

Mar 23, 2020 | www.unz.com

Tor597 , says: Show Comment March 23, 2020 at 5:34 am GMT

Other things of note:

1) The West was exposed, not only for not being able to handle a pandemic, but also for having a ponzi scheme economy.

Having its citizens and its companies leveraged up to a point where America can collapse with any amount of hardship badly exposes America as being exceptionally weak.

2) Decoupling of Asia from America. For the West to try and target the Chinese, there will be fallout. It's not like white people bother to distinguish Chinese from Korean or Japanese when they harass Asians they see.

This will have consequences in Asia as Asian countries will just focus on trading with each other than have to deal with a hostile west.

3) America cannot exist in a multipolar world, it can only exist in a unipolar world that it controls. So it will not just be a decoupling of China and America, it will be escalation between America and China till one is left standing.

You can expect to see color revolutions in HK and Taiwan. Meanwhile China will have no reason to show any restraint in fighting back. China could target the west in Iran, Venezuela, or even in the US by tormenting color revolutions of it's own.

4) it is easy to say that America will just trade more with Europe, but how does that work? Drug prices are already too high in America, so now America will pay even higher prices?

Trading more with Latin America makes more sense to me, but I also don't think Latin America is up to it.

5) I honestly don't think America will be the same country after the outbreak is over. Things are already cracking early on, how will Americans pull together 3 months in?

How will America pull together if Trump pulls war time authority?

[Mar 23, 2020] Life and Death under Liberalism by Andrew Joyce

Mar 23, 2020 | www.unz.com

As stated in my review of Don DeLillo's White Noise (1985), we live in a decaying society that is in terror of death, and pathologically so. This pathology is rooted in mistaken beliefs that our civilization is dying from, or could imminently die from, disease epidemics, climate catastrophes etc., in the midst of willful and ignorant abdication of a future (via self-hate and industrialized abortion) in favor of mass immigration, consumerism, and instant gratification. Just as one has to confront death in order to truly live (or to become "authentic" in Heidegger's philosophy), our society is in constant flight from death and thus inevitably collapses into inauthentic decay. COVID-19, while not as lethal as media coverage would suggest, is a reminder of our mortality and human fragility and will necessarily have a jarring effect on a Western liberalism that has become increasingly distant from the confrontation with death.

Life under liberal finance capitalism is largely one of illusion, in which the prospect of real death is pushed far into the distance, both psychologically and culturally. Postmodern Western liberal culture is largely one of perpetual adolescence, in which the primary virtues are acting according to one's individual will, identifying oneself in a hyper-individualistic manner, and expressing these identities via conspicuous consumption and behavior. We do not "live towards" Death, with a sense of purpose and a feeling that we are part of a much grander civilizational trajectory. We do not understand that Death has shaped our historical path, and that it hangs over us in ways that should direct our actions in the present.

COVID-19, regardless of current confusion over its true mortality rate, is a corrective to illusions that "progressive" Man has overcome Nature and can shape the world according to the human image, and without consequences. Certainly throughout my own lifetime, I've grown accustomed to assertions that life expectancy will continue to increase, and that there will be an endless supply of innovations and social projects that will make the mechanics of life easier and more productive.

One increasingly expects that one will live a long life, mostly in very good health. Such a sense of security can breed all kinds of arrogance and fantasies, including the recent perverse luxury of the delusion that one can simply decide to be this or that gender. This new virus, however, presents the possibility, both in itself and its inevitable heirs, that Death is much closer than we ever thought, and that for all our technological advancement and self-congratulation, Nature need only tweak one molecule, so small our naked eyes could never perceive it, and the grave opens before us. The Age of Fantasy is confronted with the ultimate reality.

How the West responds to this realization will be a further cultural challenge. We have grown equally accustomed to the idea that we have "advanced" morally as a society, and that we have overcome some of the more "brutish" aspects of human existence that we perceive in the past. But in a world of apparently increasing plenty, such notions can be hard to test. It's always easy for a man with a full stomach to condemn the actions of the starving. The conceit of the full-bellied West that it has overcome and surpassed itself and its past will now be tested. I, of course, arise from a political and philosophical tradition that insists there is no shame in the past. I see little or no place for morality in the struggle for survival. And I also see the cracks already forming in the Western conceit. This society that is against "hate" and prides itself on "coming together" is already struggling to stop people rioting over toilet paper and bottled water. If civil order breaks down, will the proud feminists be seeking their own resources, or hoping for a strong man to protect them? If the death toll does rise dramatically, and if curfews and lockdowns are imposed and intensified, I ask: How well will your beloved multicultural societies respond? If resources become scarce and tensions rise, who will you trust? These tests are coming.

Economic and Political Fallout

Just days ago, JPMorgan projected that a recession will hit the US and European economies by July, with US GDP to shrink by 2% in the first quarter and 3% in the second, and Eurozone GDP to contract by 1.8% and 3.3% over the same periods. Sudden cessation of economic activity through quarantines, event cancellations, social distancing, and the almost complete shutdown of the tourist industry will have both immediate and longer term consequences for national economies and broader trade patterns. The mass closing of schools will expose pre-existing weaknesses in a modern system that sees women funneled en masse into the work place while their children are left in day cares or schools. According to numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 70 percent of American mothers with children under 18 work. Through the closing of schools alone, the impact of COVID-19 will almost certainly have the greatest impact on the role of women in the workplace since World War Two, with many forced to leave work and return to the home for an as yet undetermined amount of time. How this will impact the businesses or public entities employing these women remains to be seen, but it will undoubtedly cause significant difficulties and necessitate some level of infrastructural change.

The outbreak of COVID-19 is also projected to test Western healthcare provision to the limit. It's been particularly interesting that the outbreak in Italy effectively broke the health system in Lombardy, widely regarded as one of the best in the world. Before the outbreak, it was remarked that:

The Lombardy healthcare system, characterised by quality and efficiency, is a model of reference both in Italy and worldwide. With the benefit of private partnerships in fact, it ensures its citizens and those who live in other regions or abroad have access to prime level health care with all the advantages of a public system. Lombardy has 56 University Departments of Medicine, 19 IRCCS (IRCCS means an institution devoted to excellence in clinical care and research) which represent 42% of the national total, 47 Institutes and 32 Research Centres. As a result, Lombardy and in particular Milan have always attracted the most renowned physicians in every field of expertise.

It took COVID-19 just four weeks to exhaust every hospital bed in Lombardy, force doctors out of retirement and medical students to graduate early, and provoke the creation of 500 triage tents outside hospitals nationwide. The different, and ever-politicized, healthcare systems of the United States and Great Britain are about to experience the most intensive test in their respective histories.

One of the most outspoken figures from the medical profession on social media in recent days is Eugene Gu , who has made a point of attacking the profit-seeking nature of much of the American medical establishment. Gu has argued that American medicine is essentially a pyramid scheme that profits those at the top by artificially restricting the number of doctors produced by the system:

The medical school and residency system in the United States is completely broken compared to other countries. Now that we are in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, we need to reflect upon an abusive system that hurts patients and seeks to make a few specialists filthy rich. Even before the coronavirus, we created a huge physician shortage by limiting spots in medical schools to inflate doctors' salaries the same way De Beers fixes the diamond market. And we gutted primary care so that specialists like plastic surgeons and dermatologists can get rich. I took an oath to "first, do no harm." I cannot just stand by and watch as the corrupt cesspool we call our American medical system fails our patients while a few doctors, insurance executives, and Big Pharma get filthy rich. Medicine should not be a for-profit industry.

Whether or not one agrees with Dr Gu's perspective, the coming weeks and months will test both American for-profit medicine and Britain's nationalized health system, and perhaps leave long term political legacies for both.

Political consequences will also inevitably result from the approaches of individual leaders to the crisis. Boris Johnson is risking his political future on a " herd immunity " strategy that is radically different from the course of action pursued by other leaders. It's been criticized as involving the sacrifice of the older generation for a slightly prolonged period of economic normalcy and an entirely assumed future immunity among the young.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, is quickly trying to move on from a highly dismissive initial response to the outbreak. In both cases, and throughout the West, moderately "conservative" populism based on the celebration of finance capitalism and token gestures on borders will be tested to the limit by increasing strains on all aspects of social, political, and economic life. Trump, in particular, has managed to squeeze a lot of political mileage out of the performance of the stock market. With stocks tumbling, and the American healthcare system pushed to the limit, it remains to be seen whether Trump's drive to make gay sex legal in Africa will be enough to keep his voters happy.

In another return of the Real, of course, COVID-19 is doing more to close borders than any expression of political populism ever has. It was all well and good that "the world is a village" when this involved cheap and cheerful vacations, but all it took was a few houses in the throes of sickness for the rest of the villagers to wish there was somewhere they could escape to. The global village is in shutdown. All humans might be equally susceptible to this virus, but national borders, so often scorned until recently, now reveal they might have some uses after all – just one of them being the invaluable opportunity to seal and control a limited territory. How people grow accustomed to this renewed emphasis on border control may leave a lasting political legacy for the West also. In any case, we can only hope it will.

[Mar 23, 2020] Looks like the virus further damage neoliberalism

Mar 23, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

snake , Mar 22 2020 19:39 utc | 60

The idea advanced on the last thread [by Vk and here @7 and 39 I think] that governments should be organized around something different than economics is sound and worthy of everyone's input, ideas and objections; discussion is needed and welcome.

International human to human discussion should take place. Human experience with nation state globalism has shown just how vulnerable humanity is to organized and institutionalized corruption; the actions of the leaders of individual nations have shown the nation state system cannot be trusted.

The Covid 19 pandemic has reminded us all that we as humans <= have a right to a government that is of our collective liking, we have learned that governments must serve the best interest of the most persons, not special interest of a few. Governments which fail to serve equal right, open access and equal chance to those it governs are prima facia legitimates. Covid 19 brought the meaning of the principle of self-determination to the forefront. Everyone's life is challenged by submicroscopic beast. It takes the cooperation of all of us, to save most of us, and it takes the corruption of a few, to ruin it all, for most of us.

Human rights come first, long before economics . No economic rationale can support the delay or justify the cost of failure for those entrusted with the power to act, should they fail to timely act with diligence on threat that human lives are in danger. Experience suggest it is not possible to leave the power, function, and direction of government to those whose responsibility it is to operate it <= something very different is needed.

Covid 19 was a wake up call , that makes real the unfulfilled and failed campaign promises in a never ending trail of campaigns. Its time for everyone to insist on truth, truth in media, truth in political campaigns, open book truth from those appointed to government, and to bring everyone's troops home. Its time for nation states to stop supporting the private oil and gas bandits, the MSM, or any other special interest, its time to make a single global currency that bears no interest and that does not require repayment of principal, its time for governments to stop arming belligerents, their own or those of anyone else (gun control should be transformed into between governments, weapons control and the persons of all humans everywhere should be equally armed), its time to stop one nation instigating or supporting regime change in another, and its time to deny government leaders from using the governments they lead, to enable private or corrupt profits. Every human has a right to life, liberty and to pursuit of happiness: <=governments were instituted to secure to mankind the enjoyment of the privilege of those rights; but it seems mankind has been lax in making these governments conform to their privilege of existence.

A $0 military budget, and no interest, no repay currency could bring the credit needed to create multi many places of employment, AWA fix ailing infra structures, improve access to, even make access globally universal. It could improve the quality of education and open to everyone<= fair play, access to capital (instead of venture capital expecting reward of profit, how about advances of capital in search of human progress). which could enable real progress on earth for mankind.

Its time to eliminate the dependency on, or even the existence of those monopolies nation states like to create out of thin air by using their power to invent by rule of law, powers that restrain true competition (license, privatized government ownership, special authority, patents, copyrights, and the private property ownership).

It time to stop over hyped , Wall Street multi global type greed which only exist because currency is used as control devise, instead of a facilitator. Nation states should facilitate humans to interact, in ways transparent to the nation state boundaries (Its economics, that encourages non sharing attitudes, that cause competitors to seek ways to use governments to restrain human inter action). Humans should try to replace foreign products with locally made goods and the foreign goods producers should be encouraged to make goods in places where the goods have a demand because demand produces jobs and provides opportunity, globalism organized to produce economic gains, often attempt to steal from locals the benefits of demand created by the locals. The local province rule should apply: that is if locals want to make it, multinationals should be denied. The billions saved to the global economy in unexpended energy consumption (no transport cost), could bring prices of goods and services to comparative advantage adjusted market price levels. I predict, the poor would prosper because they would have an opportunity to contribute to our global human society, and government would be re instituted to encourage and enforce equality for all to those it governs. Governments should restrain and deny wealth, but they should encourage and facilitate local competition. At one time people elected their representatives based on performance in accord to those ideals. Currency that carries no interest and that never needs to be repaid, challenges economic induced greed and redirects the efforts of mankind to providing that which is needed.

In 1949 the income tax in USA governed America was layered into tiers (where different tax rates were applied); the USA taxed those who made big bucks at 90% in its highest tier .. Seem to recall Briton had something similar [100% of everything over $150,000 pounds of taxable Income?]. From here => http://www.milefoot.com/math/businessmath/taxes/fit.htm <=i made a table
year rate@personal taxable income level
1941 81% @$5,000,000
1942-1943 88% @$200,000
1944-1945 94% @$200,000 The tax limited to a 90% effective rate.
1946-1947 91% @$200,000 The tax limited to a 90% effective rate (85.5% >credits).
1948-1951 91% @$400,000 The tax limited to a 77% effective rate in 1948-1949, .
1952-1953 92% @$400,000 The tax was limited to an 88% effective rate.

corporate rate from http://www.milefoot.com/math/businessmath/taxes/fit.htm I made a small table.
1942- 1945 40% > $50,000
1946- 1949 38% > $50,000
1950 42% > $25,000
1951 50.75% > $25,000
1952- 1963 52% > $25,000
1964 52% > $25,000
1965- 1967 48% > $25,000
1968- 1969 52.8% > $25,000

These numbers suggest a long winded story of useless corruption.

[Mar 21, 2020] Tulsi Gabbard says insider traders should be 'investigated prosecuted,' as Left and Right team up on profiteering senator

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... "better prepared than ever ..."
"... "akin to the 1918 pandemic." ..."
"... "Congress/staff who dumped stocks after private briefings on impending coronavirus epidemic should be investigated and prosecuted for insider trading," ..."
"... "Members of Congress should not be allowed to own stocks." ..."
"... "stomach churning," ..."
"... "For a public servant it's pretty hard to imagine many things more immoral than doing this," ..."
"... "Richard Burr had critical information that might have helped the people he is sworn to protect. But he hid that information and helped only himself." ..."
"... "If you find out about a nation-threatening pandemic and your first move is to adjust your stock portfolio you should probably not be in a job that serves the public interest," ..."
"... "calling for immediate investigations" ..."
"... "for possible violations of the STOCK Act and insider trading laws." ..."
"... Think your friends would be interested? Share this story! ..."
Mar 21, 2020 | www.rt.com

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, commenters from all sides have demanded swift punishment for US senators who dumped stock after classified Covid-19 briefings. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has called for criminal prosecution. As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) has received daily briefings on the threat posed by Covid-19 since January. Burr insisted to the public that America was ready to handle the virus, but sold up to $1.5 million in stocks on February 13, less than a week before the stock market nosedived, according to Senate filings . Immediately before the sale, Burr wrote an op-ed assuring Americans that their government is "better prepared than ever " to handle the virus.

Also on rt.com Liberal icon Sean Penn wants a 'compassionate' army deployment to fight Covid-19

After the sale, NPR reported that he told a closed-door meeting of North Carolina business leaders that the virus actually posed a threat "akin to the 1918 pandemic." Burr does not dispute the NPR report.

In a tweet on Saturday, former 2020 presidential candidate and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard called for criminal investigations. "Congress/staff who dumped stocks after private briefings on impending coronavirus epidemic should be investigated and prosecuted for insider trading," she wrote.

"Members of Congress should not be allowed to own stocks."

Congress/staff who dumped stocks after private briefings on impending coronavirus epidemic should be investigated & prosecuted for insider trading (the STOCK Act). It is illegal & abuse of power. Members of Congress should not be allowed to own stocks. https://t.co/rbVfJxrk3r

-- Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) March 21, 2020

Burr was not the only lawmaker on Capitol Hill to take precautions, it was reported. Fellow Intelligence Committee member Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and her husband sold off more than a million dollars of shares in a biotech company five days later, while Oklahoma's Jim Inhofe (R) made a smaller sale around the same time. Both say their sales were routine.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia) attended a Senate Health Committee briefing on the outbreak on January 24. The very same day, she began offloading stock, dropping between $1.2 and $3.1 million in shares over the following weeks. The companies whose stock she sold included airlines, retail outlets, and Chinese tech firm Tencent.

She did, however, invest in cloud technology company Oracle, and Citrix, a teleworking company whose value has increased by nearly a third last week, as social distancing measures forced more and more Americans to work from home. All of Loeffler's transactions were made with her husband, Jeff Sprecher, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York) and Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) have joined the clamor of voices demanding punishment. Ocasio-Cortez described the sales as "stomach churning," while Omar reached across the aisle to side with Fox News' Tucker Carlson in calling for Burr's resignation.

I am 💯 with him on this 😱 https://t.co/Gbi3i2BagY

-- Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 20, 2020

"For a public servant it's pretty hard to imagine many things more immoral than doing this," Carlson said during a Friday night monolog. "Richard Burr had critical information that might have helped the people he is sworn to protect. But he hid that information and helped only himself."

As of Saturday, there are nearly 25,000 cases of Covid-19 in the US, with the death toll heading towards 300. Now both sides of the political aisle seem united in disgust at the apparent profiteering of Burr, Loeffler, and Feinstein.

Right-wing news outlet Breitbart savaged Burr for voting against the STOCK Act in 2012, a piece of legislation that would have barred members of Congress from using non-public information to profit on the stock market. At the same time, a host of Democratic figures - including former presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Kirsten Gillibrand - weighed in with their own criticism too.

"If you find out about a nation-threatening pandemic and your first move is to adjust your stock portfolio you should probably not be in a job that serves the public interest," Yang tweeted on Friday.

If you find out about a nation-threatening pandemic and your first move is to adjust your stock portfolio you should probably not be in a job that serves the public interest.

-- Andrew Yang🧢 (@AndrewYang) March 20, 2020

Watchdog group Common Cause has filed complaints with the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee "calling for immediate investigations" of Burr, Loeffler, Feinstein and Inhofe "for possible violations of the STOCK Act and insider trading laws."

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

[Mar 21, 2020] Tucker Senator Burr sold shares after virus briefing - YouTube

Highly recommended!
Mar 21, 2020 | www.youtube.com

Bowhead31 , 5 hours ago

The problem is these people no longer see themselves as public servants.

Maria Summers , 6 hours ago

The Georgia Senator is just as guilty as the rest of them, regarding "Insider Trading".

shane passey , 3 hours ago

She's a crook just like the rest of the politicians. They say they be there for the people. But they're really there to make themselves rich

[Mar 21, 2020] How neoliberalism treats workers in case of calamity

Mar 21, 2020 | off-guardian.org

Serf

Qantas Airways: the flag carrier of Australia Qantas Airways Limited is the flag carrier of Australia and its largest airline by fleet size, international flights and international destinations

The crisis hit and Qantas sends home 20,000 workers or two thirds of its workforce of 30,000. Go home with no pay . The company management is proud of implementing such measures to save the Australian icon.

Qantas, once a government owned entity, is a civilisational symbol of strength and prestige. But with such behaviour, shouldn't we ask the question: what are these Strength and Prestige built upon?

[Mar 20, 2020] ProPublica reported on Thursday that republican Senator Burr sold off up to $1.56 million in stock on February 13th, as he was reassuring the public about coronavirus preparedness.

Mar 20, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Augustin L , Mar 19 2020 23:39 utc | 231

Bernhard when will Chump and his neo-confederates drain the swamp ? "ProPublica reported on Thursday that republican Senator Burr sold off up to $1.56 million in stock on February 13th, as he was reassuring the public about coronavirus preparedness. At the time, Burr and the Intelligence Committee were receiving daily briefings about COVID-19.

Three weeks ago, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee privately warned dozens of donors about the harrowing impact the coronavirus would have on the United States, while keeping the general public in the dark.

In a secret recording obtained by NPR, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr is heard giving attendees of a club luncheon a much different message than most federal government officials, especially President Trump, were giving the public at the time.

"There's one thing that I can tell you about this," Burr said, "It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history." He added, "It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic."

That pandemic claimed more than 600,000 American lives...

Burr warned the business leaders about effects on travel 13 days before the State Department released info on restrictions and 15 days before the Trump administration banned European travelers." https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/secret-recording-intelligence-chairman-warning-donors-about-coronavirus-weeks-ago-969767/?fbclid=IwAR3FdNapk5KbzhnftTNZy-PH7GGhIM-mk_0zDH2Uwj40mEXFa-nIM4B0oNM

[Mar 20, 2020] Tucker Carlson and China bashing

Mar 20, 2020 | www.unz.com

Minnesota Mary , says: Show Comment March 19, 2020 at 11:37 pm GMT

@FB I, too, have been disappointed in Tucker Carlson's China bashing. I have thought that he was the best on FOX News, but now he is getting to be as bad as Sean Hannity.

We may never know the origin of the coronavirus. It is foolish to try and assign blame at this point.

[Mar 19, 2020] The neoliberal imperial regime is not only brittle and riven through with corruption but run by talents selected in an anti-meritocratic way

Mar 19, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

bevin , Mar 19 2020 16:47 utc | 69

There is a common idea behind all the various theories that attribute the pandemic to government action, ruling class planning or financial manipulators.

And that is the idea that the ruling class/establishment/tptb,1%-call them what you will- are all powerful, wise, though evil, and capable of defeating any popular resistance.

The people claiming now that the virus was unloosed to enable an attack on Iran, those who claim that it was produced as a smokescreen to obscure the collapse of the financial system, those who see it as a means to steal away our last liberties and to knock a dying democracy on the head, even those who see it as an out of control experiment , if you look at their posts in the past, are generally going to be found to be the same people who thought that the US military could not be defeated, that Syria was bound to fall, that Venezuela and Cuba were toast. And that Hezbollah and Ansarullah stood no chance against the vast forces arrayed against them.

The idea is always the same: the Empire is indefatigable, the greedy mediocrities who run it (many of them public figures whose characters are daily open to examination) have foreseen all possibilities. Resistance is useless. We are all doomed.

In fact, as people who don't have the leisure to indulge themselves in these gloomy excuses for inaction and apathy are always demonstrating, the imperial regime is not only brittle and riven through with corruption but run by talents selected in an anti-meritocratic way. The reason that Petraeus, for example, rose to the top of the US military machine was that he was a slimy careerist of the sort we have all come across, and, if we have been doing our duty, trod on, in our lives: as a General he was clueless, unoriginal and, because he was immoral and cynical, quite unable to understand how Iraqis would react to his crude terrorist methods. Unfortunately he was caught out by his lust; had he maintained a respectable image he would probably, by now, be into his second term as President and making Trump look competent.

And what is true of the Pentagon is equally true of those running the US economy, Wall St and the banking system: they are utterly witless. Look around you for the fruits of their wisdom.

In fact the entire political class of the US, ably assisted by its clownish puppets elsewhere, has brought the system that they worship to the brink of dissolution. Class rule teeters on the edge of massive uprisings.

And this is not-I have already taken up too much space and time- because the pandemic was planned but because despite its predictability, the near certainty that the seven good years would be followed by plagues and famines, they could not restrain themselves from dismantling the safety nets-from flood controls to food reserves to healthcare services designed to be able to expand when needed to deal with emergencies.
(In the Canadian county in which I live the Public Health Unit founded in the aftermath of the First World War and the 'flu epidemics, was shut down, to save money, last year. Most of its functions were left to chance and the marketplace to fulfil. And now we have a pandemic.)
Instead the entire system is riddled with the weaknesses that usurious practises impose: there are empty hospitals in the Pennines because local health authorities cannot both pay interest on PPP loans and meet the payrolls of medical staff. So, following the logic of capitalism-first pay interest- local taxes, designed to maintain public health, are diverted to the money lenders. And then there is the cost of monopolised drug purchases.

And that is symptomatic of the entire system, in all its aspects: education, including the work needed to provide scientific and medical personnel, is crippled in the same way, by high fees, by capital costs swollen by interest payments, by professions designed to hoard rather than spread knowledge.

The entire system is corrupt and collapsing. And that is why,particularly in the "West" where mass indoctrination has long been part of the culture, it is necessary to recognise that it is not going to take much in the way of mass energy to bring the whole thing down. And to replace it with real democracy.


Rob20 , Mar 19 2020 16:55 utc | 72

The virus may not have been created in a laboratory but as a minimum it should be studied to learn more about its origin and spread. At the present time we only hace circumstantial evidence but it point in one direction. Certain facts are worth considering:

2)The Wuhan wet-market is not the first source of the coronavirus;

2) SARS-CoV virus was being studied and experimented on at a US Bioweapons lab at Fort Detrick. In August 2019, it was cited for unsafe conditions that may have led to contamination of wastewater;

3) The US sent over 300 military personnel to the World Military Games in Wuhan in late October 2019;

4) Four foreign military participants came down with an unknown respiratory illness during the games;

5) Genetic studies conducted in Taiwan and Japan indicate that the ancestral form of SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 coronavirus does not occur in China but is found in the US and elsewhere.

Jonathan W , Mar 19 2020 17:28 utc | 90
African swine fever is also spread by man-made means even if it is not in itself man-made. Criminal elements spread it with drones The longer it takes to track down the origin even if the Chinese reportedly monitor everything, the more suspicious it becomes.

[Mar 19, 2020] The best we can hope for is that the depth of this crisis will finally force countries -- the US, in particular -- to fix the yawning social inequities that make large swaths of their populations so intensely vulnerable.

Mar 19, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

jpm , Mar 19 2020 16:35 utc | 61

Thanks, contributors, for all the (mostly) good well-thought-out information and views on this blog during this unprecedented time of world-wide crisis. Another valuable source I've found is MIT's Technology Review such as their latest article: We're not going back to normal:
Social distancing is here to stay for much more than a few weeks. It will upend our way of life, in some ways forever.
As might be expected from the source, a lot of solid technical information but also some pertinent political commentary. The way this piece ends:

The world has changed many times, and it is changing again. All of us will have to adapt to a new way of living, working, and forging relationships. But as with all change, there will be some who lose more than most, and they will be the ones who have lost far too much already. The best we can hope for is that the depth of this crisis will finally force countries -- the US, in particular -- to fix the yawning social inequities that make large swaths of their populations so intensely vulnerable.

[Mar 17, 2020] This pandemic is demonstrating once again that the global neoliberal economy is a fragile Potemkin construct that breaks down at the slightest tension

Mar 17, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Daniel , Mar 17 2020 0:59 utc | 106

Fully in agreement with b here. Instead of shovelling money at banksters and corporate scammers to prop up the collapsing market, the Fed, ECB and other central banks should give the cash to people who need it and will use it to buy things and stimulate the economy.

This pandemic is demonstrating once again that the global neoliberal economy is a fragile Potemkin construct that breaks down at the slightest tension. Finance capitalism is a busted flush, a blatant scam to line the pockets of the 1% at everyone else's expense. And when the going gets really tough they will sacrifice all of us to save their cowardly avaricious asses. Governments need to represent the interests of citizens, not central bankers and the obscenely wealthy. That means putting the well-being of people first, not spending trillions to "save" the stock market aka "the economy."

[Mar 16, 2020] Conswqunces of outsourcing the medical equipment and pharmaceutical supply chain to a different country are acutly felt during pandemic by Jason Morgan

Mar 16, 2020 | www.theamericanconservative.com
| ... ... ...

As the disease spread around Asia and then the world, however, the news focus gradually shifted, so that now many are questioning the wisdom of having so unthinkingly globalized everything and made so many industries -- including the medical industry -- dependent on a place like the People's Republic of China. "What is it like to shoot oneself in the foot?" is yet another question that has been bubbling up uncomfortably these past few weeks.

Outsourcing the medical equipment and pharmaceutical supply chain to a hostile communist dictatorship with perhaps the worst public health record on the planet is the equivalent of the Army Corps of Engineers' having put the emergency generators for the storm pumps at the bottoms of the levees, where they would be the first to flood during a hurricane. But globalists, like government engineers, are incapable of learning from mistakes. In fact, in their minds, disasters serve perversely to confirm the advisability of their follies. Which leads normal people to wonder, "What is going on in the globalist's mind?"

What, in other words, is it like to be a globalist? This is a question worth asking, because the answer will determine very much in the months and years ahead. Unless we can figure out how the globalist looks at the world, we will continue to be at his mercy, and will continue to face pandemics and crises that are the precipitate of his ideology. We have got to understand who these people are who have taken over our every doing, our every coming and going. Otherwise, we will keep getting done in by them.

... ... ...

Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan.

Putin Apologist an hour ago • edited

China: 1.4 billion with 3,099 deaths over a period of months

Italy: 80 million and 1,809 deaths over a period of weeks

Yet China has the "worst public health record on the planet"? Really?

Amicus Brevis 30 minutes ago • edited
"But globalists, like government engineers, are incapable of learning from mistakes. "

Is this supposed to be a serious statement? The piece is clearly written for the amusement of people for whom he has very little respect otherwise it would not contain so many nonsensical generalization. I dare he or anyone to provide a definition of a "globalist" which does not make nonsense of that claim.

Outsourcing the medical equipment and pharmaceutical supply chain to a hostile communist dictatorship with perhaps the worst public health record on the planet is the equivalent of the Army Corps of Engineers' having put the emergency generators for the storm pumps at the bottoms of the levees, where they would be the first to flood during a hurricane.

I really would like to know what is Professor Morgan's specialty. He should know that China is not a Communist country. Just because they choose to call themselves that doesn't mean that a professor anything remotely connected to politics, government or economics would be fooled. And where one puts a factory to manufacture goods, bears no relationship whatsoever with how that country deploys those goods among its own population. The piece is not serious. It is political entertainment. And for those who assume that criticizing the rigor of a piece is the same as supporting whatever the piece is attacking, I am 100% against what the writer seems to mean when he refers to "globalism". I personally consider our monied class who shipped American jobs wherever they could find semi-slave labor to be literally traitors. So, I have very strong views on "globalism". I just dislike the disrespect shown by writers who think that they can write any nonsense, once they show that they hate the same things that their audience hates, all in the search for cheap applause. Writers should treat their readers like thinking beings, not like an audience at a bullfight who are expected to howl with applause once you wave the red flag around and shed enough blood.

That won't do, either, though. China is a place, too! In swoops the World Health Organization (the aptly acronymed WHO?): it's COVID-19 now.

A much more serious comment would be about how China bullied WHO into expressing far more confidence in China's published numbers that it had any basis for expressing. How it lavished praise on China's handling of the outbreak rather than South Korea's excellent management in their country. But educated people know what WHO is and the excellent work they do all over the world. Of the millions of lives they have saved all over the world. And that they are empowered by the governments of the world to name new viruses. That every decent person in the world knows that country names attached to diseases can generate persecution of people which is not a good thing, regardless against whom it is directed. The WHO did not name the virus at the request of China. That is one of its normal functions.

This piece is nothing short of absurd hate mongering.

[Mar 16, 2020] 'Grotesque Level of Greed'

Mar 16, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Owned by World's Richest Man Jeff Bezos, Whole Foods Wants Workers to Pay for Colleagues' Sick Leave During Coronavirus Pandemic

Remember when Jeff Bezos, whose company owns Whole Foods, said he was so freakin' rich he didn't know how to spend his money so, heck, he'd start a space program? https://t.co/PjLe6MpQc8

-- Alex Kotch (@alexkotch) March 13, 2020

[Mar 15, 2020] Your country under neoliberalism: The CDC tested only 77 people this week for coronavirus.

Mar 15, 2020 | www.counterpunch.org

According to Amazon's rankings, Camus' The Plague is now #7 in the Self-Help & Psychology Humor category, which is an irony Camus himself probably couldn't have gotten away with

+ The for-profit health care system in the US is already starting to crack under the pressure and the virus hasn't even really hit yet

+ Pence promised 8 million tests by the end of the week, but according to Lamar Alexander: "We are going to work as hard as we can to push this administration to continue to ramp up the number of tests but the reality is..they do not yet have the tests available and can't give us a date." South Korea, where the virus appeared about the same time it did in US, is testing 10,000 a day and has been for nearly a month.

+ Your country under neoliberalism: The CDC tested only 77 people this week for coronavirus.

+ Here in Oregon, the state health lab only has the capacity to perform 80 tests a day but that's still more than the CDC did all week.

+ Another sign of the impending crisis (and that ObamaCare was a disaster): The number of hospital beds in the US has fallen by 5% over the last ten years .

+ The US (pop. 330 million) has fewer hospital beds than Italy (pop. 60 million) and South Korea (pop. 51 million). And many of those are unaffordable for most people. Winning!

+ Larry Kudlow, who missed the great recession, "The virus is contained!"

+ On Weds night Sanjay Gupta asked CNN's Don Lemon to read the CDC's coronavirus testing stats off of his phone.

ZERO tests conducted today by CDC.

A grand total of 8 tests conducted by other public health agencies across the country.

EIGHT.

+ The Republican Governor for Ohio Mike DeWine confirmed on Thursday that only 1,000 tests are available to 11.69 million citizens who live in the Buckeye State. He further said that projections are that more than 100,000 Ohioans will be infected with the coronavirus

+ The projections for NYC are sobering, to say the least

(1/11) The #NYC Region is in trouble. Our #COVID19 case load is growing so quickly that we risk running out of hospital beds in UNDER TWO WEEKS. To avoid a crisis at our hospitals, we need to act now. 1,200 hospital beds are not enough. @BilldeBlasio @NYCSpeakerCoJo @NYGovCuomo pic.twitter.com/QLpWr6bIWQ

-- Michael Donnelly (@donnellymjd) March 12, 2020

+ Rebecca Nagle: "Look, I fully support banning travel from Europe to prevent the spread of infectious disease. I just think it's 528 years too late."

+ Matt "Gas Mask" Gaetz, one of the most ridiculous buffoons in a Congress filled with them, voted against paid sick leave. Now he's taking it , because he was exposed to COVID-19.

+ The Cuban health care system, whose doctors are even now in China testing interferon-based drugs against the virus, is going to look better and better to people in the US, as the COVID-19 does its thing here. Even the Miami Cuban nutcases may be singing Fidel's praises before this is over .

+ Maybe Jay Inslee (who promised tests would be "free") is a " snake " after all

Maybe Inslee (who promised tests would be "free") is a "snake" after all

Posted by Jeffrey St Clair on Thursday, March 12, 2020

+ The Senate won't take up House coronavirus bill until after its recess. "The Senate will act when we come back and we have a clearer idea of what extra steps we need to take," Sen. Lamar Alexander told reporters What if they never come back? One can hope

+ Why the Senate is refusing to act on COVID-19: "A key sticking point in the talks appears to be GOP demands to include Hyde amendment language in the bill to prevent federal funds from being used for abortion " Priorities, priorities

+ Joe Biden: "I don't like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don't think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body." (Biden said this in 2006 , not 1976.)

+ The World Health Organization has announced that dogs cannot contract Covid-19. Dogs previously held in quarantine can now be released. WHO let the dogs out! (The jokes will only get worse, as the virus spreads.)

+ To wit: Always scrub your hands like you just shook hands with the President

+ Come back, Marianne, your country (if not your lamentable party) needs you!

Uh, maybe we should cancel that order for 100 B-21 Raiders all equipped with nuclear bombs at the rate of $560M each, and use the money instead to pay for free testing and coronavirus treatment We need to change our thinking about all this, do it quickly, and speak it loudly.

-- Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) March 12, 2020

+ From The Plague:

"What on earth prompted you to take a hand in this, doctor?"

"I don't know. My my code of morals, perhaps."

"Your code of morals. What code, if I may ask?"

"Comprehension."

+ According to Amazon's rankings, Camus' The Plague is now #7 in the Self-Help & Psychology Humor category, which is an irony Camus himself probably couldn't have gotten away with. A viral pandemic is apparently what it takes to get Americans to read French existentialist literature

+ "Carbon Joe" Biden's entire climate change plan is budgeted at $1.7 trillion. The Fed just dropped that much on Wall Street in a single day without any public input

+ And they said we "can't afford" national health care!

[Mar 15, 2020] Priorities of the top one percent are not priorities of the bottom ninety-nice percent

Mar 15, 2020 | twitter.com

Uh, maybe we should cancel that order for 100 B-21 Raiders all equipped with nuclear bombs at the rate of $560M each, and use the money instead to pay for free testing and coronavirus treatment We need to change our thinking about all this, do it quickly, and speak it loudly.

-- Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) March 12, 2020

[Mar 15, 2020] The Jack Ma Foundation has just donated 500,000 testing kits and 1 million masks to America. The Chinese have also sent aid to Italy.

Mar 15, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

The Rev Kev , March 14, 2020 at 6:53 am

Just to underline the incompetency of neoliberalism, the Jack Ma Foundation has just donated 500,000 testing kits and 1 million masks to America. One guy on twitter said-

'Many will welcome this. Some will see it as an insult. The real insult is that the richest country in the world has waged war on science and as a result is finding itself helpless..'

The real tragedy is this. Iran has been covering up the large number of their Coronavirus deaths in the past few weeks until satellite images showed mass burial sites outside their cities. Through gross negligence, the US has also been covering up the infiltration of Coronavirus in America and trying to cover it all up in the same manner.

So in a few months time, will the Russian and Chinese be releasing images of mass burial sites on the American mainland that the Trump government will seek to hide?

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/483102-china-jackma-coronavirus-aid-us/

BillS , March 14, 2020 at 7:25 am

The Chinese have also sent aid to Italy.

The EU and USA were notable in their absence. To be fair, the EU has promised assistance, but the Germans and Lagarde are still stumbling around with the conditions that they want to attach.

Neoliberal overlords don't give up easily.

[Mar 15, 2020] The Real Crisis Of neoliberalism Starts Now In Europe

Mar 15, 2020 | tomluongo.me

Profile picture for user Tyler Durden by Tyler Durden Sun, 03/15/2020 - 09:20 Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, 'n Guns blog,

I think it's safe to say the new crisis just killed the Schengen Treaty. That ridiculous document which guaranteed freedom of movement across the European Union finally hit something it couldn't bully, COVID-19. Regardless of whether you believe the pandemic is real or not, the reaction to it is real and is having real consequence far beyond the latest print of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The lockdown of Italy isn't a temporary thing. Oh, the suspension of free movement is temporary, but it portends something far bigger.

It's the beginning of the real political balkanization that's coming to the European Union over the next few years. Old enmities and prejudices have not been stamped out under the boot heel of oppressive legislation coming from a bunch of disconnected technocrats in Brussels.

They have only been suppressed.

Because when there are existential threats there's no time or desire to virtue signal about how we're all one big happy dysfunctional family. 1 minute ago The thing is most people at Zerohedge have no idea about the reality in Germany and the other European countries and the psychicological robustness of its people. This crisis is nothing compared to the catastrophies of the 20th century. In times of challenge one can see who is strong and effective and acting in solidarity. And this is it what the extended Euroland is going to show soon. A masterplan for Euroland how to overcome this Corona problems. It takes time to adopt but things do move already in the right direction. Banning travel is a harsh measure but the right thing in this situation.

The economy will take a deep dip but there will be no catastrophy. Even when Deutsche Bank should go down that would impact the situation only in the financial markets. But luckily Euroland has a worldclass manufacturing and agricultural sector, plus there is the ECB owned by Eurolands member states.

So there is money, there is food, there is production, there are raw materials as well as energy available from Russia,.. Europe is world leader in renewable energy and recycling of waste materials., ..

So nothIng to worry about in principle. Its only one real danger, the Anglo Saxon Jewish dominated financial sector and the MIC which is still dreaming about world domination. I hope their dream is shattered soon. 12 minutes ago Thanks Tom..

But we won't comment and why?

Because the cause of the crisis is still not being addressed..

Corona of virus is simply an accelerant to a serious problem..

And that's all we'll say... 43 minutes ago Old enmities and prejudices have not been stamped out .... This has been said a thousand times across EU social media and comments in national press in developed member states. Particularly during Brexit. That the EU was flawed from the start in imagining the ******, pretend EU would ever; by adopting developed EU rules and regulations, even begin to match up to the Real EU. Pretend EU would only ever pretend - many nothing more than 1st generation democracies. So the elite in the ****** EU hand picked who was to lead that ministry or council and then all levels of locally elite society and their friends and families were greased by jobs in the bloated public sector. Now Germany is supposed to keep this "Noses in the Trough" nonsense going!

It is mind blowing to realise the damage to the EU the 'Contra os Bretoes' EU retards have done in victimising the British! The UK - an advanced G7 country with many centuries of history of sorting out, at great loss to its citizens and economy, European squabbles - long before the US was encouraged to get involved as well.

UK Remainers need to focus their efforts on the ****** EU crashing (or being crashed) out and the UK rejoining the EU and helping make the EU work the way it was sold to us British decades ago. 44 minutes ago Feudal-Vassalism it is, extended into https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neocolonialism
The situation in Greece has been for about a decade worse off than in Gaza.

[Mar 15, 2020] Coronavirus update reason for alarm; (small) reason for hope

Mar 15, 2020 | angrybearblog.com
  1. likbez , March 15, 2020 11:57 am

    As Otto von Bismarck noted "God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America."

    That's a reason for hope.

    But there are multiple reasons for despair (hoarding epidemics has shown how brainwashed people are with neoliberal rationality)

    The neoliberal society with its twisted guiding philosophy of radical individualism and competition combined with a supremacist "that could never happen here" attitude quickly falls into panicked chaos when reality kicks in and reveals the society's underlying vulnerabilities.

    Countries with weak social safety nets and an ideological opposition to social responsibility are extremely vulnerable to systemic breakdown when their societies are hit with unexpected stress.

    That is what we see in the USA. This virus is revealing just how ineffective the neoliberal Social Darwinism ("every man for himself") ethic (aka "neoliberal rationality") is and how deeply in denial and out of touch with reality these societies are. Including first of all neoliberal politicians (aka Washington swamp rats)

    Casino capitalism economics is fragile and huge shocks are possible.

[Mar 15, 2020] Is a Zero Growth Economy Viable?

Mar 15, 2020 | angrybearblog.com

Stormy | March 12, 2020 1:44 pm

US/Global Economics The present pandemic demonstrates that the global economy is closely tied to consumer spending. Suppose the pandemic is merely a foretaste of the effects of climate change and ecological destruction. Can we fashion a world base on Zero Growth, a Steady State Economy?

Zero growth might well entail the following:

1. A fixed and renewal body of resources.
2. A demographic balance, i.e., a fixed population size.

Can such an economy enable all of humanity to prosper and grow? If so, what must be do to enable us to grow and prosper?

Can we have an economy where consumption is stable, i.e., does not grow?

Or, to put it another way, where the amount of capital spent on consumption is constant, fixed.


Carol , March 12, 2020 2:14 pm

Changes! Not necessarily in any order
1. Stop glorifying "success" as the accumulation of things and money
2. Start defining success as a well balanced, creative life with rich human communications and community ties
3. Get rid of excessive wealth and poverty. Cultivate the "enough is enough" mentality
4. unleash creativity, without tying it to moneymaking.
5. Of course, a UBI. With that, many stressors leading to cancerous economic growth can be removed. The push to have children to support you in old age is gone (a driver in poorer countries). Yes, some people won't be interested in what we like to call work, but then, most work is in service to the cancerous economy.
6. Of course, universal health care
7. Of course, a serious community approach to child bearing, more realistic than the individualistic "I should be able to have as many children as I want."
8. A huge shift on emphasis from "lemme grab all I want" to "I am a part of the whole, and responsible for its well-being" including ecosystems

This would be nice, but the underpinnings of our current economy are based on "individualism." To have people change their philosophies to more communitarian ones without the soul crushing rule making that many non-individualistic societies indulge in would require a mature, humane approach to life in general.

2slugbaits , March 12, 2020 3:25 pm

Does zero growth mean zero sum? If the latter, then I don't think the non-OECD countries will buy into it. If not, then good luck convincing the OECD countries to cut back their consumption.

Stormy , March 12, 2020 4:01 pm

Hi, 2slugbaits–I remember our discussions from many years ago. Nice to read your responses again.

Your question is a good one. No, I do not mean "zero sum." Given that
radically falling consumer consumption may lead to a recession equal to or worse than 2008 --

Can we have an economy where consumption is stable, i.e., does not grow?

Or, to put it another way, where the amount of capital spent on consumption is constant, fixed.

I would want such an economy to be fair to all.

The conditions I outlined in my piece still hold, I think.

Stormy , March 12, 2020 4:06 pm

Carol,

Do you think your goals are feasible? Do you think a different kind of governance is needed to achieve such an economy?

J.Goodwin , March 12, 2020 7:10 pm

You can in many cases create a greater amount of something with the same or fewer inputs.

I think the key isn't non-growth consumption, but non-growth inputs.

Stormy , March 12, 2020 7:26 pm

J. Goodwin,

That is a great observation! A cleaner way of putting it. I am going to chew on that one for a while.

thanks.

[Mar 15, 2020] While it is still popular to claim that the United States has never defaulted on its debt, this is a myth

Mar 15, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Likklemore , Mar 14 2020 22:42 utc | 44

@c1ue 28 and 30

Given that 2/3rds or more of the debt is owed to Americans

suggest you whisper that to the Chinese, other sovereign holders and non-US individuals - you know those Tbills and Tbonds.

Nobody has a better credit rating than the USG - because the USG can literally not default.

Really? Why did S&P downgrade US credit rating in 2014?

and

what do you think happened on August 15 1971? that date can be categorized as recent!

LINK


[.]
While it is still popular to claim that the United States has never defaulted on its debt, this is a myth. The US has been forced to default a couple of times throughout history, the last of which being when Richard Nixon&rsquo closed the gold window. By cutting the ability of foreign governments to redeem US dollars for gold, America was allowed to pay back past debt with devalued fiat money. This form of default has long been a popular option for governments with debt obligations it can't or won't honor.

Of course, as Peter Klein wrote last week, even Trump's suggestion of the US restructuring its debt isn't the doomsday scenario CNBC talking heads have made it out to be, noting that:

[T]he idea that the US can never restructure or even repudiate the national debt -- that US Treasuries must always be treated as a unique and magical "risk-free" investment -- is wildly speculative at best, preposterous at worst.

Murray Rothbard himself advocated for outright repudiating the national debt, arguing:

The government is an organization, so why not liquidate the assets of that organization and pay the creditors (the government bondholders) a pro-rata share of those assets? This solution would cost the taxpayer nothing, and, once again, relieve him of $200 billion in annual interest payments. The United States government should be forced to disgorge its assets, sell them at auction, and then pay off the creditors accordingly.

Trump himself has even touched on the possibility of selling of assets held by the Federal government as a form of debt reduction.[.]

Oops then there was 1979 said caused by word-processing error
so we defaulted on some of them."

c1ue dear friend, the current level of US debt is unsustainable. Never mind the happy cheerleaders promoting mighty U.S. is the wealthiest nation on earth. Have no fear our dollar is good as gold, backed by the full faith and credit of Uncle Sam.

Here is a brief history of U.S.defaults starting with year 1790- LINK

[Mar 13, 2020] Is the whole ideo of Trump tax holiday is to speed up the privatization of SS and Medicare. Look! The deficit's growing bigger.

Mar 13, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

allan , March 12, 2020 at 2:11 pm

President Trump's Payroll Tax Holiday: Budgetary, Distributional, and Economic Effects [Penn Wharton]

Summary: President Trump just announced his support for a full payroll tax holiday for the remainder of calendar year 2020, which PWBM projects would cost $807 billion. Households in the bottom 20 percent of incomes -- those households with the highest willingness to spend their tax savings -- would receive about 2 percent of the total tax cut, limiting the policy's stimulus potential.

But Penn Wharton's analysis might be based on unrealistically optimistic assumptions –
see the comments in the replies to this tweet.

Billy , March 12, 2020 at 3:39 pm

Don't forget the employer's half is also waived. Nice subsidy to business while helping cripple the Social Security funds for ultimate privatization. Doesn't do anything the unemployed, those laid off or fired as they pay no taxes. Now, if it were retroactive for a year or two, that'd be different.

Oh , March 12, 2020 at 4:34 pm

The whole idea is to speed up the privatization of SS and Medicare. Look! The deficit's growing bigger.

[Mar 12, 2020] Emergency Sick Leave Bill blocked from vote by Senate Republicans--Profit over People yet again.

Mar 12, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

karlof1 , Mar 11 2020 21:37 utc | 101

It's no different from the Republicans in the US Senate: Emergency Sick Leave Bill blocked from vote by Senate Republicans--Profit over People yet again.

[Mar 12, 2020] Neoliberalism in action in Italy: neo-liberal economic worship, all government bad, all private sector good, corruption good, banks worshipped as faultless guardians but actually kleptocrats.

Mar 12, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

uncle tungsten , Mar 11 2020 3:26 utc | 72

coronawhy #48
Why has Italy not try very hard to scale up hospital bed capacity for the surge of cases over the last several days? They have deployed a military hospital but it doesn't look like it's making a big dent. Instead reports are now coming in of abandoning very old people or those with prior conditions to die largely unattended.

In Wuhan, 16 big barracks were built to treat the seriously sick. Why doesn't Italy requisition schools, move in equipment from the rest of the country, deploy doctors from other regions, call other EU member states for help?

Does it have something to do with the difficulty of getting things done even in emergencies in modern bureaucratic states?

Italy: neo-liberal economic worship, all government bad, all private sector good, corruption good, banks worshipped as faultless guardians but actually kleptocrats.

China: socialism with a mild capitalist twist, government good, private sector ok, corruption to be rooted out, banks established and policed for the public good (mostly).

Modern bureacratic states function well when government is respected and well resourced intellectually and financially. Italy has been gutted by the Thatcherite and US model of deep coercion and destruction of its socialist roots. Ditto USA and UK and the five eyes cheer squad. New entries to job markets are propagandised to avoid the state employment.

There are many nations in the world with modern functional bureaucratic states. As you can see China and perhaps Russia appear to be in that team. Perhaps some of the Scandinavian states, maybe Portugal. France abandoned its respect for the centrality of State service provider decades ago and Mitterand appears to have been an effective assassin on behalf of the neo-liberal economic monsters in France.

Jen , Mar 11 2020 3:48 utc | 73

Uncle Tungsten @ 71:

I'm sure in your comparison of Italy and China, you forgot to mention the infiltration of the Mafia (as in the real Mafia of La Cosa Nostra, La Camorra, 'Ndrangheta and maybe some others I've missed) in Italian national and regional governments, and the horrific levels of air pollution in the Po Valley region where COVID-19 hotspots like Milan are located.

Perhaps also the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church and their links to the financial industry in Italy are also a problem.

[Mar 12, 2020] COVID-19 puts neoliberalism on its knee

Mar 12, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

vk , Mar 11 2020 14:25 utc | 100

COVID-19 puts neoliberalism on its knees:

Germany abandons "zero deficit" policy

[Mar 12, 2020] Experts warn flaws in US neoliberalized health system doom its readiness

Notable quotes:
"... medically fragile individuals ..."
"... there's not enough equipment. There's not enough people. There's not enough internal capacity. There's no surge capacity ..."
"... use their judgment ..."
"... epidemiologic factors ..."
"... we would recommend that there not be large crowds. If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. ..."
"... bottom line, it's going to get worse. ..."
Mar 12, 2020 | www.rt.com

The epidemic that has so far spread to half of US states, infecting over 1,000 Americans and killing 31...

At least 10 states have declared emergencies as of Wednesday, and disease experts are throwing up their hands, urging the administration to take real-life events more seriously.

...Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield agreed that critical regions of the US are beyond the reach of containment, sliding into the " mitigation " stage, and blamed the botched rollout of test kits to local health workers.

The availability of accurate tests for Covid-19 has become a major sore spot, with official reassurances colliding with uncooperative reality in full view of the public. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar insisted on Tuesday that " millions " of tests were available, even as the CDC urged healthcare providers to save tests for symptomatic patients already hospitalized and " medically fragile individuals ."

In at least one case , federal officials warned a Seattle lab against testing flu swab samples for coronavirus in January, before the epidemic was widely reported, losing critical response time – mirroring the " crime " the Trump administration has tried to pin on China.

And some have warned that the US' inability to handle an outbreak is more dire than either side realizes. During a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Tuesday, a Republican congressman from Washington, the first Covid-19 hotspot to flare up in the US, demanded to know why his constituents were unable to get their test results while his fellow congressmen had no problem getting tested just days after coming into contact with an infected person at a DC political conference. A CDC representative admitted " there's not enough equipment. There's not enough people. There's not enough internal capacity. There's no surge capacity ." To conserve tests, the CDC has told healthcare providers to " use their judgment " and consider " epidemiologic factors " before using up a valuable resource.

Existing flaws in the US healthcare system have exacerbated the testing problem. The CDC has refused to set up standalone testing centers, placing COVID-19 screening out of the reach of the many Americans who don't have primary-care physicians and rely on walk-in clinics and emergency rooms for their healthcare. Just 8,500 Americans had been tested as of Monday, according to the CDC, and federal officials told reporters some 75,000 tests had been sent out to public health laboratories on top of one million sent to hospitals and other sites. The real-life infected numbers in the country are thus likely much higher than what is being reported.

Control measures have varied wildly across local governments and institutions and even within cities. Over 1,000 schools have closed nationwide, and cities and counties from Santa Clara, California to Westchester, New York have banned large gatherings. The National Institutes of Health's Anthony Fauci called on others to follow suit during a congressional hearing on Wednesday, announcing " we would recommend that there not be large crowds. If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. " Asked if " the worst " was yet to come, Fauci answered unequivocally: " bottom line, it's going to get worse. "

Even as new Covid-19 cases in China dwindle to near zero and cases in Italy, Germany, and other European countries surge, the US has not stepped up screenings of passengers from those countries at airports accordingly. Instead, the administration has continued to congratulate itself on " saving lives " by halting flights from China weeks ago.

See also: Watching the Hawks: The military-industrial complex vs healthcare & common sense

[Mar 12, 2020] In there a shortage of some medicine or test kits in the USA, and the normal behavior of providers of medicines and other medical goods is extremely rapacious

Mar 12, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Piotr Berman , Mar 11 2020 17:48 utc | 24

About testing: who makes testing kits, how reliable they are, what is the cost?

Seems that in USA there is a shortage, and the normal behavior of providers of medicines and other medical goods is extremely rapacious. For example, Gilead company found a cure for hepatitis C. In the first year of sales, they got more than 5 billion dollars because of enormous prices they demanded. In about 2 years almost all urgent cases were cured, which is fine, and competition emerged.

Unless forced, these companies will provide nothing at cost, only with enormous markup. If you want to get, say, 10 miilion kits that hypothetically cost 250 dollars to make, they would charge at least 10 billion. Actually, the price/cost multiples have no limit at all, as in Gilead case. In the face of that, Administration should use emergency powers to impose cost controls. Manufactures could be threatened delicately to ramp-up the production if they are not willing to do it just from civic sense of duty. That would violate the most precious human rights, i.e. the rights of billionaires. Not the American way.

[Mar 11, 2020] Coronavirus Reveals the Cracks in Globalization

Notable quotes:
"... "The companies suffering from their short-sightedness FULLY DESERVE what they're getting." ..."
Mar 11, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Posted on March 11, 2020 by Yves Smith Yves here. While this article has a lot of helpful suggestions, it does not acknowledge that public health is a state and local, not a Federal matter. The Federal government can intervene only by invoking emergency authority, which in every case I can recall, has been done only when asked (begged) by the relevant authorities. Thus I cannot see the Federal government taking the lead with coronavirus on the medical front, as much as that is desperately needed. Look, for instance, at how it was New York State that imposed a containment area around coronavirus hot spot New Rochelle , and how New York State has started making its own hand sanitizer.

By Marshall Auerback, a market analyst and commentator. Produced by Economy for All , a project of the Independent Media Institute

The coronavirus will eventually pass, but the same cannot be said for the Panglossian phenomenon known as "globalization." Stripped of the romantic notion of a global village, the ugly process we've experienced over the past 40 years has been a case of governmental institutions being eclipsed by multinational corporations, acting to maximize profit in support of shareholders. To billions of us, it has resembled a looting process, of our social wealth, and political meaning. Governments that wanted to stay on top would have to learn to master soft power to learn to be relevant in a globalized world, mostly acting to smooth transactions and otherwise stay out of the way.

In a globalized world, nation-states were supposedly becoming relics. To the extent that they were needed, small national governments were said to equate to good government. This hollow philosophy's main claims now appear badly exposed, as the supply chains wither, and the very interconnectedness of our global economy is becoming a vector of contagion. In the words of author David Goodhart, "We no longer need the help of rats or fleas to spread disease -- we can do it ourselves thanks to mass international travel and supply chains."

To be sure, there were many warning signs that called into question our hitherto benign assumptions about globalization: the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 (during which the Asian tiger economies were decimated by unconstrained speculative capital flows), the vast swaths of the Rust Belt's industrial heartlands created by outsourcing to China's export juggernaut, the concomitant rise in economic inequality and decline in quality of life in industrialized societies and, of course, the 2008 global financial crisis. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz described many of these pathologies in his book Globalization and Its Discontents, as did economist Barry Eichengreen, who lamented that "the nation state has fundamentally lost control of its destiny, surrendering to anonymous global forces." Both noted that globalization was severing a working social contract between national governments and their citizens that had previously delivered rising prosperity for all.

Those who would argue that the inexorable march of globalization cannot be reversed should consider the parallel during the early 20th century. Globalized economic activity and free trade were dominant before the onset of World War I; in 1914, trade as a proportion of global GDP stood at 14 percent. Needless to say, two world wars, and the Great Depression (which brought us the Smoot-Hawley tariffs), reversed this trend. The Cold War sustained regionalization and bifurcated trading blocs. Its end, and China's accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO), ushered in a new high-water mark in globalized trade.

But while it is true that viruses do not respect national boundaries, nothing has blown apart the pretensions of this New World Order as dramatically as the coronavirus, a pandemic now assuming global import, as international supply chains are severed, and global economic activity is brought to a screeching halt. We are increasingly seeing the hollow political content at the core of supranational entities such as the EU, structured more to comfort merged investor groups than strengthen public health systems.

Speaking of Europe, while the coronavirus started in China, its most long-lasting impact might be in the EU, as it has dramatically exposed the shortcomings of the latter's institutional structures. Take Italy as the most vivid illustration: The spread of COVID-19 has been particularly acute there. Being a user of the euro (as opposed to an issuer of the currency) the Italian national government risks exposing itself to potential national bankruptcy (and the vicissitudes of the volatile private capital markets) if it responds with a robust fiscal response, absent the institutional support of Brussels and the European Central Bank (which is the sole issuer of the euro). According to MarketWatch, "Italy needs a €500 to €700 billion ($572 billion to $801 billion) precautionary bailout package to help reassure financial markets that the Italian government and banks can meet their debt payment obligations as [the] country's economic and financial crisis becomes more fearsome."

The tragic case of Italy (where the entire country is now in full quarantined lockdown) provides a particularly poignant example of the gaping lacunae at the heart of the eurozone. There is no supranational fiscal authority, so the Italian government has been largely left to fend for itself, as it is trying to do now, for example, providing income relief by suspending payments on mortgages across the entire country. Here is a perfect example of where European Central Bank support for the Italian banking system would go a long way toward mitigating any resultant financial contagion. But so far, as Wolfgang Munchau of the Financial Times has noted, the ECB remains in "monitoring" mode. Indeed, the eurozone as a whole lacks the institutional mechanisms to mobilize on a massive, coordinated scale, in contrast to the U.S. and UK, and eurozone finance ministers remain incapable of agreeing on a coordinated policy response.

Other eurozone countries may no longer be complacent about the threat posed by COVID-19, but their national governments are more focused on the need to stockpile their own national resources to protect their populations. Italy remains particularly vulnerable to the ravages of this virus, as it has an aging population, so if coronavirus runs rampant through the country, it could potentially crash the nation's entire hospital system, as this account by an Italian doctor suggests.

EU solidarity, showing cracks on issues ranging from finance to immigration, increasingly resembles every country for itself.

Defenders of the EU may well retort that health care is designated as a "national competency" under the Treaty of Maastricht. But how does one expect national competencies to be carried out competently in an economic grouping devoid of national currencies (the key variable as far as supporting unconstrained fiscal capacity goes)? Additionally, the evil of decades of Brussels-imposed austerity has meant there aren't enough hospital beds, materials and staff anywhere in Europe, let alone Italy. This might well represent the death knell for a European project based on aspirations for an "ever closer union."

In spite of the manifest incompetence of the Trump administration, the U.S. at least has institutional mechanisms in place via the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide Americans with clear, credible instructions devoid of political spin.

As Professor James Galbraith has persuasively argued, the U.S. government has the capacity to "establish a Health Finance Corporation on the model of the Depression-era Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Like the RFC, which built munitions factories and hospitals during and after World War II, the HFC should have broad powers to create public corporations, lend to private companies (to fund necessary production), and cover other emergency costs. Even more quickly, the National Guard can be deployed to deal with critical supply issues and to establish emergency facilities such as field hospitals and quarantine centers." Likewise, Senator Marco Rubio has "sought to expand what's called the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which allows the Small Business Administration to start lending money directly instead of just encouraging banks to do so," as Matt Stoller has written.

Parenthetically, this represents a marked break with historic GOP policy, which for the most part has accepted the embedded assumptions inherent in globalization.

And while traditional monetary policy tools such as interest rate cuts are hardly adequate to stem a supply shock, Galbraith also points to the ability of the Federal Reserve to offer emergency financial support to help American companies through the worst of the coronavirus outbreak, by "buy[ing] up debt issued by hospitals and other health-care providers, as well as working to stabilize credit markets, as it did in 2008-09." Andrew Bailey of the Bank of England has made similar recommendations to the UK government.

Even with the measures proposed by Galbraith, Bailey and Rubio, virtually all Western economies, having largely succumbed to the logic of globalization, are now vulnerable, as supply chains wither. China, the apex of these offshored manufacturing supply chains, is in shutdown mode. Likewise South Korea and Italy. Worse, there appears to be a singular lack of understanding on the part of many multinational companies as to how far these supply chains go: "Peter Guarraia, who leads the global supply chain practice at Bain & Co, estimated that up to 60 per cent of executives have no knowledge of the items in their supply chain beyond the tier one group," reports the Financial Times.

A "tier one" company supplies components directly to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that sets up a global supply chain. But as is now becoming increasingly recognized, there are secondary-tier companies, which supply components or materials to those tier-one companies. When goods are widely dispersed geographically (instead of centered in a localized industrial ecosystem), it is harder for executives to have full knowledge of all of the items in their respective companies' supply chains, so the deficiencies of the model only become apparent by the time it is too late to rectify.

In the U.S. specifically, the mass migration of manufacturing has seriously eroded the domestic capabilities needed to turn inventions into high-end products, damaging America's ability to retain a lead in many sectors, let alone continue to manufacture products. The country has evolved from being a nation of industrialists to a nation of financial rentiers. And now the model has exposed the U.S. to significant risk during a time of national crisis, as the coronavirus potentially represents.

There is no national redundancy built into current supply networks, with the most problematic consequences now evident in the pharmaceutical markets. Countries such as China or India are beginning to restrict core components of important generic drugs to deal with their own domestic health crisis. This has the potential to create a major crisis, given that the U.S. "depend[s] on China for 80 percent of the core components to make our generic medicines," writes Rosemary Gibson in the American Conservative. She also notes that "generic drugs are 90 percent of the medicines Americans take. Thousands of them, sold at corner drug stores, grocery store pharmacies, and big box stores, contain ingredients made in China." Constraints on production, therefore, intensify as more and more of the manufacturing process pertaining to the drugs themselves is geographically globalized. And in regard specifically to research-intensive industries, such as pharmaceuticals or biotech, the value of closely integrating the R&D with manufacturing is extremely high, and the risks of separating them are enormous.

These are by no means new problems. We've been dealing with supply-side shocks emanating from hyper-globalization for decades, and the response of Western policymakers has largely been in the form of fiscal or monetary palliatives that seldom address the underlying structural challenges raised by these shortages. To the contrary: democratic caveats to globalization have been characterized as inefficient frictions that hinder consumer choice.

For now, we should start by reducing our supply chain vulnerabilities by building into our systems more of what engineers call redundancy -- different ways of doing the same things -- so as to mitigate undue reliance on foreign suppliers for strategically important industries. We need to mobilize national resources in a manner akin to the way a country does during wartime or during massive economic dislocation (such as the Great Depression) -- comprehensive government-led actions (which runs in the face of much of today's prevailing and increasingly outdated economic and political theology). In other words, the revival of a coherent national industrial policy.

To save the global economy, paradoxically, we need less of it. Not only does the private/public sector balance have to shift in favor of the latter, but so too does the multinational/national matrix in manufacturing. Otherwise, the coronavirus will simply represent yet another in a chain of catastrophes for global capitalism, rather than an opportunity to rethink our entire model of economic development.


Harry Shearer , March 11, 2020 at 3:12 am

But but but ."redundancy", which engineers like, is in direct conflict with "efficiency", which economists revere. Think of how many "smart" appliances we can invent and market if we don't have to make health-care and manufacturing robust again.

vlade , March 11, 2020 at 5:27 am

Cheetah paradox. The fastest land animal, but often dies if injured as can't hunt and has no fat to speak off to take it through lean times.

NC has discussed number of times that you can't have "efficiency" and "reduncancy". Of course, if your drive is short-term profit, it requires efficiency, and redundancy is just a cost.

The smarter companies that have built redundancy, will be the predators left once the injured cheetahs die off.

jaratec , March 11, 2020 at 6:07 am

Out of curiosity, can you name some companies that have built redundancy?

Amfortas the hippie , March 11, 2020 at 8:25 am

does my little farm/doomstead count?
multiple redundancies has been a large part of The Goal for a long time.

as for actual businesses, no except maybe for the more esoteric sectors of FIRE .are "exotic financial instruments" redundant?

"just in time", "warehouse on wheels", as well as globespanning supply lines have worried me since i learned of them.
"efficiency" as a weapon, that eventually gets turned on oneself.

Wukchumni , March 11, 2020 at 8:34 am

My favorite tale of redundancy going away was the oxygen system on commercial airliners. In the past it had 3 or 4 independent redundant systems built in and cost around $20k per seat, and then the cost cutters came up a single digital oxygen system costing only around $500 per seat.

Synoia , March 11, 2020 at 1:07 pm

Yes: Ford and General Motors. If you cannot buy from one company, there are alternatives. The companies are single points of failure. The combination of multiple single point of failure provide redundancy and resilience.

Supporting the Historical US concept of "truce busting" and encouraging competition in all markets.

flora , March 11, 2020 at 3:19 pm

old joke:
Libertarian market CEOs used to be called financial tigers. What are they called now? Ans.: financial cheet'ahs.
ba dum tsssh

-- –

Thanks for this post.

Paul O , March 11, 2020 at 5:30 am

Indeed. As an both an engineering (core mobile network infrastructure) and an econ graduate (PPE and life long interest) this has been an (perhaps, the) issue for me over the last 30 years. There are many ways in which redundancy and resilience have been degraded. Not least in terms of people with the combination of deep technical understanding and problem solving skills.

Baking in fragility in the name of efficiency. Efficiency? Well maybe, but only on a short enough timeline. And timelines have been getting shorter (to validate 'cost cutting').

urblintz , March 11, 2020 at 4:18 am

I don't like to be a smart-fanny and do appreciate the thinking and expertise that shines through this fine essay. I learned an enormous amount and feel better prepared to argue the subject.

But the second half of that last sentence

" the coronavirus will simply represent yet another in a chain of catastrophes for global capitalism, rather than an opportunity to rethink our entire model of economic development."

taken by itself, makes everything before it, well redundant. of course it will.

alex morfesis , March 11, 2020 at 4:18 am

and and and .the "tax planning" departments at majorco international will be crying on about all their masterful overseas tax siloing now having to come apart by having to actually re-shore production oh the pearl clutching to come .

Lambert Strether , March 11, 2020 at 4:50 am

> To billions of us, it has resembled a looting process, of our social wealth, and political meaning

What do you mean, "resembled"?

Ignacio , March 11, 2020 at 5:37 am

I usually like reading Auerback's posts but in this exceptional case I had to stop reading at about the 10th paragraph or so. It is the case that in the heat of the moment we are not having good reaction and fear is driving us a little bit mad.

Leaving our personal phantoms and demons to ride free when we should be carefully thinking on our personal safety and the fate of the social structures that sustain us is not good idea. For instance, identifying Italy as the core of the problem is IMO a misrepresentation of facts. A small city in Northern Italy was, just by chance, the first place in EU where the outbreak started showing all its virulence and it took us by surprise because we were all in denial.

Not only in the EU, a few days ago Mr. Strether left a link in his Water-cooler citing American economists saying that the US would probably not be reached by the epidemics. As an example on how in denial we have been, take a look at this letter sent to the editor of eurosurveillance the 21st of January by physicians from Marseille asking why so much fear about the new disease when they had tested and identified 0 Covid cases in their hospitals while we should focus on flu or rhinovirus. It is almost certain they are now regretting having this letter sent.

Though M. Auerback IMO rigthly crtitizices the fragmentation of the institutional and political framework in the EU, in comparison with the all powerful globalized supply chains, I cannot agree more, I also think he is missing how the institutional response is being organised. After the initial denial, the response to the emergency is necessarily reactive (think of equipments in short supply). In Madrid we are just about 7 days behind of Italy in epidemics development and I can see the same phenomenon here. We are starting to see that we could soon be in short supply of treatment equipment in hospitals. Schools and universities are closed starting today and large gatherings prohibited and yesterday some panic scenes in supermarkets were seen, just like in Italy. The government has programmed a set of measures that are going to be implemented as their necessity is seen such as delaying tax or mortgage payments, and some other help with a focus in small companies and autonomous workers. Both Italy and Spain will almost certainly give a kick in the ass to austerian stupidity and do things necessary to try to mitigate the damage and I bet there won't be any EU institution denying whatever support needed because, ya know, the BCE and other institutions will realise their survival is at risk if they try to be too orthodox in an emergency situation. So far, IMO, the biggest mistakes have been made in China from the very beginning of the outbreak to the brutal quarantines imposed. I think that in the EU, keeping open borders was good reaction.

We will see how this unfolds in the US. This said, I wish the best for Americans of both Americas, Asians, Oceanians, Europeans etc. I hope that authorities around the world have good reaction with this emergency.

ObjectiveFunction , March 11, 2020 at 7:46 am

Good comment, I agree. I've been offline for a bit, so forgive me if mentioned already, but early irruption of the virus in Italy is no mere accident. Chinese groups have bought up Italian luxury brands and then imported thousands of Chinese sweatshop migrants to preserve the coveted Made In Italy label while keeping costs low. Same arrangements in Spain I think, but you would likely know better than I.

For so long as people can't be arsed about where their food clothing and shelter really comes from, there will always be loopholes devised by the unscrupulous. The arbitrage toothpaste is very hard to put back in the tube.

I greatly enjoy Auerback's (and Hudson's) work although I am no socialist (to my mind, today's bankster or McKinsey wanker simply becomes tomorrow's third deputy minister for banana bending – regardless, it's still a small club and most of us ain't in it).

But in order for nations, however defined, to regain self-sufficiency, cartelization of labor enforced in law is going to have to become a thing again, whether it's via unionization, craft guilds or certification (credentialism by any other name would smell as sweet).

Hayek's Heelbiter , March 11, 2020 at 6:41 am

One question: Why does Thomas L. Friedman, author of The World is Flat , extolling the glories of globalization, still have a job paying no doubt tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, while many better informed and infinitely more prescient NCers have trouble putting groceries on the table?

Curious minds wonder.

John Wright , March 11, 2020 at 11:29 am

I realize your comment was rhetorical.

But..

Why does Friedman still have a job after all of his globalization cheer leading and war mongering?

Answer: Because he writes what his bosses want him to write.

In the upside-down world of USA media, people who give good advice (Chris Hedges and Phil Donahue on the Iraq War) get fired, while those who give bad advice (Friedman on almost everything) keep their jobs.

The contempt Friedman has for people may be illustrated by his "Suck on this" comment directed at innocent Iraqis who he judged needed to see US military power directed against them.

This is the USA, where harmful media people are brought down by sex-scandals (Charlie Rose, Chris Matthews) not by the quality of their media work.

Synoia , March 11, 2020 at 1:14 pm

Does this make me look fat?
Yes your majesty.
Off with his head!!

It is a human problem. Not just a US behavior. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The CEO of a large company is no different from the Baron in a Feudal Barony. The President of the United States is an Elected Monarch.

Mike , March 11, 2020 at 8:58 am

I don't get the article's point about a fractured EU response vs a coordinated American response. CDC has been torched by budget cuts and the nurses association in the USA – didn't they say few hospitals have any plans in place for an outbreak? Each country is going to have it's own challenges – good show on Joe Rogan this week and goes into 45% of Americans are obese – a big risk factor when combating Covid-19.

Also a revelation was nearly all generic drugs use in America are sourced from India and China. EU borders have been very fluid for decades, its not an easy thing to shut down for any reason and yes a lot of the response has been reactionary. So back to Globalisation – there are risks, this is the price.

David , March 11, 2020 at 9:02 am

Some good points, but a couple of quibbles.

Globalisation is not the same as trade. Trade, it's sometimes hard to recall, was originally "I'll swap you what you want for what I want." So the English exported wool, for example, and imported silks and spices. Globalisation is an attempt by an insane MBA student to restructure the world economy to be maximally "efficient" without concern for externalities. Globalisation is going down for sure, but of course it will take a lot of perfectly respectable trade with it.

I'm also getting a bit tired of reading that viruses "don't respect national borders." Of course, if there were groups of independently moving viruses, travelling through Europe on their little feet, they wouldn't think to contact the authorities when they cross national borders. But viruses have to be transported by something, usually people, and people (as in China recently) can be required to respect borders. Already there are signs that Free Movement in Europe is coming under strain (Slovenia closed its border with Italy yesterday) and judging by the violent reactions of the "no borders" lobby, they are worried that it may be one of the many types of collateral political damage.

One other thought: this epidemic may be the first in living memory where the PMC, politicians and media figures are disproportionately affected. (I can't think of a single case of a politician who's ever died of flu). The PMC etc. travel a lot more, get out a lot more and mix a lot more with foreigners. When there's no cure, some of them – CEOs, Ministers, media pundits, bankers – are going to die. What then? Already, the more contacts you have, especially with other countries, the worse things will be. Lawyers will find courts closed, consultants will find organisations less ready to consult them, business junkets and conferences will be cancelled, holidays postponed and upper middle-class parents will find that Tarquin and Miranda are unexpectedly at home because the European School in Florence has been closed. Some things will be very hard to bear.

Wukchumni , March 11, 2020 at 9:44 am

The changes coming on account of the virus will be substantial, and if we're all sitting on the sofa, afraid to leave the house for a year, supply chains will be rusty @ best when Coronavirus finally makes off for parts unknown, or pretty much wrecked.

There are very few among us who can afford to miss work and paychecks, and not only that, but those crazy preppers for once are 100% correct (why they don't concentrate on food primarily, is a mystery) in that everything we eat comes from somewhere else typically.

The extraordinary plum of the USD being the worlds' reserve currency looks to be in trouble too, and in a weakened state of things, might just turn into any other fiat monetary instrument.

The internet will change as well, with much of the world stuck in place, i'd expect traffic on here to explode, in that I can't think of a better time waster.

There's also the aspect of the Coronavirus hangover even after it departs, survivors won't let loose of their newfound way of living so easy.

periol , March 11, 2020 at 12:03 pm

I will never forget reading the Wikileak where the US state department was strong-arming an African government on behalf of Shell Oil. It drove home for me the reality that governments and corporations both serve their wealthy elite masters, and don't even pretend to serve the people they ostensibly represent.

That made me realize it's always been this way.

I was in high school when NAFTA went through. I remember reading all the dire warnings from people opposed, and all the glowing thoughts from those in favor. Now, in hindsight, it has been much worse for everyone except the wealthy. The dire warnings weren't dire enough.

Coronavirus isn't a black swan. People have been predicting a pandemic would strike a blow to globalization for a long time. The companies suffering from their short-sightedness FULLY DESERVE what they're getting. I'm sure hoping the fallout hits the corporate landscape hard . Let's see some naked capitalism in action.

Massinissa , March 11, 2020 at 8:39 pm

Your comment reminds me of Smedley Butler's 'War is a Racket' from about 100 years ago. It was true then and its true now. And I'm talking about government practices in general, not just war: You could take 'War' out of the title and replace it with anything else the american government does these days and it would still hold true.

Stratos , March 11, 2020 at 1:31 pm

"The companies suffering from their short-sightedness FULLY DESERVE what they're getting."

They do indeed. That is why they are lobbying the White House for bailout economic assistance funds. It would be a real stinker if they are bailed out with tax dollars and the average citizen is forced to pick up their own medical and time-off-the-job tabs.

[Mar 11, 2020] Fatalism, neolibralism and the USA society

Mar 11, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Paul Bogdanich , Mar 11 2020 21:09 utc | 83

I should have clarified, I'm an American living in the United States. That said, it bothers me. The absolute lack of any detectable level of courage or fortitude in the face of diversity (hard times) is just stunning. Old people die. Everyone dies over time. Viruses like the flu or SARS, or COVID-19 accelerate that process from time to time. It's just what viruses do. There is no cure for either death or viruses. If you want the biblical "Ye shall surely die."

The worst estimates of "excess deaths" in the U.S. is currently 480,000. Let's call it 605,000. 605,000 out of a population of 310 million is a death rate of 0.2%. Point two percent. If this was a deer heard and the managers were assured that the virus did no other damage and that the point two percent would be overwhelmingly composed of the aged and infirm they would consider intentionally introducing the virus to other herds that were too large.

The panic and cowardice is doing more damage than the disease. The level of fear and panic and the lack of dignity about a life process that you know or should have known was coming for as long as you were sentient is just appalling. The whole society is pusillanimous. There's just no other conclusion. It's outrageous compared to the whole of human history. No other generation in history panicked so much over so little.

/div>

Paul Bogdanich@111

America society is not organized to deal with crisis on its own soil at a community based level due to globalization and the warfare economy that you are well aware of.

First, the closing down of schools is a good example as the increase in poverty among the 99% has resulted in schools having to take on providing food to a large segment of children. It is even worse for the children who are homeless in America while millions of dollars a day go to overseas wars. In New York City along there are about 110,000 homeless children. America has no means to deliver such food aid to children except through school attendance! Even worse is that most of this food is ultraprocessed junk and food like substances as required by the corporate food industry.

Second, most workers must continue to show up even if sick or they face going bankrupt and are already deep in debt to the banks. This creates another petri dish for transmission of the virus which is otherwise going to happen due to a lack of food supplies, except in Mormon and similar communities.

Third, About half of Americans have one or more serious medical conditions, most of which are due to either bad diet (hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) or drug use (alcohol, tobacco, or hard drugs).

Fourth, Americans are generally sedentary and cocooned indoors leading to vitamin/hormone D3 deficiencies and toxic organics exposure in home products.

Fifth, we have a sick care system in the US that tries to maximize revenue flow to medical corporations through excess drug distribution and other symptom treatments (think snake oil salesmen in the old west). Once again, prevention via better diet is the correct but unprofitable choice. See books such as "food fix" and "The Hacking of the American Mind" for further details.

Sixth, oil people who will die generally have deficient immune systems which make them susceptible to secondary infections and lung inflammation responses. Strategies to improve immune response are not profitable compared to vaccines and thus lots of old people will die.

Seventh, as hospitals rapidly fill up with patient with coronavirus secondary infections anyone with injuries or disease conditions (e,g, gall bladder and appendix infections will have a much higher chance of dying). As some 97% of prescription drugs are imported from China there will be dramatic shortages.

Eighth, even with calling out the national guard, there will be a large increase in crime as America has over million gang members who are generally well organized. Pity those who cannot defend themselves.

Ninth, collapse of the food and other essential services distribution over several months will contribute to violence and perhaps starvation, especially among pets and farm animals.

Tenth, since most political leaders in the US attended the AIPAC and CPAP conferences, where they were exposed to infected individuals, they will have a much higher infection rate, especially since they tend to be old and in bad health. The collapse of government decision makers will lead to local communities having to sink or swim.

You are correct about the lack of courage in Americans. More importantly, response to a crisis is 80% mental Americans generally are unwilling to give up their comfort and conformity mindset.

Do not know why anyone would want to serve in the US military. Seems like you now recognize your mistake.

Paul Bogdanich@111

America society is not organized to deal with crisis on its own soil at a community based level due to globalization and the warfare economy that you are well aware of.

First, the closing down of schools is a good example as the increase in poverty among the 99% has resulted in schools having to take on providing food to a large segment of children. It is even worse for the children who are homeless in America while millions of dollars a day go to overseas wars. In New York City along there are about 110,000 homeless children. America has no means to deliver such food aid to children except through school attendance! Even worse is that most of this food is ultraprocessed junk and food like substances as required by the corporate food industry.

Second, most workers must continue to show up even if sick or they face going bankrupt and are already deep in debt to the banks. This creates another petri dish for transmission of the virus which is otherwise going to happen due to a lack of food supplies, except in Mormon and similar communities.

Third, About half of Americans have one or more serious medical conditions, most of which are due to either bad diet (hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) or drug use (alcohol, tobacco, or hard drugs).

Fourth, Americans are generally sedentary and cocooned indoors leading to vitamin/hormone D3 deficiencies and toxic organics exposure in home products.

Fifth, we have a sick care system in the US that tries to maximize revenue flow to medical corporations through excess drug distribution and other symptom treatments (think snake oil salesmen in the old west). Once again, prevention via better diet is the correct but unprofitable choice. See books such as "food fix" and "The Hacking of the American Mind" for further details.

Sixth, oil people who will die generally have deficient immune systems which make them susceptible to secondary infections and lung inflammation responses. Strategies to improve immune response are not profitable compared to vaccines and thus lots of old people will die.

Seventh, as hospitals rapidly fill up with patient with coronavirus secondary infections anyone with injuries or disease conditions (e,g, gall bladder and appendix infections will have a much higher chance of dying). As some 97% of prescription drugs are imported from China there will be dramatic shortages.

Eighth, even with calling out the national guard, there will be a large increase in crime as America has over million gang members who are generally well organized. Pity those who cannot defend themselves.

Ninth, collapse of the food and other essential services distribution over several months will contribute to violence and perhaps starvation, especially among pets and farm animals.

Tenth, since most political leaders in the US attended the AIPAC and CPAP conferences, where they were exposed to infected individuals, they will have a much higher infection rate, especially since they tend to be old and in bad health. The collapse of government decision makers will lead to local communities having to sink or swim.

You are correct about the lack of courage in Americans. More importantly, response to a crisis is 80% mental Americans generally are unwilling to give up their comfort and conformity mindset.

Do not know why anyone would want to serve in the US military. Seems like you now recognize your mistake. /div

[Mar 11, 2020] Another big bonus is that the virus will primarily kill old people, which means that European governments can pay out less retirement pensions and welfare benefits in the future. Neoliberal economics is the big winner here.

Mar 11, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

occupatio , Mar 11 2020 23:01 utc | 132

Italy's economy will be crushed, but the bankers will still get their money. In fact, it's another opportunity to impose further 'austerity' on Italy (as neoliberal economics abhors spending on government services), and to force Italy to take out more loans from Germany and France.

Another big bonus is that the virus will primarily kill old people, which means that European governments can pay out less retirement pensions and welfare benefits in the future. Neoliberal economics is the big winner here.

[Mar 11, 2020] Experts warn flaws in US neoliberalized health system doom its readiness

Mar 11, 2020 | www.rt.com

The epidemic that has so far spread to half of US states, infecting over 1,000 Americans and killing 31...

At least 10 states have declared emergencies as of Wednesday, and disease experts are throwing up their hands, urging the administration to take real-life events more seriously.

...Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield agreed that critical regions of the US are beyond the reach of containment, sliding into the " mitigation " stage, and blamed the botched rollout of test kits to local health workers.

The availability of accurate tests for Covid-19 has become a major sore spot, with official reassurances colliding with uncooperative reality in full view of the public. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar insisted on Tuesday that " millions " of tests were available, even as the CDC urged healthcare providers to save tests for symptomatic patients already hospitalized and " medically fragile individuals ."

In at least one case , federal officials warned a Seattle lab against testing flu swab samples for coronavirus in January, before the epidemic was widely reported, losing critical response time – mirroring the " crime " the Trump administration has tried to pin on China.

And some have warned that the US' inability to handle an outbreak is more dire than either side realizes. During a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Tuesday, a Republican congressman from Washington, the first Covid-19 hotspot to flare up in the US, demanded to know why his constituents were unable to get their test results while his fellow congressmen had no problem getting tested just days after coming into contact with an infected person at a DC political conference. A CDC representative admitted " there's not enough equipment. There's not enough people. There's not enough internal capacity. There's no surge capacity ." To conserve tests, the CDC has told healthcare providers to " use their judgment " and consider " epidemiologic factors " before using up a valuable resource.

Existing flaws in the US healthcare system have exacerbated the testing problem. The CDC has refused to set up standalone testing centers, placing COVID-19 screening out of the reach of the many Americans who don't have primary-care physicians and rely on walk-in clinics and emergency rooms for their healthcare. Just 8,500 Americans had been tested as of Monday, according to the CDC, and federal officials told reporters some 75,000 tests had been sent out to public health laboratories on top of one million sent to hospitals and other sites. The real-life infected numbers in the country are thus likely much higher than what is being reported.

Control measures have varied wildly across local governments and institutions and even within cities. Over 1,000 schools have closed nationwide, and cities and counties from Santa Clara, California to Westchester, New York have banned large gatherings. The National Institutes of Health's Anthony Fauci called on others to follow suit during a congressional hearing on Wednesday, announcing " we would recommend that there not be large crowds. If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. " Asked if " the worst " was yet to come, Fauci answered unequivocally: " bottom line, it's going to get worse. "

Even as new Covid-19 cases in China dwindle to near zero and cases in Italy, Germany, and other European countries surge, the US has not stepped up screenings of passengers from those countries at airports accordingly. Instead, the administration has continued to congratulate itself on " saving lives " by halting flights from China weeks ago.

[Mar 11, 2020] COVID-19 puts neoliberalism on its knee

Mar 11, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

vk , Mar 11 2020 14:25 utc | 100

COVID-19 puts neoliberalism on its knees:

Germany abandons "zero deficit" policy

[Mar 11, 2020] Six Quick Points About Coronavirus and Poverty in the US by Bill Quigley

Mar 11, 2020 | dissidentvoice.org

... ... ...

One. Thirty-four million workers do not have a single day of paid sick leave. Even though most of the developed world gives its workers paid sick leave there is no federal law requiring it for workers. Thirty seven percent of private industry workers do not have paid sick leave including nearly half of the lowest paid quarter of workers. That means 34 million working people have no paid sick leave at all. As with all inequality, this group of people is disproportionately women and people of color. More than half of Latinx workers, approximately 15 million workers , are unable to earn a single sick day. Nearly 40 percent of African American workers, more than 7 million people , are in jobs where they cannot earn a single paid sick day.

Two. Low wage workers and people without a paid sick day have to continue to work to survive. Studies prove people without paid sick days are more likely to go to work sick than workers who have paid sick leave. And workers without paid sick days are much more likely to seek care from emergency rooms than those with paid sick leave.

Three. About 30 million people in the US do not have health insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation . Nearly half say they cannot afford it . They are unlikely to seek medical treatment for flu like symptoms or seek screening because they cannot afford it.

Four. Staying home is not an option for the homeless. There are about 550,000 homeless people in the US, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless . Homeless people have rates of diabetes, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS at rates three to six times that of the general population, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Shelters often provide close living arrangements and opportunities to clean hands and clothes and utensils are minimal for those on the street. Homeless people have higher rates of infectious, acute and chronic diseases like tuberculosis.

[Mar 10, 2020] Mr. Market Loses It Over Coronavirus Risk Oil Tanks, S P Futures Trades Halted on Limit Down Overnight, Gold Jumps naked cap

Mar 10, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Mr. Market has finally digested that the world isn't prepared for coronavirus and the US is particularly poorly set up to cope, thanks to our fragmented public health system and overpriced, privatized and less than comprehensive health care. That bad situation is made worse by the CDC being short on resources and hamstrung further by the Trump Administration's PR imperatives.

At a minimum, the market rout may force the Administration to go into overdrive on real world responses, but I doubt it has the capacity. For starters, Pence is badly cast as a crisis manager. But as we'll discuss briefly, the US has such hollowed out capacity on the medical front that a better response would have needed to start weeks ago to have much hope of blunting outcomes.

The US' best hope is that hotter weather will slow the infection rate, but that's not coming soon enough to rescue the Eastern corridor or the West Coast from San Francisco Bay north from serious propagation till at least mid May (and San Francisco doesn't get all that hot except when the weather gets freaky).

... ... ...

A Bloomberg story described how the prospect of low oil prices weighs directly on stocks

While the energy sector is now the third smallest in the S&P 500, a change from a decade ago when the industry made up 11% of the benchmark, tumbling oil prices is yet another risk for traders to contemplate.

"If WTI falls into the low $30s and stays there, it's going to cause lay-offs in the oil patch and stresses in the high yield market -- like it did when oil fell dramatically in 2015," said Matt Maley, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co.

Real World Situation Ugly

The US is still in Keystone Kops mode. We don't have remotely enough coronavirus tests being done. We have no idea when we will have enough test kits ready. No one is even talking about how to implement a system like the drive by tests in South Korea which is not only efficient but even more important, greatly reduces risks to patients and doctors versus having to show up in a waiting room. We have lots of ad hoc measures, like conferences cancelled, businesses ordering travel bans, some schools halting classes (most recently Columbia University ).

But too many people are operating on a business as usual basis, including Congress. An estimated 2/3 of its members attended the AIPAC conference, where two a participants tested positive for coronavirus (oddly, the press has taken little note). An attendee at CPAC, a large conference for conservatives, also tested positive for coronavirus, but only two Congresscritters are self-quaranting .

Readers Monty and Leroy R posted a link to an account from a surgeon in Bergamo on how a hospital in one of the badly-hit areas is holding up . I strongly urge reading it in full (Leroy also linked to the original in Italian ). Key sections:

I myself looked with some amazement at the reorganization of the entire hospital in the previous week
I still remember my night shift a week ago spent without any rest, waiting for a call from the microbiology department. I was waiting for the results of a swab taken from the first suspect case in our hospital

Well, the situation is now nothing short of dramatic The war has literally exploded and battles are uninterrupted day and night. One after the other, these unfortunate people come to the emergency room. They have far from the complications of a flu. Let's stop saying it's a bad flu. In my two years working in Bergamo, I have learned that the people here do not come to the emergency room for no reason. They did well this time too. They followed all the recommendations given: a week or ten days at home with a fever without going out to prevent contagion, but now they can't take it anymore. They don't breathe enough, they need oxygen .

Now, however, that need for beds in all its drama has arrived. One after another, the departments that had been emptied are filling up at an impressive rate. The display boards with the names of the sicks, of different colors depending on the department they belong to, are now all red and instead of the surgical procedure, there is the diagnosis, which is always the same: bilateral interstitial pneumonia

I can also assure you that when you see young people who end up intubated in the ICU, pronated or worse, in ECMO (a machine for the worst cases, which extracts the blood, re-oxygenates it and returns it to the body, waiting for the lungs to hopefully heal), all this confidence for your young age goes away And there are no more surgeons, urologists, orthopedists, we are only doctors who suddenly become part of a single team to face this tsunami that has overwhelmed us.

The cases multiply, up to a rate of 15-20 hospitalizations a day all for the same reason. The results of the swabs now come one after the other: positive, positive, positive. Suddenly the emergency room is collapsing. Emergency provisions are issued: help is needed in the emergency room. A quick meeting to learn how the to use to emergency room EHR and a few minutes later I'm already downstairs, next to the warriors on the war front. The screen of the PC with the chief complaint is always the same: fever and respiratory difficulty, fever and cough, respiratory insufficiency etc Exams, radiology always with the same sentence: bilateral interstitial pneumonia. All needs to be hospitalized. Some already needs to be intubated, and goes to the ICU. For others, however, it is late. ICU is full, and when ICUs are full, more are created. Each ventilator is like gold: those in the operating rooms that have now suspended their non-urgent activity are used and the OR become a an ICU that did not exist before. I found it amazing, or at least I can speak for Humanitas Gavazzeni (where I work), how it was possible to put in place in such a short time a deployment and a reorganization of resources so finely designed to prepare for a disaster of this magnitude .Nurses with tears in their eyes because we are unable to save everyone and the vital signs of several patients at the same time reveal an already marked destiny. There are no more shifts, schedules.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has another fine piece on the coronavirus outbreak. He flags that the UK is very poorly situated to handle it, with only 1/6 the ICU beds per capita of South Korea. As an aside, the US has 10x as many per capital as the UK but read the Bergamo piece again. The entire hospital has been turned into a coronavirus ward. Lord only knows what happens to accident victims .are some hospitals in each region being set aside for regular emergency care?

Here is AEP's take on Italy and the implications :

Data from China suggest a death rate of 15pc for infected cases over the age of 80. It is 8pc for those in their seventies, and 3.6pc in their sixties (or 5.4pc for men). No elected government in any Western democracy will survive if it lets such carnage unfold .

Unfortunately, the early figures from Italy seem to be tracking Hubei's epidemiology with a horrible consistency. The death rate for all ages is near 5pc. While there may be large numbers of undetected infections – distorting ratios – Italy has tested widely, much more than Germany or France.

For whatever reason, the Italian system seems unable to save them. The death rate is six times the reported rate in Korea, even adjusting for age structures. Is it because the Italian strain has mutated into a more lethal form (we don't yet have the sequence data) or because Europeans are genetically more vulnerable?

Is it because Italy's nitrogen dioxide pollution is the worst in Europe (the UK is bad too), leading to chronic lung inflammation? Is it the chaotic administration that led to a catalogue of errors in the hotspot of Codogno? If you think Britain's NHS has been starved of funds, spare a thought for Italy, Portugal, Spain, or Greece .

The US is about to face its grim reckoning. It has the best health care in the rich world – and the worst. Pandemics exploit the worst.

Let's tease out AEP's line of thought. The US is sorely wanting in operational capacity despite being able to provide top flight care for certain types of ailments.

US hospitals are now overwhelmingly run by MBAs. It's difficult to conceive of them being able to execute the sort of rapid reordering of space and duties described in Bergamo. It's not simply that the top brass is too removed from the practice of medicine to have the right reflexes. Unless ordered to do so, they will also be loath to devote enough resources to tackling the disease. When a crisis hits, they won't be allowed to charge (in their minds) for coronavirus services. They'll want to preserve as much hospital capacity for "normal" full ticket services as possible. They might rationalize that by arguing that they don't want to risk more of their staff's health than necessary.

But even worse, remember that most hospitals no longer control much their staffing. They've outsourced specialist practices like emergency room doctors .and those have been bought up by private equity. If you think private equity won't exploit this crisis for their gain, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

One possible silver lining to this probable tragedy is if the US medical system performs as badly as it appears likely to is that it might finally end the delusion that there's a lot (aside from individual doctors and nurses) in the current system worth saving. The broad public needs to make sure that their crisis does not go to waste.

[Mar 10, 2020] Since advent of neo-liberal economics and the fifty plus year assault on the government sector, they have a partisan employment service instead of classic bureaucracy

Mar 10, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

uncle tungsten , Mar 10 2020 6:41 utc | 111

dltravers #103
The response is reasonably good considering the size of the bureaucracy they have to move. ... Let us hope both sides put aside the nonsense for a while and get it together.

Unfortunately they don't have a bureaucracy. Since neo-liberal economics and the fifty plus year assault on the government sector, they have a partisan employment service instead. Little skill or intelligence, a century of wisdom erased, no capacity to act and totally ossified in manoeuvrability.

To trust in any meaningful bureaucracy to motivate, let alone move, you would have to look for a state that values human rights, trusts its citizens and scientists and administrators and refrains from denigrating public medicine and health services.

Good luck finding that effective and resourced public medicine in the USA right now.

... ... ...

[Mar 10, 2020] Italian healthcare system vs the USa healthcare

Mar 10, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Andrea , Mar 9 2020 22:27 utc | 69

Everyone here talking badly about our national health system while we have one of the healthiest and oldest population in the world. Nothing it's collapsing here and we are doing our best, something that I'm not sure can be said about other Nations.
We have many positives because here, in Italy, we test a lot of people and for free. How much does it cost to be tested in US? Are you sure that a very expensive health care system, like the one in US, can handle this virus better than our free for all health care system?
In a couple of months you'll get the answer, don't worry.
Good luck to everyone from Italy.
Andrea

[Mar 10, 2020] Should big corporations get another bailout then

Mar 10, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

SteveR , Mar 9 2020 20:16 utc | 39

Likklemore@32

"Should big corporations get another bailout then ."

Of course corporations will be made whole again just like in 2008. Yet they will continue spouting that Medicare for All is an evil socialist program - the very thing that would allow all people to get taken care of and at least helping contain the spread. The Democrat leadership in the House is now looking at a $350 billion corporate bailout ( how will they pay for it) - yet are viciously against Medicare for All and Bernie. A new Yale Study shows Medicare for All will prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths and will save $450 billion - each and every year. And of course Trump also would like to cut health programs and social security. Trump and Pelosi are both on the same donor team - it is like professional wrestling working for the wealthiest against the workers.

[Mar 10, 2020] In certain European countries private hospitals are already deriving their Covid-19 cases to the public system

Mar 10, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

H.Schmatz , Mar 9 2020 22:11 utc | 61

I am seeing how irresponsible people at certain blogs where they have themselves as oustanding intelligent people, probably only thinking in ther shares´ value, are spreading disinfo in the same sense of that twitted by Trump.

Laissez faire will not work. In certain European countries private hospitals are already deriving their Covid-19 cases to the public system ( of course the government should act asap on this taking extraordinary measures to force them absorbe their clients or even requsition their beds for a public health emergency as it is this one ). This only will accelerate the rate of lack of ICU beds and respirators.

There are already Twitter threads by health personel as the one linked by b, estimating the exponential grow will easily come of this epidemics.
A Spanish doctor in Madrid was already saying that the time will come where triage will be needed to prioritice who accedes to the respirators/ICU beds once the health system overwhelmed...I only hope those irresponsibly denying this is a global pandemic emergency and spreading disinfo through their media to be the first discarded by triage, as they are only making things worse, along with guarantor of their tax cut Trump. I bet them there will be a respirator for Trump, but for them, that is in the air.

In Madrid, after the huge demonstrations of Women´s Day yesterday, new cases have jumped to the rate of Italy. Today all schools and universities closed in the same city. Heads shoukd be already rolling.

Then, we are not counting on the possibility that thing here will not go so orderly than in China. In Italy, to the public health crisis, they add a probably public order one, with several revolts in jails because of restriction of visits...
Just some hours ago some dozens of inmates of a prison in Foggia were running free in the streets taking advantage to commit crimes as they go out robbing cars and menacing commercial activity...

https://twitter.com/Matteo_LT/status/1236982039439646720

Probably as a result, already the whole Italy closed, there is no more red zones, prohibited to move throughout the peninsula. 60 million people.

For those irresponsibly claiming from the same blogs that this will cease with the good weather, people are reporting from Argentina where today there was around a hot summer day, that there are increasing cases there.

Harvarad University and the WHO have already discarded this epidemics will behave like the estational flu..

Coronavirus 'highly sensitive' to high temperatures, but don't bank on summer killing it off, studies say


[Mar 10, 2020] Virus spread and umpaid sick leave

Mar 10, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Jen , Mar 9 2020 22:16 utc | 63

Dear B,

In the hospitality industry in Australia, paid sick leave is available to full-time and part-time employees. The man employed at the Grand Chancellor Hotel in Hobart (in Tasmania) was likely employed as a casual. He is known to be a student in his 20s and is currently in isolation at hospital.

From FYA.org.au: If You're Young and Work In Hospitality, You Need To Read This.

"... Don't come to work sick. You will spread your gross germs around, make everyone else sick (including customers!) and you'll be pretty useless anyway. Australians recognise that it's in all our best interests if you STAY THE HECK HOME while you're unwell, and that's why you've got the option of paid sick leave if you're employed on a full time or part time basis.

If you're employed on a casual basis, you're entitled to unpaid sick leave. You are supposed to subsist during your illness on all the lavish savings you've accrued from your extra four-bucks-fifty-five-an-hour in casual loading. This is clearly problematic, and a lot of young casuals are forced to attend work sick out of economic necessity ..."

It is likely that many if not most COVID-19 cases in several countries so far have also been spread by people working in health, hospitality and other related service industries where most workers are on casual or temporary contracts with either unpaid sick leave or no sick leave.

[Mar 10, 2020] Japan to punish reselling of masks for profit with year in prison, 1 million fine -- or both

Mar 10, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

vk , Mar 10 2020 11:41 utc | 122

Japan to punish reselling of masks for profit with year in prison, ¥1 million fine -- or both

I thought these "totalitarian" measures were only possible in China...

Shizuoka politician apologizes for making ¥8.8 million selling pricey virus masks

I thought this kind of local level corruption and cronyism only happened in the "degenerated" ranks of the CCP...

--//--

More circumstancial evidence the South Koran government is cooking the numbers:

Government's 'self-praise' in virus fight taking flak

"The number of tests is large because the nation has a large number of people suspected to have caught coronavirus. However, the government is declaring a victory by turning it the other way around," Hong said on his Facebook.

All the evidence indicates South Korea is just following the capitalist modus operandi of chasing the rabbit: it is only testing the people who are already showing symptoms. There's no evidence those containers with fast food tests are working on a significant scale: there are a lot of factors that make a random individual in South Korea to stop in one of them to get itself tested; just making them freely available is not enough. Besides, just because an individual who stopped by the container tested negative, it doesn't mean it won't get infected after, as it will go back to its daily routine (because capitalism can't stop, it needs to keep its wheel spinning).

I don't trust the capitalist numbers around the world for one simple fact: they don't have the means to test everybody and to stop their own economies in order to preserve the non-infected from being infected in the near future. An illustrative example of this can be observed in the Czech Republic, which went from just five cases on March 3rd (three on March 1st) to 40 on March 10th - one of the new infected having just arrived from Italy. Those numbers indicate Czech Republic did absolutely nothing to stop the epidemic, and that they probably have much more than those 40 - they just haven't tested enough.

[Mar 10, 2020] The USA is particularly poorly set up to cope with COVID-19 epidemics, thanks to our fragmented public health system and overpriced, privatized and less than comprehensive health care. That bad situation is made worse by the CDC being short on resources and hamstrung further by the Trump Administration's PR imperatives

Mar 10, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

New Wafer Army , March 9, 2020 at 5:29 am

The glue appears at the start of the article:

"the US is particularly poorly set up to cope, thanks to our fragmented public health system and overpriced, privatized and less than comprehensive health care. That bad situation is made worse by the CDC being short on resources and hamstrung further by the Trump Administration's PR imperatives."

Basically, it is expected that Europe manages the crisis less badly.

Eustache de Saint Pierre , March 9, 2020 at 12:18 pm

It has been interesting watching Dr. John Campbell's growing realisation & some shock that everything is not well with the US healthcare system & he has received some abuse but also support from Americans for his growing criticism.

His listing as requested of his 2 degrees & Phd, never mind his long front line experience & his books I think shut some up for perhaps thinking that he was only a nurse, but perhaps he shouda gone to NakedCapitalism.

[Mar 09, 2020] Cooperation, not hoarding is the key in overcoming any epidemics

Mar 09, 2020 | blogs.scientificamerican.com

It also feels like a scam: there is no shortage of snake oil sellers who hope stoking such fears will make people buy more supplies: years' worth of ready-to-eat meals, bunker materials and a lot more stuff in various shades of camo. (The more camo the more doomsday feels, I guess!)

The reality is that there is little point "preparing" for the most catastrophic scenarios some of these people envision. As a species, we live and die by our social world and our extensive infrastructure -- and there is no predicting what anybody needs in the face of total catastrophe.

In contrast, the real crisis scenarios we're likely to encounter require cooperation and, crucially, "flattening the curve" of the crisis exactly so the more vulnerable can fare better, so that our infrastructure will be less stressed at any one time.

[Mar 09, 2020] One day, Americans will fully understand , with horrible consequences, that not every single human transaction must revolve around making a few people obscenely rich

Mar 09, 2020 | www.unz.com

TKK , says: Show Comment March 9, 2020 at 5:06 pm GMT

@Commentator Mike In America, you are on your own.

At international arrivals in Atlanta, the overwhelmingly black TSA staff are not taking temps by infrared or taking any pro active measures. If they are, it was hidden from me. It seems- obtuse- to constantly harp on the catastrophe that is AA hires- but there it is.

Its the busiest airport in the world, BTW.

A sinister side note; Delta offered me an $83 upgrade for first class when I went in to delay another trip. It's a $6000 ticket to fly first class. My total would have been a little over $500. Dangling the carrot as everyone cancels.

One day, Americans will fully understand , with horrible consequences, that not every single human transaction must revolve around making a few people obscenely rich.

[Mar 09, 2020] COVID-19 and the Working Class by Jack Rasmus

Highly recommended!
Mar 09, 2020 | www.counterpunch.org

US politicians and media are reporting approximately 500 cases of the virus in the US as of March 8. The actual number is almost certainly much higher, however. Perhaps as much as 10-fold that number, according to some sources. Why?

There's the problem of reporting only tested cases so far, and there's still a lack of available tests even to test and to verify all those infected without symptoms.. And even those showing symptoms may have been determined initially as not infected by the tests, since reportedly many of the early test kits were defective. Meanwhile, those without symptoms or pre-symptomatic are not being tested at all.

The Fiction of Voluntary Quarantine

Then there's the policy of voluntary quarantining those who have come into contact with someone who was tested and found infected. It's not working very well. Those who have come in contact with carriers of the virus are asked simply to stay home. But do they? There's no way to know, or even enforce that. The case example why voluntary quarantining doesn't work well is Italy.

Most of the northern Lombardy region, including the financial center of Milan in that country, is in 'lock down' right now. But all that means is voluntary quarantining. People are asked not to leave their town, or the larger region. But is that stopping them traveling around their town in public places? Or within the larger region? And spreading the virus there? Apparently not. Reportedly, infection for those tested have risen in just two weeks to more than 6,000 in Northern Italy. CNBC reports that, in just one day this weekend, that number increased by 1200! So much for voluntary quarantines. There's no way, no sufficient personnel, not even accepted procedures, with which to daily check on those (in Italy that means hundreds of thousands) in voluntary quarantine.

The Real Costs to Workers

Average working class folks cannot afford to voluntary quarantine themselves. Or to stay home from work for any reason. Even if they have symptoms. They will continue going to work. They have to, in order to economically survive.

Consider the typical scenario in the US: there are literally tens of millions of workers who have no more than $400 for an emergency. As many perhaps as half of the work force of 165 million. They live paycheck to paycheck. They can't afford to miss any days of work. Millions of them have no paid sick leave. The US is the worst of all advanced economies in terms of providing paid sick leave. Even union workers with some paid sick leave in their contracts have, at best, only six days on average. If they stay home sick, they'll be asked by their employer the reason for doing so in order to collect that paid sick leave. And even when they don't have sick leave. Paid leave or not, many will be required to provide a doctor's slip indicating the nature of the illness. But doctors are refusing to hold office visits for patients who may have the virus. They can't do anything about it, so they don't want them to come in and possibly contaminate others or themselves. So a worker sick has to go to the hospital emergency room.

That raises another problem. A trip to the emergency room costs on average at least a $1,000. More if special tests are done. If the worker has no health insurance (30 million still don't), that's an out of pocket cost he/she can't afford. They know it. So they don't go to the hospital emergency room, and they can't get an appointment at the doctor's office. Result: they don't get tested, refuse to go get tested, and they continue to go to work. The virus spreads.

Even if they have health insurance coverage, the deductible today is usually $500 to $2000. Most don't have that kind of savings to spend either. Not to mention copays. So even those insured take a pass on going to the hospital to get tested, even if they have symptoms.

The media doesn't help here either. Reports are typically that those who are young, middle age, and in reasonable good health and without other complicating conditions don't die. It's the older folks, retirees with Medicare, or with serious other conditions, that typically die from the virus. Workers hear this and that supports their decision not to go to the hospital or get tested as well.

Then there's the further complication concerning employment if they do go to the hospital. The hospital will (soon) test them. If found infected, they will send them home for voluntary quarantine for 14 days! Now the financial crises really begins. The hospital will inform their employer. Staying at home for 14 days will result in financial disaster, since the employer has no obligation to continue to pay them their wages while not at work, unless they have some minimal paid sick leave which, as noted, the vast majority don't have. Nor does the employer have any obligation legally to even keep them employed for 14 days (or even less) if the employer determines they are not likely to return to work after 14 days (or even less). They therefore get fired if they go to the hospital after it reports to the employer they have the virus. Just another good reason not to go to the hospital.

In other words, here's all kind of major economic disincentives to keep an illness confidential, to go to work, not go to the hospital (and can't go to the doctor). That risks passing on the highly contagion bug to others–which has been happening and will continue to happen.

Here's another financial hit for the working class: child care. Schools are beginning to shut down. Even where no cases are yet confirmed. Stanford University just decided to discontinue all in class sessions and revert to all online education. But what about K-6 and pre-school? Or even Jr. high schools? When they shut down, kids must stay at home. But most working class parents can't afford nannys or baby-sitters. Not everyone works in an occupation or company where they can 'work from home'. Do they send the young kids to grandma's and grandpa's, who are more susceptible to the virus? With their kids required to stay home, they must miss work, and risk even losing their jobs. We're talking about millions of families with 6 to 12 year olds. And who knows how long the schools will remain shut down.

In short, wages lost due to self-quarantining, forced voluntary quarantining after hospital testing, the cost of hospital emergency room visits (whether insured or not), the unknown cost of the tests themselves (the government says it will reimburse them but they don't have the $1,000 or more cash out of pocket in the first place), the cost of paying for nannys or baby-sitters for young school age children when schools shut down–i.e. all result in a massive out of pocket expense for most workers that they don't have.

Workers figure all these possibilities of financial disaster pretty quick and know that the virus will mean a big financial hit if they miss a day's work, or even if they don't. So they keep working, hoping they'll recover on their own, refusing to get tested because of the potential loss of work, wages, and income, and crossing their fingers that their kids' school districts don't shut down.

Economic Contagion Channels: Supply Chains, Demand, Asset Deflation, Defaults & Credit Crunch

What this all means for the US economy is obvious. Household consumption was already weakening at the end of last year. Most of consumption was driven by accelerating stock valuations, which affect those in the top 10% who own stocks; or by taking on more credit–credit cards, which affects the middle class and below.

Over $1 trillion in credit card debt is what has been largely driving middle income and below consumption. Mainstream economists argue that defaults on credit card debt are only 3% or so, and thus not a problem. But that's a gross average across all 130 million households. When this data are broken down, middle income and below family credit card debt is around 9%, a very high number more like 2007 when the last economic recession began.

Then there's auto debt. As of 2018, reportedly 7 million turned in their keys on their auto loans. As in the case of credit cards, auto debt defaults will rise as well in 2020. Then there's student debt, over $1.6 Trillion now. Defaults there are much higher than reported as well, since actual defaults (defined as failure to pay either principal or interest) have been redefined to something else other than actual default.

Add to all this the likelihood is very high that job layoffs will now begin by April, as the global supply chain crisis due to virus-related cuts in production and trade. More job loss means less wage income and thus less household spending and more inability to deal with the costs of the virus for most working class families.

Let's not also forget the price gouging for certain products that is beginning now to appear, both online and in stores. That reduces working class real incomes and thus consumption too. Meanwhile, certain industries are already taking a big hit and layoffs are looming in travel companies of all kinds (airlines, cruise ships, hotels, entertainment). In places where the virus effect is already large, a big decline in restaurant, sports and concerts, movies, etc. has also begun.

The two big economic contagion channels impacting employment thus far are supply chain production and distribution reductions, and local demand for certain services (travel, retail, hospitality, etc.).

But a third major channel has just begun to emerge: that's financial asset deflation in stocks, oil & commodity futures, junk bonds & leveraged loans, and currency devaluations.

Stocks' price collapse leads to business shelving investment and even cutting back production. That means more job loss, reduced wage incomes, less spending, and economic slowdown.

Oil and commodity prices now collapsing also lead to energy industry layoffs. More importantly, in turn that will lead to energy junk bond market collapse–potentially spreading to all junk bonds, leveraged loans, and even BBB grade corporate bonds (which are really redefined junk bonds not investment grade bonds).

In other words, the collapse of supply chains, production-distribution, and industry by industry demand in the US may become even worse should the financial markets price collapse can lead to a general credit crunch. And that translates into a general economic real contraction. That's precisely what happened in 2008, in a similar chain reaction from financial crisis to real economic crisis.

Workers are aware of all this possibly leading to longer run economic stress. In the short run, they consider possible wages loss if they reveal or report they have the virus, or get tested: i.e. lost wage incomes: the cost of immediate medical care; the cost of child care, etc. Better to tough it through and continue to go to work is a typical, and rational, response.

This is already going on. Hundreds of thousands with, and without, symptoms are not being tested; nor will most of them volunteer to be. Except for those on cruise ships who are forced to be tested (and they're mostly retirees and elderly), few workers can afford to allow themselves to be. The infection rate is thus already much higher and will continue to rise. Voluntary quarantining doesn't work much (again just look at Italy, or even Germany, where in one week cases (tested) rose from 66 to more than 1000). So out of economic necessity and to avoid personal economic devastation, they continue to work. But that doesn't have to be.

US Policy Response: No Help for Working Class

US policy has been, is, and will continue to be a disaster. Trump's cuts to health and human services in the past seriously hampered the US initial response. Tests had to be sent to Atlanta and the CDC for processing. Early test kits often failed. Only now are they getting to the states–to late to have a positive initial effect on the spread. Those suspected of exposure to others confirmed infected were simply sent home for 'voluntary quarantine'. Initial legislation of $8.3 billion just passed by Congress provides for 'reimbursement' for voluntary testing, with no clarification if that covers the $1,000 hospital visit as well or just the cost of the actual test!

There could be, however, a government response that financially supports workers and allows them to be properly tested and treated.

An Alternative Policy Response

Why doesn't the government simply say 'go get tested for free' and the hospital will bill the government for the costs? Not the worker pay up front with money he/she likely doesn't have. Why isn't there emergency legislation by Congress or the states to require employers to provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave, like other countries? And law guaranteeing employers can't fire a worker sick with the virus for any reason? Or tax credits to working class families for the full cost of child care–paid to a nanny or to the worker–if they have to stay home in the event of a school district shutdown?

While business-investor tax cuts will almost certainly be the official government response, few of the above measures for working class Americans are likely. In America working class folks always get the short end of the economic stick. Congress and presidents pass trillions of dollars in tax cut legislation ($15 trillion since 2001 to investors, businesses and the 1%), but have raised taxes on the working class. Companies with billions of dollars in annual profits pay nothing in taxes–and actually get a subsidy check from the government to boot. Just ask Amazon, IBM, many big banks, pharmaceutical companies and more!

It can be expected the virus will have a large negative impact the standard of living and wages of millions of working class families. They will have to bear the burden of the cost with little help from their government. Meanwhile, businesses and investors will get bailed out, 'made whole', once again. In the process Consumption spending–the only area holding up the economy in 2019–will take a big hit. That means recession starting next quarter is more than a 50-50 likelihood.

In fact, the investment bank, Goldman Sachs, has just forecast that the effect on the US economy in the coming second quarter of this year will be a collapse of GDP to 0% growth.

Join the debate on Facebook More articles by: Jack Rasmus

Jack Rasmus is author of the recently published book, 'Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression', Clarity Press, August 2017. He blogs at jackrasmus.com and his twitter handle is @drjackrasmus. His website is http://kyklosproductions.com .

[Mar 09, 2020] COVID-19 Reveals Trump's Planned Obsolescence by JP Sottile

Notable quotes:
"... Trump's narcissism obscures something both far more pernicious and far more permanent than his oft-televised obsession with himself and that's the fact that he's been busily making Milton Friedman's "Supply Side/The Bottom Line Is The Only Line" dream an intractable reality. ..."
"... Since taking office and taking complete control of the news-cycle, Trump has been systematically starving Federal agencies of resources, personnel and attention. He has, through the sycophants and lobbyists he's installed around the Executive Branch, been pushing out career professionals and barely replacing them with also-rans. And he is dismantling every aspect of government he cannot use to reward his corporate clients or punish political apostates. ..."
"... The idea is to cripple the Federal government from within instead of doing the hard legislative work of changing the laws that legally compel government action. As a result, many of the regulations on the books are becoming functionally irrelevant . Some laws are being rewritten by the lobbyists who used to lobby against 'em, but mostly the Executive Branch is being systematically emaciated by the political equivalent of chronic wasting disease. ..."
"... And any coronavirus-related "incompetence" you see being reported is a feature, not a bug, of this Re-Great'd America. And that's because Trump is not an outlier. He is a culmination. ..."
Mar 09, 2020 | www.counterpunch.org

As COVID-19 begins its inevitable "community transmission" phase around the United States, the purveyors of the conventional wisdom are largely focused on President Trump's (and by extension, prayerful Vice President Pence's) incompetence and his self-serving, empathy-free approach to the coronavirus. And it is true that, as with all things Trump, it seems that all he really cares about is the stock market and its effect on his reelection bid. But Trump's narcissism obscures something both far more pernicious and far more permanent than his oft-televised obsession with himself and that's the fact that he's been busily making Milton Friedman's "Supply Side/The Bottom Line Is The Only Line" dream an intractable reality.

It was a dream that first took flight when Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. The dream was often made manifest by the neoliberal lurch and deregulatory impulses of President Bill Clinton. But it is Trump who's come closest to fully realizing the dream of ending responsive government. It should come as no surprise, though. Trump lifted, among other things , his " Make America Great Again " slogan from the Gipper. He's also taken Reagan's anti-FDR pitch about the dangers of government (see "The Deep State") and, with the help of a motley crew of Tea Partiers, Evangelicals and corporate Republicans, transformed it into, as Steve Bannon calls it, a " War on the Administrative State ."

Since taking office and taking complete control of the news-cycle, Trump has been systematically starving Federal agencies of resources, personnel and attention. He has, through the sycophants and lobbyists he's installed around the Executive Branch, been pushing out career professionals and barely replacing them with also-rans. And he is dismantling every aspect of government he cannot use to reward his corporate clients or punish political apostates.

The idea is to cripple the Federal government from within instead of doing the hard legislative work of changing the laws that legally compel government action. As a result, many of the regulations on the books are becoming functionally irrelevant . Some laws are being rewritten by the lobbyists who used to lobby against 'em, but mostly the Executive Branch is being systematically emaciated by the political equivalent of chronic wasting disease.

It's an approach first pioneered by Reagan devotee Grover Norquist, who advocated " starving the beast " of government down to a manageable size before "drowning it" in a bathtub. It's an idea currently being implemented with wide-ranging effect by Trump, who, like Reagan before him , is accelerating the bankrupting of the already debt-laden treasury with a combo of tax cuts and massive spending on a world-dwarfing defense industry. Eventually, the theory goes, the "safety net," a.k.a. "entitlements," and other "common good" spending will collapse under the weight of the financial limitations generated by profuse borrowing to fund market-distorting tax cuts and to dole out subsidies and tax gifts to cronies and key corporations. All the while, the ever-less regulated chemical, oil, defense, agricultural and (most importantly of all) financial industries will continue to hoard assets through the rinsing and repeating of the supply side boom-and-bust scheme, a.k.a. the business cycle.

Frankly, this all looks like the endgame of a long plan to undo the demand side economy created by the New Deal. Along with the seemingly (but not) contradictory spike in Unitary Executive power (which is about protecting rackets, shielding enforcers from prosecution and about enforcing political compliance), this is a transformation decades in the making and Trump is the perfect salesman for this final episode even better than Reagan or Clinton because his "flood the zone" narcissism is the ultimate, 24/7 distraction for a people addicted to binge watching, inured to scripted reality shows and motivated by belligerent infotainment.

Reagan was the first actor to hit his marks on a stage set for him by the interlocking forces of Big Oil, Big Defense and Wall Street. Not coincidentally, this same Venn Diagram of power has profited mightily from Trump's Presidency. Rather than an actor, though, Trump is the barking emcee of the final season of the American Dream Gameshow a program that was initially cancelled in 1980, but somehow kept running in syndication on one of the two crappy channels a "free" people have been given to chose from. But now, the final credits are closer to rolling that ever before.

As such, Trump is the omega to Reagan's alpha. And any coronavirus-related "incompetence" you see being reported is a feature, not a bug, of this Re-Great'd America. And that's because Trump is not an outlier. He is a culmination.

This article first appeared NewVandal .

JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, published historian, radio co-host and documentary filmmaker (The Warning, 2008). His credits include a stint on the Newshour news desk, C-SPAN, and as newsmagazine producer for ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington. His weekly show, Inside the Headlines w/ The Newsvandal, co-hosted by James Moore, airs every Friday on KRUU-FM in Fairfield, Iowa.

He blogs under the pseudonym “the Newsvandal“.

[Mar 09, 2020] Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will self-quarantine after CPAC interaction

Mar 09, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

ARN , Mar 9 2020 1:14 utc | 47

It seems this nice;) senator may have corona CNN reporting..

"Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will self-quarantine after CPAC interaction"

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz will self-quarantine in Texas after interacting with an individual at the Conservative Political Action Conference who tested positive for the coronavirus.

"The interaction consisted of a brief conversation and a handshake," Cruz said in a statement. "

Cruz said in a statement he is "not experiencing any symptoms" but "out of an abundance of caution" he will remain in Texas until a full 14 days passes after the interaction.

"The people who have interacted with me in the 10 days since CPAC should not be concerned about potential transmission," Cruz said.

[Mar 09, 2020] Tucker Carlson was correct when pointed out that Biden Super Tuesday victory was cruel and unusual punishment of Dem voters on the part of the DNC

DNC installing a man with obvious cognitive impairment is a staggering display of arrogance. While Bush and Obama were empty suits this is completly another level.
In way I think Stupor Tuesday was a huge win for Trump.
Mar 09, 2020 | turcopolier.typepad.com

Vegetius , 07 March 2020 at 03:48 PM

The oldest organized political party on the planet is advancing a senile globalist meatpuppet (with a son known to be a philandering crackhead) to handle nuclear launch codes.
Mathias Alexander , 08 March 2020 at 04:37 AM
Choosing Biden hands the election to Trump and that's a deal that has already been made. The DNC don't like Sanders because they are adraid he might win, not because they are afraid he might loose.
Jack , 07 March 2020 at 03:56 PM

I agree with you that it is not going to be a slam dunk for Trump. Just like Trump wasn't damaged by the Access Hollywood tapes, Biden's not going to be damaged by his senility, gaffes and his prior plagiarism, Wall St cronyism and corruption. The vote for the "lesser evil" mindset will consolidate along traditional lines. The Obama machine will run Biden's campaign and consolidate the Democrat support. The election will hinge on a few states in particular Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

.... ... ...

[Mar 09, 2020] "What's the difference between a cannibal and a neoliberal like Senator Warren?"

Mar 09, 2020 | nymag.com

"A cannibal doesn't eat his friends."

[Mar 08, 2020] Neoliberalism shows its ugly face during the COVID-19 epidemic

Notable quotes:
"... the American little people of all stripes are feeling frightened and abandoned by the great GDP god of the globalists. Being prepared for something is about all we little people can hope to do. And all the chattering class can do is still call us names. The joy of that. ..."
Mar 08, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

Trailer Trash , Mar 6 2020 22:48 utc | 41

US Dear Leaders face difficult decisions regarding mass closures of everything. The poor social infrastructure can't handle major disruptions. Closing schools could maybe cause more harm than staying open, since many students depend on going to school just to get two meals. Some places even have special summer programs so kids can eat all year round.

In addition, without public school babysitters many families would be f*cked but good. There is nobody to look after kids while the parent(s) are struggling to make a living. It is just as bad if the kids get sick - who will stay home and take care of them?

Closing schools would also devastate school finances since many revenue sources pay based on number of bums-in-seats. If the bums-in-seats drops to zero...

Hourly workers like bus drivers and custodians and food service workers would be laid off. Some might qualify for unemployment compensation, many others would not. Lots of economic devastation among those folks in any case.

The medical consequences may get bad, but for the overall economy already stretched to the limit, mass closures will be a catastrophe.


CitizenX , Mar 6 2020 22:55 utc | 44

... The virus appears to be real. If part of this is a psy-op, would that not also link to a higher probability that it could be bio-engineered? Released intentionally? Another 9/11-esque? Cover for an Western Economy in collapse? Myriad possibilities.

I'm in Seattle, it's no joke around here. I may have had it myself which I posted about here recently. Comparing this to people dying from car accidents or "normal" flu every year is retarded. This will (and already has) have profound impact on local and international economies- ie peoples lives dumbass.

I've seen enough humans living in tents, cars and streets around here to make my stomach turn. The impact from this may put many more in dire scenarios that do not even get the flu. Certainly the potential implications of where this came from and how far it will go should at least raise eyebrows from anyone with a shred of critical thinking and compassion.

daffyDuct , Mar 6 2020 23:16 utc | 47
I heard a Wall Street expert today say on CNBC that, in some US states, if an employer demands or permits a sick employee to be at work, any other workers who contract the disease can get worker's comp. The employer is liable.

Apparently there's also an uptick in PC/laptop sales for those working from home.

jared , Mar 7 2020 0:09 utc | 55
We dont have a government in the US in the sense of people who manage policy and services and budgets and laws and such. At this point its pretty much every man woman child for themselves. We know how those people stuck on cruise ship feel.

And of whom Trump said (reportedly):
"he wanted the passengers to remain on the ship because he doesn't want to see the total US case numbers 'double' as soon as it docks"

karlof1 , Mar 7 2020 1:20 utc | 71
The coming economic fallout from Coronavirus will test the advice I've given people over the years about where to work within the overall economy: Make certain you're on the "Needs" side of the economy, not the "Discretionary" side.

As when the shit hits the fan, needs will always be needed while discretionary demand fades to zero.

Frackers are already using euphemisms to cover their massive Ponzi Scheme failure, while the entire Just-In-Time Neoliberal business model gets ready to collapse. The massive debt bomb created by the Fed is close to imploding. The great irony of it all stems from the revelation that the virus likely originated within the Outlaw US Empire--the parasitic worm is close to entering the host's brain.

vk , Mar 7 2020 3:06 utc | 84
@ Posted by: Grieved | Mar 7 2020 2:18 utc | 77

Even if it turns out to be a "nothing burger", the resultant will be that the capitalist countries affected by the virus will emerge poorer and even more unequal than before. That's because they are resorting to monetary devices to try to "fight" the virus. These will only give big business the tools and the narrative to play siege economy (a.k.a. Disaster Capitalism); they'll hoard what is most needed, wait for small and medium businesses to go bankrupt and reap the spoils from the ground when the epidemic is over.

Some people in Wall Street are even celebrating the COVID-19, since it is basically just killing the elder . That's because, if the elder die sooner than later, it would be a boon to the pension funds, who are betting against (shorting) their clients' life expectancy.

Old and Grumpy , Mar 7 2020 14:25 utc | 130
People are panicking because they don't trust the American system of doing governance and business. Gone are the days of local communities working together, or even having say over their hospitals that they built. Still wondering why the communities didn't get any money when said hospitals were sold to some network, but I am digressing here. Sorry. Then it was not that long ago (Reagan presidency) that drugs, materials, food, and so on were made here.Our financial overlords said that wasn't efficient, and we need to ship abroad. Now we just make parasitical managers. I dare anyone to say what tangible gain the managerial class brings other than college degrees and a insatiable lust for power.

So with a possible bioweapon escaping, or released, the American little people of all stripes are feeling frightened and abandoned by the great GDP god of the globalists. Being prepared for something is about all we little people can hope to do. And all the chattering class can do is still call us names. The joy of that.

It didn't start with Trump. There are plenty of Democrats to blame. Harry Truman gets the primary "buck stops here" award for allowing the CIA to be created. Trump will never do this, but he needs to appoint someone apolitical to start investigating our myriad deep state biolabs. Watch who first comes out with a vaccine.

[Mar 08, 2020] Rich usually misbehave during the epidemic

Mar 08, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

vk , Mar 7 2020 14:40 utc | 131

A weekend reading for your amusement:

Rich People Have Always Been Assholes During Plagues

When the first waves of plague swept medieval Europe, the disease killed both the rich and the poor indiscriminately. In July 1348, King Edward III of England's 12-year-old daughter died on her way to Spain to marry King Pedro of Castile. And though he was still mourning, the king threw a giant tournament at Westminster in the fall, despite instructions from clergy and doctors that moderation and abstinence were the key to survival. Nearly 672 years later, rich people still want their travel and amusement even amid coronavirus fears, and in typical fashion, they're doing everything they can to make sure sickness remains the province of the poor.

--//--

[Mar 08, 2020] The working class and the rich Class distinctions exposed by response to Covid-19 pandemic

Mar 08, 2020 | www.wsws.org

bipartisan cuts have been made to public health programs and emergency preparedness readiness. Opportunities afforded by the experiences with SARS and the Middle East Respiratory syndrome to develop vaccine programs have gone unheeded, citing costs to produce such vaccines. This is the nature of for-profit medicine that demands a guarantee on such investments. The estimates for a vaccine discovery and production can run over a billion dollars.

Compounding this dire situation is the barbaric reality that almost a quarter of workers have no guaranteed sick leave. This impacts the service industries most harshly which are also the most exposed to the public because of the nature of their work. In the starkest expression of utter disdain for the health of Americans, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former drug company executive, told Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat from Illinois, that no promises could be made to make a vaccine affordable, let alone free for the public. "We can't control that price because we need the private sector to invest."

According to an Uber driver by the name of Alvaro Balainez, 33 years old, "If one of us gets sick, we will have no choice but to keep driving. We don't have medical savings, because we're barely making enough to pay our rent or bills." Despite public health warnings, these workers will be compelled, by the sheer realities of their non-existent bank accounts, to carry on working and gamble with their own health and those they will expose.

The Washington Post noted that workers who prepare foods at restaurants and school cafeterias or nursery and child day-care workers have the nation's lowest rates of paid sick leave in the private sector, at 58 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that at least one in five food service workers have reported to work despite having symptoms of diarrhea or vomiting.

President Trump's remarks only cut across the warnings made by health providers and infectious disease experts about the contagiousness of the disease and higher than expected fatality it poses when he said, "a lot of people will have this and it's very mild. They'll get better very rapidly. They don't even see a doctor. They don't even call a doctor. You never hear about those people. So, you can't put them down in the category of the overall population in terms of this corona flu- or virus. We have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better, just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work -- some of them go to work but they get better."

[Mar 08, 2020] The depth of Warren betrayal

Notable quotes:
"... How is it that Warren pulling out of the race is a victory for patriarchy and sexism, but Amy Klobuchar pulling out of the race is not causing grief and angst? We Midwesterners just don't get enough respect–and melodrama. ..."
"... She and her dead-end supporters are giving a good run at being the most pathetic story in a primary that includes Zombie Joe Biden ..."
Mar 08, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

XXYY , March 6, 2020 at 2:54 pm

"Why Elizabeth Warren lost" [Ryan Cooper, The Week].

In a press conference discussing her campaign's end, Warren said that she had not decided yet whether to endorse anyone. "I need some space around this," she said.

Astonishing and amazing that Warren, claiming to be a "progressive", did not immediately endorse Sanders, especially when the alternative is the hapless "Senator from MBNA", Joe Biden. Warren also repeatedly refused to endorse Bernie in 2016, a time when the early and enthusiastic support of a prominent woman with progressive credentials would have really helped and perhaps been decisive in the race against Hillary Clinton.

Sanders is the best shot at a progressive US president we have seen in a century, yet Warren apparently needs time to cogitate on the matter for some reason. I hope whatever she ultimately gets for herself is worth it.

False Solace , March 6, 2020 at 5:57 pm

Bernie held out on endorsing Hillary until she signed on to his free college plan. What concession will Warren demand? Something for the people or something for herself? Force Bernie to make his taxes more regressive? She's a joke.

Rory , March 6, 2020 at 9:12 pm

Let's suppose that the one unchangeable goal of the Democratic Party establishment is that Bernie Sanders must not be the party's 2020 nominee. Any other realistic candidate will do, but it must not be Bernie. Let's also suppose that by the time of the party's convention Vice President Bden's weaknesses and unfitness have become so evident that the party simply can't put him forward as its nominee.

Suppose that Senator Warren sees that and thinks of herself as a realistic choice for the party to replace Biden. A veneer of leftishness, but no real threat to Wall Street. I suspect that her entertaining that hope may explain why since suspending her campaign Senator Warren has criticized the idea of Vice President Biden being the party's nominee, but has had nothing favorable to say about Senator Sanders.

urblintz , March 6, 2020 at 3:47 pm

And here's the email I sent Warren:

"You cried yesterday because you can't be POTUS then went on CNN and trashed Bernie AGAIN (when has he ever trashed you?) by way of his supporters. BOO-HOO. You should have focused your attention on the factory floor (working women) not the glass ceiling.

Politics is a nasty game which you have proven to be expert at. You have earned every criticism in whatever form it comes, frankly. But because you can't be POTUS this time, you will take your ball and go home, so there! with the emotional maturity of a 5 year old.

DJG , March 6, 2020 at 4:26 pm

urblintz

A worker wonders:

Matthew , March 6, 2020 at 9:44 pm

She and her dead-end supporters are giving a good run at being the most pathetic story in a primary that includes Zombie Joe Biden.

Just mind-bogglingly entitled upper and upper middle class trash. I regret ever thinking of voting for her, I regret ever hearing her name, and I look forward to the day she endorses someone so I never have to think about her again.

Matthew , March 6, 2020 at 9:47 pm

The person who read her Twitter mentions for her was on Twitter begging for Venmo donations for, I guess, her emotional trauma. Christ I hate these people.

[Mar 08, 2020] Times changed and FoxNews changed with them: the most highly rated show on Fox, Tucker Carlson is vehemently anti-imperialist and consistently hurls insults at neocons such as Lindsey Graham

Mar 08, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

NemesisCalling , Mar 7 2020 0:11 utc | 56

Furthermore, the most highly rated show on Fox, Tucker Carlson is vehemently anti-imperialist and consistently hurls insults at gay assholes such as Lindsey Graham

What you are hearing is the last vestiges of neocon and neolibs grasping at straws and trying to drag China through the mud. No one is listening, just as no one really cares about CNN or MSNBC (ironic, though, that Foxnews is now indeed the most "fair and balanced" of the major networks) or any political trifles.

... ... ...

[Mar 07, 2020] Warren Urged by National Organization for Women Not to Endorse Sanders: He Has 'Done Next to Nothing for Women'

That art of betrail, demonstrated by notable ruthless female careerst.
Mar 07, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

jo6pac , March 6, 2020 at 2:26 pm

What did Anita Hill ever do warren or now?

"Warren Urged by National Organization for Women Not to Endorse Sanders: He Has 'Done Next to Nothing for Women'

Eureka Springs , March 6, 2020 at 2:58 pm

There's always a tweet rebuttal for what fails us )

https://twitter.com/KatQannayahu/status/1235986901741395968

In 1995, Gloria Steinem, spoke of making @BernieSanders an "honorary woman" because his advocacy for women was so strong then, and has continued strong over the decades.

curlydan , March 6, 2020 at 3:33 pm

exactly. Look at the prime examples of how Biden treats women in the public sphere: treating Anita Hill like crap and nuzzling random women. And N.O.W. wants Warren to endorse Biden? Sheesh.

Titus , March 6, 2020 at 4:06 pm

And Warren wonders why she didn't get the votes. Does Warren think being a women per se means only she is capable of going something for women. How childish.

Lambert Strether Post author , March 7, 2020 at 2:01 am

Because when Sanders jawboned Amazon into raising wages, none of the workers who got the raised were women.

That's because to the PMC feminists of NOW -- another NGO to euthanize given how poorly they have performed as measured by their stated goals -- only PMC women are truly women. The working class is an undifferentiated mass without individual identities. That is, in fact, what the Bernie Bro " meme conveys. No female supporter of Sanders can possibly be a real woman, and even more revealing, Sanders supporters are coded male by default, a patriarchal semiotic that would drive NOW and its ilk, er, bananas in any other context.

Rhondda , March 7, 2020 at 8:40 am

"Bernie Bros" = all Sanders supporters [coded male]. Wow, yes! -- Exactly! That's a penetrating insight, Lambert. Thank you!

[Mar 07, 2020] Democrat Establishment deliberatly hands control over the nomination to the political establisment in states they will never win in the general elections

So sellout by Clinton of the Democratic Party to Wall Street proved to be durable and sustainable...
Bernie again behaves like a sheep dog with no intention to win... "Let's be friends" is not a viable strategy...
Notable quotes:
"... the same character traits that make him an honorable politician also make him fundamentally unsuited for the difficult task of waging a successful outsider campaign for the nomination of a major political party. ..."
"... Why hasn't Sara Nelson, head of the Flight Attendants' Union, endorsed Bernie? (Personally I have always thought she'd be a good VP.) ..."
"... Robinson is dreaming if he thinks Non-Profit Industrial Complex entities like EMILY's List and Planned Parenthood will lift a finger to help Sanders, or busines unionists like Randi Weingarten. To his credit, though, Ady Barkan switched immediately. External support, though is correct: IIRC, there are plenty of union locals to be had; the Culinary Workers should be only the first. ..."
"... "Corporate Lobbyists Control the Rules at the DNC" [ ReadSludge ]. "Among the 447 total voting DNC members, who make up the majority of 771 superdelegates, there are scores of corporate lobbyists and consultants -- including many of the 75 at-large DNC members, who were not individually elected . ..."
"... The 32-member DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee contains the following 20 individuals: a health insurance board member co-chair, three surrogates for presidential campaigns (two for Bloomberg, one for Biden), four current corporate lobbyists, two former corporate lobbyists, six corporate consultants, and four corporate lawyers." ..."
"... "Joe Biden is a friend of mine" is the 2020-updated version of "enough about the damn e-mails, already". No amount of ground-level organizing can make up for a candidate willing to publicly overlook what should be high-office-disqualifying fundamental character traits in his opponents out of "niceness". ..."
"... It's easy to do a post Super Tuesday defeat analysis of Sanders but remember, everything seems to work before SC where I think the Democrats fixed the election and the same holds for Super Tuesday. ..."
"... post-dial-up-modem ..."
Mar 07, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Sanders (D)(1): "Bernie Sanders needs to find the killer instinct" [Matthew Walther, The Week ]. I've heard Useful Idiots, Dead Pundits, and the inimitable Jimmy Dore all make the same point, but Walther's prose makes the point most forcefully (as prose often does). The situation:

There is no greater contrast imaginable than the one between the popular (and frequently exaggerated) image of so-called "Bernie bros" and the almost painfully conciliatory instincts of the man they support.

This was fully in evidence on Wednesday afternoon when Sanders responded to arguably the worst defeat of his political career by chatting with journalists about how " disgusted " he is at unspecified online comments directed at Elizabeth Warren and her supporters and what a " decent guy " Joe Biden is.

He did this despite the fact that Warren, with the connivance of debate moderators, recently called him a sexist in front of an audience of millions, effectively announcing that she had no interest in making even a tacit alliance with the only other progressive candidate in the race and, one imagines, despite thinking that the former vice president's record on virtually everything -- finance, health care, race relations, the environment, foreign policy -- should render him ineligible for office.

It should go without saying that offering these pleasantries will do Sanders few if any favors.

Lambert here: This is a Presidential primary, not the Senate floor. There is no comity. Walther then gives a list of possible scorched earth tactics to use against Biden; we could all make such a list. But then:

Sanders's benevolent disposition does him credit. But the same character traits that make him an honorable politician also make him fundamentally unsuited for the difficult task of waging a successful outsider campaign for the nomination of a major political party.

Corbyn had the same problem...

Sanders really must not let Biden and the Democrat Establishment off the hook. He seems to have poor judgment about his friends. Warren was no "friend." And neither is Joe Biden.

If Sanders wants friends, he can buy a dog .

He should forget those false friends, go into the next debate, and slice Joe Biden off at the knees. Trump would. And will, if Sander loses.

His canvassers and more importantly his millions of small donors deserve no less. The race and the debate is now between two people, and only one can emerge the winner. Sanders needs to decide if he wants to be that person, and then do what it takes . (If the outcome of the Sanders campaign is a left that is a permanently institutionalized force, distinct from liberal Democrats, I would regard that as a net positive. If that is Sanders' ultimate goal, then fine. He's not going to achieve that goal by being nice to Joe Biden. Quite the reverse.)

UPDATE Sanders (D)(2): "Time To Fight Harder Than We've Ever Fought Before" [Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs ].

"Biden now has some formidable advantages going forward: Democrats who no longer see him as a failed or risky bet will finally endorse and campaign for him. He will find it easier to raise money. He will have "momentum." Bloomberg's exit will bring him new voters.

Sanders may find upcoming states even harder to win than the Super Tuesday contests. But the one thing that would guarantee a Sanders loss is giving up and going home, which is exactly what Joe Biden hopes we will now do."

Here follows a laundry list of tactics. Then: "The real thing Bernie needs in order to win, though, is external support. Labor unions, activists, lawmakers, anyone with a public platform: We need to be pressuring them to endorse Bernie.

Why hasn't Sara Nelson, head of the Flight Attendants' Union, endorsed Bernie? (Personally I have always thought she'd be a good VP.)

Now that Elizabeth Warren is clearly not going to win, will organizations like the Working Families Party and EMILY's List and people like AFT president Randi Weingarten and Medicare For All advocate Ady Barkan switch and endorse Sanders?

Where is the Sierra Club, SEIU (Bernie, after all, was one of the first national figures to push Fight for $15), the UAW, Planned Parenthood? Many progressive organizations have been sitting out the race because Warren was in it."

Good ideas in general, but Robinson is dreaming if he thinks Non-Profit Industrial Complex entities like EMILY's List and Planned Parenthood will lift a finger to help Sanders, or busines unionists like Randi Weingarten. To his credit, though, Ady Barkan switched immediately. External support, though is correct: IIRC, there are plenty of union locals to be had; the Culinary Workers should be only the first.

Warren (D)(1): "Why Elizabeth Warren lost" [Ryan Cooper, The Week ]. "Starting in November, however, she started a long decline that continued through January, when she started losing primaries . So what happened in November?

It is hard to pin down exactly what is happening in such a chaotic race, but Warren's campaign certainly made a number of strategic errors. One important factor was surely that Warren started backing away from Medicare-for-all, selling instead a bizarre two-step plan.

The idea supposedly was to pass universal Medicare with two different bills, one in her first year as president and one in the third year. Given how difficult it is to pass anything through Congress, and that there could easily be fewer Democrats in 2023 than in 2021, it was a baffling decision. Worse, Warren then released a plan for financing Medicare-for-all that was simply terrible.

Rather than levying a new progressive tax, she would turn existing employer contributions to private health insurance plans into a tax on employers, which would gradually converge to an average for all businesses but the smallest. The clear objective here was to claim that she would pay for it without levying any new taxes on the middle or working classes. But because those employer payments are still part of labor compensation, it is ultimately workers who pay them -- making Warren's plan a horribly regressive head tax (that is, an equal dollar tax on almost all workers regardless of income).

All that infuriated the left, and struck directly at Warren's branding as the candidate of technical competence. It suggested her commitment to universal Medicare was not as strong as she claimed, and that she would push classic centrist-style Rube Goldberg policies rather than clean, fair ones. (Her child care plan, with its complicated means-testing system, had a similar defect).

Claiming her plan was the only one not to raise taxes on the middle class was simply dishonest. In sum, this was a classic failed straddle that alienated the left but gained no support among anti-universal health care voters. More speculatively, this kind of hesitation and backtracking may have turned off many voters." • On #MedicareForAll, called it here on "pay for" ; and here on "transition." Warren's plans should not have been well-received, and they were not. I'm only amazed that these really technical arguments penetrated the media (let along the voters).

Warren (D)(2): "Warren Urged by National Organization for Women Not to Endorse Sanders: He Has 'Done Next to Nothing for Women'" [ Newsweek ]. • Establishment really pulling out all the stops.

* * *

"Why Southern Democrats Saved Biden" [Mara Gay, New York Times ]. (Gay was the lone member of the Times Editorial Board to endorse Sanders .) "Through Southern eyes, this election is not about policy or personality. It's about something much darker. Not long ago, these Americans lived under violent, anti-democratic governments. Now, many there say they see in President Trump and his supporters the same hostility and zeal for authoritarianism that marked life under Jim Crow .

They were deeply skeptical that a democratic socialist like Mr. Sanders could unseat Mr. Trump. They liked Ms. Warren, but, burned by Hillary Clinton's loss, were worried that too many of their fellow Americans wouldn't vote for a woman."

Well worth a read. At the same time, it's not clear why the Democrat Establishment hands control over the nomination to the political establishment in states they will never win in the general; the "firewall" in 2016 didn't work out all that well, after all. As for Jim Crow, we might do well to remember that Obama destroyed a generation of Black wealth his miserably inadequate response to the foreclosure crisis, and his pathetic stimulus package kept Black unemployment high for years longer than it should have been. And sowed the dragon's teeth of authoritarian reaction as well.

"Corporate Lobbyists Control the Rules at the DNC" [ ReadSludge ]. "Among the 447 total voting DNC members, who make up the majority of 771 superdelegates, there are scores of corporate lobbyists and consultants -- including many of the 75 at-large DNC members, who were not individually elected .

The 32-member DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee contains the following 20 individuals: a health insurance board member co-chair, three surrogates for presidential campaigns (two for Bloomberg, one for Biden), four current corporate lobbyists, two former corporate lobbyists, six corporate consultants, and four corporate lawyers."


ewmayer , March 6, 2020 at 6:03 pm

"Joe Biden is a friend of mine" is the 2020-updated version of "enough about the damn e-mails, already". No amount of ground-level organizing can make up for a candidate willing to publicly overlook what should be high-office-disqualifying fundamental character traits in his opponents out of "niceness".

Lambert Strether Post author , March 7, 2020 at 1:57 am

> Bernie is thinking like an organizer

That's fine, but if his organization is then put at the disposal of Joe Biden, I don't see how the organization survives. (That's why the DNC cheating meme* is important; it provides the moral cover to get out of that loyalty oath (which the Sanders campaign certainly should have had its lawyers take a look at)).

NOTE * Iowa, Texas, and California have all had major voting screw-ups, all of which impacted Sanders voters disproportionately. The campaign should sue. They have the money.)

dcblogger , March 6, 2020 at 2:15 pm

I once met an union organizer and he said he could go back to any site he had worked and be on friendly terms with everyone. Bernie is thinking like an organizer. I think that making this about Social Security is his best bet. It demolishes Biden in a way that makes the election about the American people.

pretzelattack , March 6, 2020 at 2:25 pm

he needs to go after biden on the issues in a much more forceful manner than he typically does, with lots and lots of specifics. did i mention lots of specifics? and lots of pointed references to biden's past positions, and a focus on pinning him down on his position now. he needs to ask questions biden will not be prepared for with easy scripted responses.

JohnnyGL , March 6, 2020 at 2:59 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hcEljDeFEI

Well, he's baited Biden into a spat about SS for now, so that's a positive sign.

drumlin woodchuckles , March 6, 2020 at 7:10 pm

Perhaps if Sanders can keep successfully baiting Biden with hooks baited with Biden's own past statements over and over and over again, that Sanders can then go on to practice some very well disguised passive-aggressive pointing/not-pointing to Biden's mental condition by asking Biden at every opportunity: " don't you remember that, Joe? You remember saying that, don't you Joe? Don't you remember when you said that, Joe?"

Titus , March 6, 2020 at 3:31 pm

Except 70% of Women according to Stanford finding these kind of confrontations distressing to very distressing. Tricky. One changes emotions by using emotions so the trick here is "allowing" Biden to act deranged and expressing sorrow over it. For 70% of guys they won't get the emotional content, but will understand the logic of the questions and lack of answers. It can be done, Bill Clinton and Obama were very good at this. Look you want to be president you got to play the game at the highest level. Good practice for dealing with trump.

Oh , March 6, 2020 at 3:51 pm

Timing was right for both Obama and Clinton. After the GFC voters would have gone for any Democrat because Republicans were toxic. Similarly, it was fortuitous for Clinton because Perot was running and he quit the race a couple of months before the election.

Obama got loads and loads of money from Wall Street. Neither of these guys would stand a chance in an election year when the economy was doing well.

It's easy to do a post Super Tuesday defeat analysis of Sanders but remember, everything seems to work before SC where I think the Democrats fixed the election and the same holds for Super Tuesday.

I didn't see anyone pointing out that Bernie had to be confrontational when he seems to be winning.

Mo's Bike Shop , March 6, 2020 at 8:59 pm

Wait. How many days ago was the field of candidates wide open?

If Bernard does not roast Biden on Social Security I will be disappointed. If Smokin' Joe doesn't lash out with his typical aplomb, I'll be disappointed. I'm saving myself up for bigger disappointments.

I'll be happy with the Vermont interpretation of Huey Long. I'm glad that people are finally noticing we have one Socialist Senator.

Idea for an 'own the slur' bumper sticker: "I'm tickled pink by Bernie" -- Although I don't know how the post-dial-up-modem crowd might misinterpret that?

foghorn longhorn , March 6, 2020 at 2:56 pm

This is such bs.
Trump insulted the f*ck out of mccain, mittens, jeb, cruz, pelosi, schumer and the rest of the clown posse and what did they do?

Passed every gd thing he sent to them.

Are we gonna fight or dance, it's past time to get it on.

Zagonostra , March 6, 2020 at 6:01 pm

"I admittedly don't even know what to call Pelosi and Schumer at this point, besides a simple "past their sell date".

How about corrupt, immoral dishonest, greedy, sociopaths for starters (for more accurate adjectives I recommend viewing Jimmy Dore)

Glen , March 6, 2020 at 5:22 pm

Bernie cannot say it, but I can.

I support Bernie because Bernie supports the polices I think we need to save the country: M4A, GND,$15/hr min, free college, etc. To me, being an FDR Dem like Bernie is the moderate position, we've done it before, we know it works. Biden's support of neoliberal polices that have wrecked America is the extreme position.

But the DNC does not support FDR's Democracy. They have ended up to the right of Ronald Reagan. Pelosi could have pushed a M4A bill but did not. Pelosi could have pushed any number of polices to show how Trump is failing the working and middle class, but she did not.

So if Bernie is not picked for the general, I no longer have a reason to support the Dems, and will stay home. Actually, I will probably not stay home, I will work to get Dems out of office, and in general, work to burn the party to the ground. Why? Because it is in the way, and does not support the working class or the middle class.

The Dem party has to decide – do they really support the working and middle class or not. Because only Bernie supports those polices, and the rest of the Dems running for President do not.

[Mar 07, 2020] The neoliberal establishment does firmly control 2020 elections. The regular voters just does not matter

Identity groups are user proved to be powerful forces to derail undesirable candidates.
Mar 07, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

tempestteacup , March 6, 2020 at 2:40 pm

I'm going to take my chance while I have it and before having to say "I hate to be that old Marxist but "

I am 36 years old and therefore the same age as most of those speaking for millenials in the DSA, writing for Jacobin, and organising for Bernie or those of his satellites on their respective fool's errands in opposition to the entrenched Democratic Party panjandrums.

Half American and half British, I have also experienced some similar issues with the Corbyn/Momentum movement and its recent car crash with ruling class reality.

Just as an intro because of course I am going to say, "I hate to say this but "

The DSA and the semi-organised American left are selling their increasingly, justifiably radical followers a pig in a poke. In a sense, I except Bernie from that condemnation – running for President, it is what it is. But those who are supposed to be to his left are performing an invidious game by preventing further political education or raising consciousness in favour of peddling the myth of reforming the Democratic Party from within that have been tried, and have failed, so many times in the last 120 years.

The fact that these same groups are doing the same thing when it comes to labour struggles, endlessly shepherding wildcat momentum behind union leadership and justifying sell-out deals instead of fostering a realistic preparation for the struggles ahead, suggests that this is not an accident.

The cognitive dissonance is almost as horrible as that on offer when technocrats like Obama and Clinton accept the facts of climate change while endlessly sandbagging real responses to it. Which shouldn't be surprising, since the American and British new left is engaged in an infernal slow dance with their liberal or corporate beefcakes.

If I sound flippant, I apologise – I don't mean to. I also don't necessarily disbelieve in the potential for at least some change within existing conditions – but historically such changes have been won because there was a more radical extra-electoral/parliamentary movement of workers leveraging their strength, not because it was all within one cosy political bubble.

And that only happens when workers and students are educated about the struggles involved in forcing changes in the teeth of ruling class interests, institutions and political heft. Peddling illusions about the all-encompassing power of the electoral process, or complaining endlessly about the the latest example of back-stabbing from whichever corporate liberal stooge last wielded the shank, is increasingly not just useless but something worse – an expected part of the system itself as it reproduces its frozen dialectics of power and exploitation.

This is not (at least not entirely) a call for revolution. But I am increasingly certain that change is impossible without first preparing a broad swathe of people to fight, fight, fight instead of entrusting the struggle to this or that figurehead (Bernie, AOC), let alone their clarion-callers in an increasingly cosy upper middle class den of pseudo-leftists.

Lambert Strether Post author , March 6, 2020 at 2:52 pm

You might read that Politico article on the DSA. I found it rather encouraging but you might differ. If so, I'd like to know your opinion of the concrete details.

> peddling the myth of reforming the Democratic Party from within

If the ultimate outcome were to split the Democrats, would you change your mind?

tempestteacup , March 6, 2020 at 3:20 pm

Reading the Politico article now. You're right – it is encouraging, at least in the sense that it features articulate, radicalised individuals and their early attempts to organise. It chronicles absolutely necessary early steps in the process. I am very encouraged with the justified, even pragmatic, way they look beyond presidential politics in a dialectical way – both the wider context and the more local, direct implications.

So far, so good.

But there are problems. The sudden, total collapse of the International Socialist Organization is an example of what can happen to a seemingly lively left(ish) group when it grows on shaky ground. You have chronicled some of the contortions of the DSA in their regional elections and controversies. Growing pains – or something more fundamental?

What I'm trying to say is what are they about and how do they reconcile disparate forces and interests without tearing themselves apart? The DSA has its own particular history in the wider context of the American left and its sudden expansion doesn't make that go away. Without adequate theory your praxis will tend to fall apart when it collides with reality.

To give a concrete example that is suggested in the Politico piece, I'm not sure how they are discussing and understanding the identity politics education of the (upper)middle class students drawn to the movement with the different perspectives of the labour movement or, beyond that, the exciting, potentially revolutionary hinterland of the actual working class(!!!)

Lenin didn't know what identity politics was but he described it in a different context: haggling for privileges. I don't want to make this a diatribe on one subject or to suggest that I'm not sensitive to the discrete forms of oppression facing different groups but – and I know you write about this brilliantly – without some kind of radical reckoning with these issues, groups like the DSA are liable to sectarian disasters of exactly the kind envisioned (I suspect) by those who have most insidiously articulated identity over class as the most significant feature of our social relations.

I would say similar things about Extinction Rebellion. I have friends who are deeply involved in it and they are brilliantly committed to its cause. But they struggle when it comes to connecting the realities they rightly identify with the material pathologies that produce them. They are not interested in why, for example, the ER leaders ban socialist sub-groups as "political" while welcoming those for bosses or landlords(?!)

These are, to me, fundamental problems. If you cannot identify your enemy you cannot plan your campaign. And I worry that the DSA, or ER, dine out on identifying symptoms while studiously avoiding an uncomfortable meeting with their cause. And that doesn't mean, either, a schematic link of every social ill with capitalism, nor a demand that everyone be schooled in the dialectic. Just a plan to educate, to find other forms of solidarity, and gird ourselves for the struggle to come.

But that's probably more than enough! In answer to your last question -- - I think a serious split with the Democratic Party is an absolute necessity for anything that follows. It will come one way or another – even if Bernie wins the nomination, then the presidency, I fully expect he will be sandbagged by Democrats at every turn. At some point, it will be necessary to realise that the Democratic Party is not called the graveyard of social movements for nothing – and that American duopoly is the greatest impediment to democracy, no different really from the Congress of All-Russian Soviets in its day.

Billy , March 6, 2020 at 4:06 pm

Forget splitting the Democrats. I like the idea I first saw here, of turning to and leveraging the Republicans as the party of progressive change. Let the Democrat donors hold their bag of defeated candidates while harnessing progressive populists, like Tucker Carlson, or Josh Hawley, as an example, to change the country for the better. My vote in November is for Bernie if he's on the ballot. If not, Tulsi.

Lambert Strether Post author , March 7, 2020 at 2:37 am

> Forget splitting the Democrats

The Democrat Establishment may not split (though as I think Taibbi pointed out, Sanders might have been able to peel off some opportunists with a Texas win).

However, the Democrat base may split. Taking "Bernie Bro" and "He's not a real Democrat" as a proxies, the Democrat gerontocracy (to use the term for the Breshnev era) is systematically and openly alienating the Latin vote, youth generally, young blacks, and younger women. As for the working class, they are not even a mental category for liberals. That reduces their base to older Blacks and the PMC, especially PMC women. As 2016 showed, and as the (PMC women) Warren campaign showed, that's barely enough to win an election, and its certainly not enough to rule.

At some point, the contradictions have to break out into the open, as it becomes obvious the Democrats have failed to represent -- indeed, have disenfranchised -- too many people. As Lincoln wrote to Lyman Trumbull in 1860..

Stand firm. The tug has to come, & better now, than any time hereafter.

The Iron Law of Institutions is looking better every day.

Left in Wisconsin , March 6, 2020 at 4:15 pm

Look, no one knows the future and everyone is always flying by the seat of their pants. This is always true, only more apparent now. I would speculate that at least half of the newly motivated DSA membership couldn't really articulate a vision of socialism if you asked them to. In the future that might be a problem but it is certainly not a problem now. I am much more skeptical of those people now claiming to have "fundamental" answers.

Most of us have a clear if general sense of the enemy (capitalists) and their henchmen (politicians, "policy advocates," etc.). On the other hand, as Stoller points out, we are really bereft of people who actually understand production. I would argue that is our biggest problem, not lack of ideological clarity. Because once we gain power we need to know how to wield it.

tempestteacup , March 6, 2020 at 4:29 pm

Fair enough but I'm not really talking about ideological clarity or sectarian strife. I think we agree – I also mean a thorough understanding of how the world works. But that also means rigorous critique of where things might go wrong – and, for example when it concerns identity politics (a phrase I hate and apologise for using!) I think we have a good example. That doesn't mean class above all, by the way – just not ceding intellectual ground to liberal formulations of who we are and why we are that way!

(I didn't really mean to harp on about identity stuff but I think of it when I think of, for example, the DSA, and some of the divisive disputes that have bedevilled them)

Lost in OR , March 6, 2020 at 7:34 pm

I attended one DSA meeting. The order of business was something like this:
Each person declared how they chose to be identified.
The group overruled those who didn't want to do anything until some minorities could be recruited.
Some movers and shakers volunteer to draw up the chapter charter. As they were all men, they would recuse themselves from further action so the chapter wouldn't be dominated by men. The group was about 90% men.
The Patriarchy was soundly denounced.

I haven't been back.

Carey , March 6, 2020 at 8:43 pm

Similar experience with DSA in Central CA: so much talk about preffered pronouns and the like that I felt not getting to the point *was* the point..

divide 'n' rule is working really, really well.

Lambert Strether Post author , March 7, 2020 at 2:42 am

> divide 'n' rule is working really, really well.

Yes. I don't see this as malevolent; the impulses are good-hearted (which is exactly what makes "intersectionality" so dangerous). Kimberle Crenshaw endorsed Warren, by the way. OTOH, one of the Combahee River Collective founders endorsed Sanders. Of course, Crenshaw's a lawyer. PMC class solidarity is an impressive thing .

dearieme , March 6, 2020 at 4:55 pm

Look, no one knows the future

Marxists always did – or so they claimed.

tempestteacup , March 6, 2020 at 5:30 pm

Playing the long game -- so ask me what happens to the price of nectarines next week!

Lambert Strether Post author , March 7, 2020 at 3:02 am

> Marxists always did – or so they claimed.

What with a billionaire openly purchasing a large portion of the political class, I'd say The Bearded One is looking pretty good right now.

Deplorado , March 6, 2020 at 4:28 pm

You write forcefully and lucidly; if you write or post anywhere online, please share – I want to read it and follow it!

Also if you speak as you write, you will be a formidable leader.

Lambert Strether Post author , March 7, 2020 at 3:06 am

> Lenin didn't know what identity politics was but he described it in a different context: haggling for privileges . I don't want to make this a diatribe on one subject or to suggest that I'm not sensitive to the discrete forms of oppression facing different groups but – and I know you write about this brilliantly – without some kind of radical reckoning with these issues, groups like the DSA are liable to sectarian disasters of exactly the kind envisioned (I suspect) by those who have most insidiously articulated identity over class as the most significant feature of our social relations.

"Brilliant" [lambert blushes modestly]. Back at ya for "haggling for privileges."

> At some point, it will be necessary to realise that the Democratic Party is not called the graveyard of social movements for nothing

History is a hard teacher. And where its lesson has been sadly confined to a small group of cadres, as it were, this lesson is now going to be taught to millions by the Democrat Establishment, and with whacks to the knuckles and expulsions, too. That's why I put up that link to Mike Duncan on the Russian Revolution of 1905 the other day .

a different chris , March 6, 2020 at 3:25 pm

And when you answer that, can you make clear which context you are steeped in? I don't know which side of the pond you live on, but our hallowed Constitution, in hindsight, pretty much leads us here. It just ratchets everything rightward.

The claim is – and I am not sophisticated enough to either support or deny it, but others I respect have made it – that our political structure via said Constitution will only support more than two parties for only an election cycle or two. Lincoln introduced himself as a Whig, but had to run as a Republican.

Yes, it goes that far back. Given today's sophisticated hold on the media levers by our Elites, I think an effective third party is less likely than ever. Sure there's things called the Working Families Party and stuff here and there, but their job is basically wrenching Dem primaries.

PS: I actually am registered Green. It's my attempt to signal where my vote is. Little good that seems to have done me.

inode_buddha , March 6, 2020 at 3:12 pm

In America at least, it's easy to be leftist when your personal well-being is not at stake -- the left in the US has always had an upper-class tint and co-opted by the professional-managerial class. BUT their well being does not depend on the outcome like it does for the working classes. The UK and other countries have stronger social safety nets and that does make a difference in people's politics.

As an older worker ( I could be your father) I know how these fights go -- it takes decades of sheer intransigence to get anywhere. In a zillion little ways, every day, for years. I don't know if Millenials understand this, its not a dress rehearsal. It's real. I do believe the movement needs solid organizers and figureheads though -- most likely AOC will be next, I hope. There needs to be a clear method of succession, among people who do *not* compromise. A single stated set of goals, for a decade. And those who get out and volunteer and vote.

Titus , March 6, 2020 at 4:12 pm

+10

tempestteacup , March 6, 2020 at 4:25 pm

I agree with some of what you write but I have yet to see any really adequate figureheads of the sort you suggest as necessary. AOC, after her praise for John McCain is not one of them.

I know this makes me sound intransigent and sectarian but it is and has always been a problem in the left to fight beyond just nation-based working class interests. I'm not saying AOC does that but she, like so many before her, have definitely sacrificed critique of imperialism for a certain amount of mainstream coverage as far as her social democratic advocacy goes.

AOC praised John McCain, Bernie has played up to Russiagate and the enduring myths about Castro's Cuba despite making an obvious, uncontroversial point in the first place. This is how it goes. And that's what I mean – it is a standard thing for Western politicians to throw foreign affairs over the side when they are pressed – especially because the Borg is most concerned with matters of Empire and therefore will attack on that above all else (knowing, too, that the voting public cares much less about such issues than, say, Medicare for All). Corbyn did the same thing when it came to Trident renewal, then Iraq, and finally Israel.

(By the way, such capitulation got him nowhere – he was still slandered as an anti-semite and I just finished an awful book about Oleg Gordievsky in which it is suggested he was a useful idiot for the Czech intelligence services, along with Michael Foot!)

Socialism does not exist without a critique of imperialist/capitalist wars is what I mean.

But I'm sorry, I know this isn't what you were talking about. The reason I brought it up, however, is to illustrate the insidious ways in which freshly elected, occasionally 'radical' politicians are institutionalised. It doesn't happen with bread and butter domestic issues but rather foreign affairs, those distant concerns of experts and spooks.

And yet bringing this up gives a kind of window of opportunity and hope. There is no group with better understanding of the real-world consequences of Empire than the urban and rural working class. They are the ones providing sons and daughters for endless wars. The overextension of empire is always going to provide its weakest points.

Sorry, I've rambled – these are just some thoughts as I try and get to grips with what is to be done!

inode_buddha , March 6, 2020 at 5:04 pm

Well, no, actually its a good thing that you rambled -- I completely agree but from a different angle perhaps.

The fact that socialism is even in contention in the US I think is a referendum on imperialism and capitalism.
And the US way has certainly opened itself to criticism.

Frankly it amazes me that it is even happening at all, being that the Overton window has been dragged so far to the Right in my lifetime.

I remember watching Nixon on TV, stating that he was not a crook. Today, he would be considered to be an unelectable liberal, too far left.

I am not completely happy with the way that AOC and Sanders have had to toe the line with the Establishment regarding foreign policy and etc. (and I don't think McCain was any kind of saint). But I do believe that AOC and Sanders are trying to please multiple Masters. If they don't do the whole "red-baiting" routine then they lose credibility with the system they are part of -- and thereby lose influence. The voters are a different issue -- foreign affairs are just not on the radar at all for most of the working class. The sole exception is those who have family in the armed services. And yet without those voters, they wouldn't have any influence to lose.

So basically, its a chess game. Washington DC has never ran on the truth. I'm pretty sure AOC was just mouthing the words so she can accomplish some of her own left-wing goals. And maybe Sanders is too --

Grachguy , March 6, 2020 at 6:49 pm

If I might inject my two cents into this very interesting discussion, I believe tempestteacup's ultimate point still stands: the Blob/industrialists/parties will suffer no contest to their claims on power. Sure, they allow the occasional voice in the wilderness – to do otherwise would lead to more radical activity I imagine – but the power structures themselves seem quite robust to disturbances from the likes of Sanders and AOC. While I agree that they are likely mouthing the words (Sanders once discussed abolishing the CIA and one does not simply reconsider that view once one has reached that point ideologically), I question whether it even matters It seems to me that a realistic vision of socialism must be brought about independently of the existing state. After all, the social groups that dominate the state also control the media, the military, the educational institutions, and just about every other organ of power. In this framework, hijacking the state as it exists is a tall order and actually reforming it within the rules of the game is even more difficult. Isn't it worth considering the idea that left energy is better devoted to forming alternative institutions and power structures?

The circle of wagons we are seeing around Biden's husk shows that they will fight tooth and nail to keep from implementing even the most benign and basic social democratic reforms. I can only see someone like Bernie or AOC winning real power in the face of a massive economic meltdown and even then, they can win the social democratic reforms (which are desirable) but why couldn't that same opportunity + working class radicalism be channeled into actual systemic change; ie destroying the state as it currently exists and replacing it with a people's democracy? (not the Chinese type please). This would require decades of hard work, but so would replacing the democratic party with our version of Labour (and look where they are).

inode_buddha , March 6, 2020 at 10:36 pm

Isn't it worth considering the idea that left energy is better devoted to forming alternative institutions and power structures?

Very much agree -- I don't think I'm disagreeing with tempestteacup so much as looking from a different angle.

For any of it to work, I think we will have to establish parallel institutions on a far greater scale than Sander's campaign. One favorite of mine is worker co-ops, particularly in the Rust Belt and Midwest.

I dream of being able to unite and organize existing co-ops and strengthen them to the point that they could replace the old Sears Roebuck. Effectively workers would have to work two jobs and participate in two different economies, to the extent that they were able -- but having a fallback via co-op would certainly give them far more autonomy and power than any existing structure.

The only reason the existing structures have any power at all, is due to their death grip on the economy, and directly on peoples lives via economic means. Breaking that grip will also require economic means I think.

Grachguy , March 7, 2020 at 1:32 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you said!

[Mar 07, 2020] In the Land of the Gerontocrats by Jacob Bacharach

Notable quotes:
"... Nowhere, though, is the rusty, rickety nature of America's civic society more recently evident than in the hilariously, harrowingly inept response to the advent of the COVID-19 virus as a global contagion. Whether it is more or less dangerous and deadly than the media portrays is quite beside the point. The abject incapacity of any government, least of all the feds, to offer even simple, sensible guidance, much less mobilize national resources to examine, investigate and ameliorate the potential threat to human health and well-being is astonishing, even to a tired old cynic like me. At present, the most proactive step has been to pressure the Federal Reserve into goosing the stock market -- the sort of pagan expiation of dark spirits that you'd expect in a more primitive world, when a volcano blew or an earthquake hit. ..."
Mar 07, 2020 | www.truthdig.com

As much as I like Bernie Sanders and hope he prevails in the Democratic primary, I confess that there's something gray and depressing about a crusty, seventy-something, New-Deal liberal representing the great electoral hope of the American left. There are, of course, a number of engaging young progressives in office now, but the fame and near-celebrity profiles of newcomers like Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez belie the still fundamentally local power bases of these congresswomen, none of whom has yet been tested even in a statewide election. Victories at the state and local levels have been far outpaced by gains by so-called moderates and centrists, and even these barely dent the thousands of seats and offices lost to radical conservatives during the desultory administration of Barack Obama.

In the campaign for the presidential nomination, and in the aftermath of the multiple "Super Tuesday" primary contests, the Democratic race has become a two-man contest, pitting the insurrectionary Sanders against the increasingly incoherent Joe Biden. In Biden, Democrats are presented with a former senator for America's onshore but off-shore-style tax haven, Delaware, and a man who was selected as the most demographically inoffensive running mate for the then-seemingly-radical campaign of Barack Obama.

Until an eleventh-hour victory in South Carolina, the predominant narrative in the media was that Biden was cooked -- a spent force whose residually strong national poll numbers reflected name recognition and reserves of nostalgia for the Obama years. Biden's revival was buoyed by the support of the state's relatively conservative, older African American population, and then by his Super-Tuesday success just a few days later. (It didn't hurt that the vagaries of election season allowed him to avoid another crackpot debate performance or other testament to his rambling incomprehensibility in the interim.)

But that single victory and the synchronized withdrawals and endorsements by Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar created a new narrative. Seemingly overnight, Biden had become a scrappy fighter with a never-say-die attitude, a Clintonian Comeback Kid.

This drove many older Democratic voters -- an inherently timorous group conditioned by decades of "The West Wing" and MSNBC to believe they're consultants and strategists rather than citizens and constituents -- toward the more familiar, pedigreed candidate. They simply did not care that Biden has been wrong, often aggressively and outspokenly so, on every significant issue for the last forty years.

After blowing half a billion dollars on a vanity campaign that won him American Samoa, Michael Bloomberg promptly bowed out and endorsed Biden as well, promising to dedicate his vast resources toward electing Joe.

Beyond the quixotic and indefatigable Tulsi Gabbard, the only candidate left standing was Elizabeth Warren -- also in her 70s and running on fumes since an ill-conceived and ill-fated pivot away from "Medicare for All." This ruined her relationship with the socialist left and any chance of serving as a bridge between the activist wing of the party and its constituency of urban professionals, if one could have existed to begin with. ( Editor's note: Warren has since dropped out. )

Looming is yet another septuagenarian, Donald Trump, whose ongoing mental decompensation remains the great unspeakable truth in corporate media. Although frequently hostile to him, with the obvious exception of Fox News, mainstream outlets continue to edit his transcripts "for clarity and concision," as the publishing saying goes, laundering the self-evident lunacy of his almost every public utterance like a gaggle of Soviets turning the somnolent ravings of an agèd commissar into readable prose for the next day's news.

I use the Soviet metaphor consciously. Long before I started dating and then married a scholar of Russian, I had a certain soft spot for the country, alternately maligned as an eternal basket case and an implacably cunning enemy that had sacrificed something like fifty times the number of Americans killed in every American war combined to defeat the Nazis. And now that I am shacked up with a Russianist and have visited the place a couple of times, I've come to see it not as a shadow or opposite of our own vast, weird nation but as a sibling of sorts.

The crass red-scare fantasies that characterize so many of the present narratives around election interference and the criminal Trump-Russia demimonde are as infuriating as they are baroquely silly. And yet there is a certain late-Soviet pallor hanging over America, even if on a material level our empire really does seem more robust than theirs ever was. (Once again, it bears mentioning that we never lost fifty million people in a war.)

There is a sense, despite the apparent ideological contestations of our ongoing presidential elections, of a group of gerontocrats battling to run what looks less and less like a traditional state than the palace apparatus of an ancient empire that has acquired its imperium almost by accident. As the press critic and NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen observed in the fall of last year, "There is no White House. Not in the sense that journalists have always used that term. It's just Trump -- and people who work in the building. That they are reading from the same page cannot be assumed. The words, 'the White House' are still in use, but they have no clear referent."

The hollowed-out nature of the American state has been evident for some time and certainly predates Donald Trump, even if his simultaneously feckless and malicious administration exacerbates the sense of social and economic precariousness. Our biggest city can't build and maintain its transit system. Our bridges collapse. We can't marshal our resources to even pretend to do something about climate change.

The few actual achievements of the Obama administration -- its rapprochements with Cuba and Iran -- collapsed almost immediately on the whims of his successor while his cruelest policies -- the drone assassinations; the militarized border; the detentions -- metastasized and grew crueler.

Our municipal jails have become debtors' prisons as strapped municipalities turn to shaking down poor people and people of color to manage shrinking tax bases. Meanwhile, our health care system is the worst in the developed world -- an impenetrable skein of rent-seeking local monopolies that cost society trillions and bankrupt hundreds of thousands of individuals each year.

Nowhere, though, is the rusty, rickety nature of America's civic society more recently evident than in the hilariously, harrowingly inept response to the advent of the COVID-19 virus as a global contagion. Whether it is more or less dangerous and deadly than the media portrays is quite beside the point. The abject incapacity of any government, least of all the feds, to offer even simple, sensible guidance, much less mobilize national resources to examine, investigate and ameliorate the potential threat to human health and well-being is astonishing, even to a tired old cynic like me. At present, the most proactive step has been to pressure the Federal Reserve into goosing the stock market -- the sort of pagan expiation of dark spirits that you'd expect in a more primitive world, when a volcano blew or an earthquake hit.

Even elections seem beyond our capabilities at this point. In Texas, people waited for up to seven hours to cast votes on decrepit machines, and we still do not have official final results from the Iowa caucuses -- a fact little mentioned now that the primary season has moved on.

On the eve of the French Revolution, the Swiss-born theorist, journalist, and politician Jean-Paul Marat wrote, "No, liberty is not made for us: we are too ignorant, too vain, too presumptuous, too cowardly, too vile, too corrupt, too attached to rest and to pleasure, too much slaves to fortune to ever know the true price of liberty. We boast of being free! To show how much we have become slaves, it is enough just to cast a glance on the capital and examine the morals of its inhabitants."

Donald Trump is in the White House, and his allies in Congress, smarting from his impeachment and failed Senate trial, will now come out with allegations about the sketchy business dealings of one of his likely opponent's adult sons. Well. Here we are.

Jacob Bacharach is the author of the novels "The Doorposts of Your House and on Your Gates" and "The Bend of the World." His most recent book is "A Cool Customer: Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking."

[Mar 07, 2020] Dr. Drew Pinsky Threat Of Coronavirus An Overblown Press-Created Hysteria Video

Notable quotes:
"... We have in the United States 24 million cases of flu-like illness, 180,000 hospitalizations, 16,000 dead from influenza. ..."
Mar 07, 2020 | www.realclearpolitics.com

After a community transmitted case of coronavirus was reported in California,

Dr. Drew