2:00PM Water Cooler 10/27/2015

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, I have to leave for my annual eye exam even before stats come out (Durable Goods, Case Shiller, PMI Services Flash, Consumer Confidence, Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index), and the optometrist is going to dilate my eyes, so I won’t be in any shape to write before 2:00PM. But I had to blow past a lot yesterday, so think of this as Monday’s B-side. –lambert


Thought: Politics ain’t beanbag. It’s Calvinball!


“Sanders’ career in Congress has been living testimony to the fact that opposing wars but supporting our soldiers are not mutually exclusive goals. He has been a consistent advocate for both active duty military and veterans, and there are now signs that those veterans are returning the favor, organizing for his campaign” [Alternet].

“Bernie Sanders doesn’t need to pay for his socialist utopia” [The Week]. “Not only do we not need to pay for Sanders’ programs, we shouldn’t pay for them. In fact, the federal government’s budget deficit is much too low. How could I possibly suggest anything so loony? Contrary to popular belief, smaller deficits are not always better. How big or small the deficit should be is determined by how it interacts with the rest of the U.S. economy and other international economies.” Nice to see MMT concepts making their way into the mainstream. Note that running a deficit was a winning policy for Justin Trudeau of Canada’s Liberals (who aren’t very); NDP’s Mulcair stuck to balanced budgets and austerity, and went down the tubes. Rightly.

“Bill Clinton’s presidency had enshrined political homophobia in Democratic politics, and it took almost 20 years for it to begin to diminish.The Defense of Marriage Act is part of that legacy” [Michelangelo Signorile, HuffPo]. 


“Republican voters view Donald Trump as their strongest general election candidate, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll that highlights the sharp contrast between the party’s voters and its top professionals regarding the billionaire businessman’s ultimate political strength” [AP].

“[W]hat remains striking is the absolute certainty among Republicans that Clinton can’t possibly win, because they see how distasteful and scandal-ridden a figure she truly is, and swing voters will just have to see it their way, because it’s so obvious to them” [Greg Sargent, WaPo]. Not only Republicans.


Trump: “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars” [WaPo]. What, “small” like a lemonade stand?

“Nearly half of the leading donors to [W’s] 2004 re-election who are still alive [!!] appear to be on the sidelines, while about 15% have peeled off to a dozen other candidates” [Wall Street Journal, “Jeb Bush Struggles to Galvanize His Family’s Donor Base as Campaign Falters”].

“The Man Who Bought the Clintons: the Political Business of Terry McAuliffe” [Counterpunch]. But will they stay bought?

The Trail

Karl Rove: “President Bush is mystified, I think that’s the right word to say, that Donald Trump — I mean, here’s a guy who called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, criticized Nancy Pelosi in 2007 for not doing enough to remove the Republican president from office” [Business Insider]. Trump is right on Pelosi, who woke up in the morning after the Democrats won the House in 2006 and took impeaching Bush off the table. The Donald’s looking better all the time!

“Don­ald Trump has lost the lead in the latest Iowa polls, and the Club for Growth has a pretty good idea why: $1 mil­lion in at­tack ads that the group aired over a three-week peri­od” [National Journal]. “Two polls re­leased this week showed Trump over­taken by re­tired neurosur­geon Ben Car­son among GOP voters in Iowa. Where Trump had once re­ceived about 28 per­cent sup­port, he is now down to 20 per­cent.”

Jebbie: “I’m past Donald Trump” [New York Times, “Jeb Bush Expresses Despair About Toxic Tone of Campaign”]. True. On the way down.

Jebbie, of W: “How he responded to 9/11 was just awe-inspiring” [The Hill]. 

Jebbie: “Blah, blah, blah. That’s my answer — blah, blah, blah,” dismissing “critics who said the changes reflect a struggling campaign that is losing ground to any number of rivals” [USA Today].

O’Malley: “Hillary Clinton has changed her position on virtually every defining issue in this race, except for one — and that is to protect the big banks on Wall Street and go along with business as usual. I don’t believe that that’s what the people of our country are looking for” [Wall Street Journal, ” No More Messrs. Nice Guy: First Sanders, Now O’Malley Takes Glove Off “].

Josh Marshall on Clinton at the Benghazi hearings [Talking Points Memo].

When I watched my thought was, Wow, she’d be rock solid [in the Situtation Room]. Granular and detailed is seldom spell-binding. But over the course of the endless testimony, anyone who had the slightest sense that Clinton had been some sort of figurehead Secretary of State who left the key work to subordinates would have been thoroughly disabused of that notion. …. She knows her stuff and she’s a pro. You could not watch that testimony and not come away with that conclusion.

Assume that’s true. If so, that means Clinton’s decision to vote for Iraq (a mistake) was a pro’s decision; the planning at State behind TPP (a flip-flop/headfake left) wasn’t done by a figurehead; the studies on Keystone (a flip-flop/headfake left) wasn’t left to subordinates; and the support for war in Libya (a debacle) was done by somebody who knows their stuff. Alrighty, then.

So MoDo deked Biden on Beau’s dying words? [WaPo]. Entirely plausible. But if it wasn’t working for the famously genuine Biden, why wait ’til now to shoot down the story?

“Carly Fiorina’s campaign includes the rare job: ‘body woman'” [AP].

The Hill


“In addition to wanting to privatize both Social Security and Medicare, Ryan has indicated that he essentially wants to shut down the federal government in the sense of taking all of the money for the non-military portion of the budget” [Dean Baker, Common Dreams]. “This fact is one that is easy to find if a reporter is willing to do five minutes of research. Ryan directed the Congressional Budget Office to score his budget plans back in 2012. The score of his plan showed the non-Social Security, non-Medicare portion of the federal budget shrinking to 3.5 percent of GDP by 2050 (page 16). This number is roughly equal to current spending on the military. Ryan has indicated that he does not want to see the military budget cut to any substantial degree.”

“Fuming over Ryan, some conservative voices turn on the Freedom Caucus” [WaPo]. Yikes!

Debt Ceiling/Government Shutdown Cliffs

“After five years of bitter clashes, Republican congressional leaders and President Obama on Monday tentatively settled what is likely to be their last budgetary fight by agreeing to modestly increase spending over the next two years, cut some social programs, and raise the federal borrowing limit” [New York Times, “Congress and White House Reach Tentative Budget Deal”]. “Those increases would be offset by cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits.” 

Stats Watch

“[Joshua Siegel’]s StoneCastle Financial is among the funds that are reviving the collateralized debt obligation, or CDO. … The CDO that StoneCastle put together is another kind. It’s backed by subordinated debt issued by about 35 community banks, some of them so small they don’t have credit ratings” [Bloomberg]. “Today’s CDOs are a better bet because the banks have learned from the credit crunch. They’re stronger, with more capital and better regulation, Siegel said in an interview.”

“Valeant’s newest disclosure — the $100 million option to buy a company for nothing” [Francine McKenna, MarketWatch]. “On the call, CEO J. Michael Pearson admitted the structure of the deal to potentially buy Philidor was ‘probably’ unusual but said, ‘I think it is legal.'” So that’s alright, then.

The Fed: Does anybody other than me read “Federal Open Market Committee” as containing at least one oxymoron?

Health Care

“The rise in healthcare costs and a better understanding of the benefits of medical tourism have really begun to spur interest with U.S. companies. With that in mind, there are a number of legislative initiatives aimed at providing a hospitable legal landscape for medical tourism, both inbound and outbound.” [Medical Tourism]. How about letting us spend our Medicare dollars abroad, for starters? Bigger bang for the buck, and unless you’ve got the skills and privileges that let you work the system here, without the ignorance and brutality that characterizes the extractive health care system in the country.

“Uniting Behind the Divisive ‘Cadillac’ Tax on Health Plans” [Larry Summers and Greg Mankiw, New York Times]. Mankiw (Republican) and Summers (Democrat) are both possessed of notion so lunatic that only a neo-liberal economist could love it: That having cut benefits (in this case, the so-called Cadillac plans), employers will raise wages to compensate. Pause to savor that. I’ll just drop this quote here:

Might companies use the Cadillac tax as an excuse to reduce health coverage and, instead of increasing wages, simply pocket the savings? Some may try, but the success of this strategy would be fleeting. In the long run, the compensation of labor, like most prices in the economy, is governed by supply and demand. Any employer that tries to pay less than the market requires will struggle to recruit and retain workers.

In the long run…. In the long run…. Didn’t some other famous economist use that phrase? Not in the health care context, I grant, but they might as well have, eh?

“Medical information exchange: The patient, doctor, computer triangle” [Edward Tufte]. “Information exchange” between patient and doctor has nothing to do with EHR, which has to do with billing, not health care.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“[W]hen black families attain middle-class status, the likelihood that their children will remain there, or do better, isn’t high” [The Atlantic].

“Corey Jones had a right to arm himself on Sunday when an officer wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap in an unmarked van pulled up to his disabled SUV on an otherwise deserted highway off ramp” (after which — I’m sure you know how this ends — Jones got whacked by the cop) [Palm Beach Post]. “In fact, had Jones fired at the officer, he could have defended his action under the state’s “stand your ground” law, legal experts say.”

“Disturbing Video Shows School Cop Body Slam and Drag a Black Female Student” [Mother Jones]. She’s tiny, too. 

“Aryan Outfitters” [Mother Jones]. Photo essay and profile of Klan seamstress “Ms. Ruth.” Here’s the (especially) sad and terrible part:

Ms. Ruth changes her daughter’s IV fluids. “They said she wouldn’t live for more than three months. I refused to leave her in the hospital, so I took her home.” Caring for her daughter Lilbit is a full time job. Ms. Ruth rarely leaves the house; she spends most of her time sewing and taking care of her daughter and her animals.

“From Private Violence to Mass Incarceration: Thinking Intersectionally About Women, Race, and Social Control” (PDF) [Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, UCLA Law Review]. From 2012, but still interesting.


“More big money from powerful city hall special interests has found its way into One San Diego, the charity started last year by San Diego Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer, ostensibly to advance his anti-poverty agenda” [San Diego Reader]. “The president of One San Diego is Tony Young, a Democratic ex–city councilman who resigned in the midst of his term to briefly run the Red Cross here. He left that post to set up his own lobbying firm, Civic Link Strategies, which in the second quarter of this year received $15,000 from SDG&E.” So, one big happy.

“Dependence on student loans was not incidental to the for-profit boom—it was the business model. The schools may have been meeting a genuine market need, but, in most cases, their profits came not from building a better mousetrap but from gaming the taxpayer-funded financial-aid system” [The New Yorker]. Totally unlike charters, which are about gaming state legislatures and city governments for free facilities. (And what the heck does “meeting a genuine market need” without a product that makes a profit sound like to you? That’s right, a market failure, which is why we have public services.)

Police State Watch

Radley Balko on last week’s White House forum on criminal justice: “Mostly, though, this panel was a president and two long-time players in the system praising themselves for having finally come around” [Marshall Project]. “So much of the talk today was guarded. It was about gradualism and caution. I suspect that’s because real reform would take a lot of power away from the very sorts of people on today’s panel. So of course they’d like to see it happen slowly.” There’s a lot of that going around.

Imperial Collapse Watch

“New York Man’s Not-So-Sovereign Nation in Utah Now Has Passports and a Border-Patrol Gate Guarded by a Robot” [New York Magazine].

Guillotine Watch

“[Crispin Odey] has acquired a colorful reputation among London’s hedge fund managers. In 2012, he got planning permission to build a 130,000-pound ($200,000) Palladian-style chicken house on his country estate” [Bloomberg]. Fortunately, Crispin’s hedge fund played the wrong ponies last week and lost a packet, after dropping 17% in six days.

Class Warfare

Study on credit cards: “The kinds of cards aimed at rich, educated people did not seem interested in making money off financial mistakes like the occasional late payment” [WaPo]. “In contrast, the card offers sent to poorer, less-educated people were often loaded with risky features: low introductory APRs, high late fees, and penalty interest rates that kick in if you break the rules.” And here is the [significant pause] money quote, from aptronymic study co-author Antoinette Schoar, MIT Sloan School economist:

“Poorer people usually have worse credit, so standard economic theory predicts their regular APR should be higher. And it’s not clear why the late fees, the hidden fees, the fees that hit you when you fall behind on your payments — why are they so high for the poor.”

“[I]t’s not clear.” Perhaps not to a professional economist, no, though to be fair, I’m glad they did the study.

“Just over half, or 51 percent, of the 1,200 individuals polled, who were drawn from all segments of the [food] industry (restaurants, farms, grocery stores) answered that they always, or frequently, will go to work when ill” [Grub Street]. Of course, the 1% have personal chefs, their own wait staff, and food tasters. So that’s alright, then.

“If you start from Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England and start reading Capital not from the beginning but from chapter 10, another Marx emerges – one whose thinking was rooted in empirical facts about the working lives of the worst off and in an urge to improve these. It is this Marx which is still relevant today” [Stumbling and Mumbling].

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant (Isabel, who’s been so helpful to NC on Portugal):


Rhododendron ponticum ssp. baeticum

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. Winter is almost here, I need to buy fuel, and I need to keep my server up, too. And thanks so much for the donations during the annual fundraiser. They are much appreciated, both practically, and as signs that you enjoy the work.


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. allan

    Walgreens Boots Alliance nears deal to buy Rite Aid: sources

    Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O), the largest U.S. drugstore chain, is nearing a deal to buy smaller peer Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N) for more than $10 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

    The deal would follow CVS Health Corp’s (CVS.N) $10.1 billion acquisition of Omnicare Inc OCR.N in August. It would further consolidate the U.S. drugstore sector and attract antitrust scrutiny.

    Reuters stuck in that last bit about `scrutiny’ for some lunchtime humor.

  2. Steve H.

    -Trump: “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars” [WaPo]. What, “small” like a lemonade stand?

    Not lemonade. Banana.

    1. jgordon

      Well if we’re talking 2015 here that certainly isn’t a large loan. One bout of cancer and all gone plus some (few people I know actually have insurance, and deductibles make Obamacare too worthless to actually use you know).

      1. cwaltz

        Even in 2015 it’s a large sum of money. The median wage is around $52,000-it’s the equivalent of loaning out almost 18 years of one person’s life earnings at median wage or the wages of 18 people for one year.

        One million is only small to someone whose been part of the 1% for most of his life. They’re oblivious when they say stupid things like “My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars,” as if we all understand what it’s like to have daddy pull out a wallet and give us a million dollars of his pocket change.

        1. 3.14e-9

          Nailed it.

          Do you recall the defining moment that Bush I lost the election to Bill Clinton? It was during a debate that was opened up to questions from the audience, and a young woman asked the candidates how hard economic times had affected them personally. Bush’s answer showed that he didn’t have a clue.

          Isn’t it ironic that Bill and Hillary vacationed this summer at a $50K/week rental in the swank East Hamptons? And with the tight control over the debates, you can bet no one is going to get close enough to ask such a brazen question.

          1. cwaltz

            This is up there with when the Romneys tried to identify with the little guy by telling us that when Mitt was attending college that he and Ann were roughing it by selling the stock that Daddy had given him during their college years.

            *shakes head*

            If you’re a have not then you rough it to pay for college by joining the military or by actually working full time to pay to go to college. Your parents don’t even know what the stock market is, let alone give you the portfolio they invested in for you.

        2. Carla

          Yeah, I needed a big loan once for the 20 percent down payment on our first house. My mom loaned us the dough: $6,000. It took us 5 years to pay it back. I wonder if the Donald ever re-paid his dad.

      2. cwaltz

        For the record, your comment is more of an indictment of our medical care system than it is an example of why this not really a “large loan.” It’s an indictment of our leadership that any type of medical condition could rob someone of almost 2 decades of income from labor in one fell swoop.

  3. Eric Patton

    Marx was a genius, and he got a lot of things right. But Marxism misses a class. Yes, owners and workers are two classes in the economy — but there’s a third class: people like doctors, lawyers, managers, engineers. People who do not own the means of production, but who run them on behalf of the owners. People whose jobs confer status and privilege in the workplace. The coordinator class.

    It’s true there were no capitalists in the old USSR. But it was not workers who ran the economy — it was coordinators (or professional-managerial class, as Barbara Ehrenreich called them).

    Marxism is the economic theory of the coordinator class. Marxism is about liberating the overseers from the rule of the plantation owner, not the field slaves. Marxism just wants to put the field slaves under new management.

    It’s like pulling teeth to get the coordinator class to acknowledge its own existence. The class refuses to see itself as a separate class in the economy, in my experience. The whole “1% versus the 99%” just serves to obscure the coordinator class, acting like the only thing that gives rise to class relations is ownership.

    But workers don’t hate capitalists. They never see capitalists. But they see managers every day. It’s the managers who directly treat workers like shit, not owners.

    In every economy of scale that has existed: private-enterprise market economies (capitalism, like in the US), public-enterprise market economies (market socialism, like in the old Yugoslavia or Hungary), public-enterprise centrally-planned economies (centrally-planned socialism, like the old USSR), or private-enterprise centrally-planned economies (fascism, like Mussolini’s Italy) — in all of these, there have always been workers and coordinators (with owners showing up as a third class in two of the four).

    But Marxism won’t die, because there are always too many coordinators who want to bring it back. And they will never stop conflating the interests of workers and coordinators — they will never stop acting like, since neither overseers nor field slaves own the plantation, that overseers and slaves have nothing not in common with one another.

    Coordinators, simply put, don’t want to do their fair share of shit work. They’ll say that, Oh, we’ll just automate it all out of existence (like a nurse aide’s job, wiping shit off of someone’s ass, can ever be automated). Then they’ll say, well, no, we can’t get rid of it, but we can respect workers or pay them more. History shows otherwise.

    Recommended reading:

    1) Unorthdox Marxism

    2) Parecon: Life After Capitalism

    1. Massinissa

      I like your post, but im not so sure I agree about your point that people who want Marxism back are in the managerial/professional class… .

    2. Paul Tioxon

      “Using data reflecting their synthetic definition of class, the authors conclude that the portrait of a U.S. class system consisting of a small ruling class, a large “middle class,” and a small percentage of economically and politically marginalized people is no longer an accurate way to describe society. The class system of the days of relative prosperity from the 1940s until the late 1960s, which looked like a diamond with a broad middle, has become like a class system looking like a “double diamond.”

      In this new class society, the first diamond, the top one, consists of the “privileged class” composed of a “super-class,” “credentialed class managers,” and “professionals.” All together these representatives of privilege constitute about 20 percent of the population. All the others constitute a “new working class,” some living in relative comfort but most engaged in wage labor, modest self-employment, or part-time work. This is the second diamond representing 80 percent of the population.”



      New Class Society is a sociological portrait of America where only the top quintile, the top 20% of the income stratification are needed and paid well enough to actually be secure with housing, health care, retirement income and clout to transmit this lifestyle to their children. The bottom 80% are left behind as wealthier members secede from the social order to their privatized communities built by stripping out the resources that once built public amenities, such as libraries, school districts, recreation centers, state universities, county or city general hospitals. It’s not a big secret anymore and the academics who present the research as in the above book only reinforce what nearly everyone struggling to get by realizes in 2015 without needing to read Marx. They just have to look as their paycheck, if they have one.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        This corrolates somewhat to the SSI data talked about a few days ago: 80% of all wage earners earn less than 65K per year.

        But the percentages are not constant. Very many of the top 20% today do not feel secure and certainly do not feel confident they are able to pass along access to this preferred social position to their children. And it’s only going to get worse.

    3. reslez

      > Marxism is the economic theory of the coordinator class [etc.]

      I’m not really sure how someone can come away with this view after having read Marx. Das Kapital has 3 volumes not 1 (the first is where the industrialist vs prole paradigm is explored). The later volumes discuss rentiers and unearned income… This was actually on NC recently, Michael Hudson’s posts are always excellent. Ref: Michael Hudson: The Paradox of Financialized Industrialization

  4. Jim Haygood

    Rail safety — who needs it?

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has passed a bill delaying for three to five years the mandate for railroads to put long-sought safety technology in place.

    Federal accident investigators say the technology, known as positive train control, would have prevented a deadly Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia last May.

    The technology automatically slows or stops trains that are in danger of colliding or derailing due to excessive speed. A 2008 law gave railroads until the end of this year to implement the expensive technology.

    With the $15 billion saved on not upgrading railroad safety, we can defeat Isis! Never mind that we’re probably 50 times likelier to die in a railroad accident than a terrorist attack.

    1. hunkerdown

      Come, now. You know as well as I do the American project isn’t about people — those are necessary evils. How will the petrodollar hold its value if hazardous cargoes have no track (Norfolk Southern — also note the service alert on the top of that page) to/from the Atlantic shore?

    2. cwaltz

      Called it! Rules are only for the little people who don’t have the means to buy off Congress.

      I guess I should be grateful that this means I don’t need to worry about hubby’s employment situation in January though since the trains will be operational. :/

  5. ProNewerDeal

    on the issue of for-profit credit card companies abusing the poor (or all of the non-rich), can a consumer effectively eliminate this risk by using a credit union’s credit card? Note that is possible to be a customer some MIC-related nonprofit FIRE orgs, even if 1 has no connection whatsoever to the MIC (for instance P3ntagon Fed3ral). This way you get the possible benefits of oligarchs’ potentially hesitancy to screw over “the troops”, since Supporting The Troops (at least superficially) is culturally mandated.

    I’ve taken the approach in recent years, when dealing with the FIRE sector, to use a not-for-profit customer-owned organization whenever possible if it an option. A Non-Crapified Option, somewhat similar to the notion the mythical Public Option Health Insurance that 0bama lied to us about. Orgs like Van guard, “you gets props over here” (c) The Beatnuts.

  6. ChrisFromGeorgia

    WTF alert – that NY Times story cites “cuts to social security DI benefits” but then has no facts to back up that claim.

    It appears that the truth is that there are no “cuts”, only vague promises of increased scrutiny of applications (a doctor would have to look it over) and cracking down on fraud … that sounds close to a nothing-burger to me.

    What they’re really up to is the usual shell game of taking money from the main SS retirement fund to shore up the DI fund.

    As usual I had to go to non-traditional media to smoke out the truth. DailyKos has a pretty good summary:


    Media scaremongering?

    1. ProNewerDeal

      I read this NYT “Budget Deal” article Lambert linked to here.

      Does this quote mean that they have killed the ACA Employer Mandate? “In addition, the accord calls for eliminating a provision of the Affordable Care Act, not yet in force, that would require businesses with more than 200 employees to automatically enroll their workers for health insurance”

      Or does this quote mean something else, and the ACA Employer Mandate is still in effect? Did the ACA Employer Mandate ever actually take effect? I recall 0bama delayed it when a Wack Arnolds lobbyist cried about it.

      In this article, it seems like NYT is obsessed with what the bill means to the particular poli-trick-ians (“0bama’s Legacy”, “John B0ner is cleaning the stables”, etc), and NYT cares little in explaining on how these changes to US Social Insurance, already among the crapiest in the OECD/rich nations, would actually effect real USians.

      1. ChrisFromGeorgia

        Implicit in the phrase “cleaning out the stables” is the assumption that they’re full of something smelly that draws flies … gee I wonder who could possibly have put it there – not our dear departing B0ner!

    2. Jim Haygood

      ‘What they’re really up to is the usual shell game of taking money from the main SS retirement fund to shore up the DI fund.’

      Sec. 833. Reallocation of payroll tax revenue.

      Reallocates to the Disability Insurance Trust Fund an additional 0.57 percentage points (for a
      total of 2.37 percentage points of the total combined 12.4 percent payroll tax) in 2016, 2017
      and 2018. This would be sufficient to pay [disability] benefit until 2022, and the total rate would not change.

      After they pass it, then we’ll find out how much this change advances the estimated date when the SS Trust Fund runs dry, thanks to diverting about $100 billion from its income during 2016-2018.

      Three-card monte, comrades: it’s all in the wrist action.

      1. ChrisFromGeorgia

        Yeah, and we’ll probably have to wait until the SS Trustees release their report on the overall health of the Social Security trust funds to find out the new “dry up date.” That report, IIRC, won’t come out until next summer. Probably on a Friday at 5PM on a holiday weekend.

        Mission accomplished – resume golfing, Congress!

        1. Jim Haygood

          From the conclusion of the Trustees’ July 22, 2015 cover letter:

          “Lawmakers may consider responding to the impending DI Trust Fund reserve depletion, as they did in 1994, solely by reallocating the payroll tax rate between OASI and DI. Such a response might serve to delay DI reforms and much needed financial corrections for OASDI as a whole.”


          Since the Trustees owe no fiduciary obligation to beneficiaries, they act as handmaidens of the Treasury (as this cringing letter so eloquently attests).

          Entitlements reform would start with getting those ex-officio trustees (Secretaries of Treasury, Labor and HHS) off of that board. Social Security is a vast chicken house with seven hungry foxes serving as trustees.

      2. Oregoncharles

        And where does the money come from when SS calls on the Trust Fund? It comes from the general fund – the budget, because it consists of paying off (notional) federal bonds.

        Granted, Treasury COULD just print it, but they seem to be against that.

        IOW: the Trust Fund is an elaborate fiction. Little wonder – the idea came from Greenspan, did it not? It was a back-door way to increase (regressive) taxes.

        This is not something I’m happy about, because I’m on SS and Medicare. But it doesn’t necessarily affect beneficiaries directly: the money would come from the general fund, hence compete with all other budget items, but it’s protected by the “faith and credit” clause, since it’s technically a government debt (owed to itself, but anyway…). Frankly, I have no idea how that will work out in practice, but pensioners do vote in high proportions, so it might not be good for everyone else.

        There are, of course, a number of good ways to solve this problem, like widening the SS tax to raise the revenue or cutting the military budget.

        1. LifelongLib

          Well, if you accept MMT the government as the sovereign currency issuer IS creating (“printing”) money every time it spends. The only question after that is how much money it will destroy through taxation, and from where. If the economic resources exist to provide for retirees it shouldn’t be necessary to tax at all (i.e. reduce current workers’ use of resources to make room for that of retirees). The extra spending would then benefit everyone.

      1. Daryl

        Indeed there seem to be several instances of this happening; perhaps the first instance of chemical crowd control, and a lot more fun than being tear gassed, at least up to the point where you were run through with a sword by one of the locals.

  7. abynormal

    Thanks for the Beautiful Share Isabel (and the help w/Portugal’)

    Love should be paid with love.
    (Portuguese Proverb)

    1. IsabelPS

      (Only recently did I realize this beautiful “I wish you well”, that I thought was so old-fashioned and out of use, is the normal “Thank you!” in a big part of the country, instead of the formal and strange “Obliged to you!”)

  8. shinola

    Re. Sonecastle Financial’s revival of CDOs – 1st article under Stats Watch:
    I didn’t read the article (no working link) but this from the blurb from the article jumped out at me

    “Today’s CDOs are a better bet because the banks have learned from the credit crunch. They’re stronger, with more capital and better regulation, Siegel said in an interview.”

    Right. And if you believe that, I’ve got a great deal on a bridge I can sell you…

  9. curlydan

    just think what would have happened if that school girl had been treated that way by her parent or a teacher, not the police. The parent probably would no longer have custody of that child.

    Also, in line with earlier comments from today’s links, we can infer how cowed students are of police authority by their reactions. If a parent had done that action, I bet a lot of students might have tried to prevent it from going further.

    1. Mark P.

      Several of the kids got their phone cams going, though, which is to their credit.

      Also, the cop in question has a history of such behavior; if you wanted a perfect profile of a white male cop displaying all the indicators of bodybuilding/steroid rage he’s got ’em.

      1. Mark P.

        Old story, but it’s only gotten worse since 2007 —


        …27 NYPD officers cropped up on the client lists of a Brooklyn pharmacy and three doctors linked to a pro sports steroid ring.

        Only six of the cops were found to have bought steroids and tested positive for the substance. “But there were enough names on the original list that the feeling was a message had to go out,” a police source said. “Cops had to be put on notice that the department can’t have this.” Two police chiefs also acknowledged they either bought a steroid-based cream or were treated by one of the suspect doctors.

        … the FBI warned of pervasive steroid use in local police departments in 1991. In 1999, there were reports that Officer Justin Volpe’s use of the drug may have contributed to the police station beating and sodomizing of Abner Louima.

      2. Chris Williams

        In Australia, you cannot work with U18s, ie in a paid or unpaid role, without getting a Blue Card – a bit of a check that you have no history which would disqualify you… Might prevent some of this happening?

        Do you have something similar in your parts of the world?

  10. Plenue

    “Perhaps not to a professional economist”

    The majority of the profession does often come across as a bunch of ignorant children, doesn’t it? And these are the guys who are always sighing and lamenting ‘utopians’ for not understanding how the real world works.

  11. cripes

    I heard the soundbyte-of-the-day on NPR this evening. They were mumbling something about the budget deal having “something in it for everybody.” By which they meant there would be a 5% war department increase for the republicans and a slower bloodletting of the social benefits funding, i.e., reductions in social security, medicare/medicaid would be stretched out over several ears, instead of kicking in all at once next year.
    Oh, yeah, and a department of SSDI fraud prosecutions to be fully operational by 2022!
    Wow, democrats, great negotiating!

    1. rich

      The more unequal the country, the more the rich rule http://alj.am/qcpk


      The same tendencies occur at the state level. Patrick Flavin, a political scientist at Baylor University, examined political responsiveness in the U.S. at the state level. He found that inequality in a state strongly correlates with political representation: More unequal states tend to be less representative.

      “The effect of income inequality is stronger than just about any other state contextual factor that I’ve looked at,” Flavin told me in a recent interview. “For example, it has a stronger predictive effect on the equality of political representation than the partisan composition of the state legislature/governor’s mansion, the median income of a state, or a state’s population.” Similarly, Elizabeth Rigby and Gerald Wright found that in more unequal states, Democrats tend to be less responsive to the poor.

      On the whole, there is a strong evidence to suspect that representative democracy is not compatible with deep economic inequality. The American Founding Fathers, classic progressives such as Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt and commentators such as economist Thomas Piketty are right to worry about how inequality undermines democracy. As FDR warned, “Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.”

      1. hunkerdown

        Of course hereditary oligarchs would say that, wouldn’t they? FDR came not to bury the malfeasant order, but to save it. This litany of groveling submission to “betters” (definition: people unqualified to draw air and getting paid for it) is self-serving nonsense, unless you can find a counterexample of a people allowed to govern themselves in fact, not just nominally.

        Also remember that democracy undermines inequality. Which should tell you everything you need to know about the arrogant fraud that is “liberal democracy”.

  12. Roland

    The most important Marx is in the Communist Manifesto. Almost all of that short work is fully relevant.

    Its meaning is actually more readily more apparent today than it was a few decades ago. For as long as the post-WWII welfare states were furnishing the short-lived illusion that you could have capitalism and human decency at the same time, Marx looked like he might be outdated. But as it turned out, Marx one-page dismissal of “bourgeois socialism” was dead-on. The welfare state was the epiphenomenon, not the Manifesto.

    Capital was an elaborate and ambitious work meant to retrofit a detailed economic basis for the historical theory propounded in the Manifesto. But the Manifesto is not derived from Capital–it’s the other way around. The unsatisfactory microeconomic theory in Capital in no way derogates from the historical theory in Manifesto.

    @ Patton,

    Professionals are petty bourgeois. As a capitalist society fully matures, the professionals either become bigger bourgeois, or they get proletarianized. You can see a bit of this already taking place in our time, e.g. law grads doing document review on piece rates, or MD’s losing more and more of their autonomy to the insurance cos which effectively employ them.

    1. Darthbobber

      Impossible to tell from this what aspect of the microeconomic theory of Capital you regard as “unsatisfactory”, because different critics mean different things by that. I think it would be reasonably accurate to say that both the Manifesto and Capital flow from the same framework of concerns that informed Marx and his friend throughout their lives. Neither of them is “derived” from the other, but a number of the more sweeping generalizations of the Manifesto are qualified to a significant extent in Capital (and other works). Capital, taken as a whole, is much harder to read teleologically. (And the 1872 Preface to the Manifesto is explicit in mentioning that they would have changed a number of things in it if they were writing it then. Some they specify. Others they don’t. But as they said “But then, the Manifesto has become a historical document which we have no longer any right to alter.”

  13. Darthbobber

    Biden was never a stickler for rigorous accuracy, so why correct anything if its proving useful? I still recall fondly his short-lived campaign in ’87-’88. For those who blinked and missed it, after the dust settled from Gary Hart’s cruise on the Monkey Business, and before the unstoppable rise of the mighty political juggernaut that was Michael Dukakis, there was the Biden campaign, which filled the slow news-no news political season largely with plagiarism stories involving Biden borrowing a nice chunk of a speech by Neil Kinnock, of all people. (The funniest part was that he actually changed parts of his own life story to make them fit the Kinnock speech.) That version of the Biden campaign died well before Iowa. The 2008 version improved on that slightly by making it as far as Iowa. Had he decided to give it a shor this time, who knows. He might not have had to bow out until after New Hampshire.

  14. Darthbobber

    “If you start from Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England and start reading Capital not from the beginning but from chapter 10, another Marx emerges – one whose thinking was rooted in empirical facts about the working lives of the worst off and in an urge to improve these. It is this Marx which is still relevant today”
    If you start from any point with either Marx or Engels (except for the Articles for the New American Cyclopedia) this is pretty much what emerges. Without their concern about empirical facts about life under capitalism, they have little reason to write at all. (Though it isn’t just about the lives of the worst off. One of the central points is that human lives are warped, human possibilities squandered whether the worker is well or badly compensated.) You hardly need to go through the rather strange procedure the author recommends. And if you do, it produces some rather strange results.

    For openers, this recommends beginning volume I on p238 of the MECW edition. And since Marx spends the first chapters setting down concepts that will be fundamental throughout all 3 Volumes, you will find yourself reading a great deal of material that assumes an understanding of what you skipped. And what you skip included the analyses of the commodity form, the fetishism of commodities, the form of value, the labor process, the constant-variable capital distinction, the role of money, the concept of surplus value, among other things. Picking up where he suggests, you’d get to parse the section on relative surplus value without having read the material on surplus value in general, to take but one of many possible examples.

    The only real reasons for such a procedure are probably 1) that many people find the early chapters dry and somewhat difficult. (which isn’t much of a reason). and
    2) that its much easier to harmonize a work to your own agenda if you cut it up and compartmentalize it as you see fit. (Althusser did something similar, but in service of a different agenda.)
    This is an odd way to suggest approaching any significant work. And that’s leaving aside the author’s seeming equation of Capital with its first Volume.

    1. hunkerdown

      It took me a minute and much gesticulation on your part. And yes, I am enjoying a healthy guffaw right now in the short-run, while I can.

    2. low_integer

      I (now) see what you did there. For those who, like me, aren’t/weren’t familiar with this reference, it was Keynes rebutting Adam Smith’s contention that:

      “In the long run the workman may be as necessary to his master as his master is to him, but the necessity is not so immediate.”


      “In the long run, we’ll all be dead.”

      1. BillC

        Thanks low_integer … most of us know the latter, but I did not know the former, which makes the statement even more pointed. I love how NC (commentariat especially included) plugs the gaps in my knowledge – cultural and scientific as well as economic.

    3. Darthbobber

      Besides Keynes, there was also Harry Hopkins of the WPA, who responded to a comment about the market stabilizing the system in the long run with:
      “People don’t eat in the long run.”

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