2:00PM Water Cooler 11/20/2015

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“The TPP’s Investment Chapter: Entrenching, rather than reforming, a flawed system” [Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment]. (This looks like a useful source; see also this and this.) From the link:

[W]e even see a further evisceration of the role of domestic policy, institutions , and constituents. In their current form, the TPP’s substantive investment protections and ISDS pose significant potential costs to the domestic legal frameworks of the US and the other TPP parties without providing corresponding benefits.

“A 12-nation Pacific Rim free-trade deal, facing stiff opposition from many Democrats and unexpected resistance from Republicans, is unlikely to be voted on by the U.S. Congress before President Barack Obama leaves office, according to some Republican lawmakers and aides” [Reuters]. Not even in the lame duck?! 



What Atrios said [Eschaton]. (This is the controversy, expanded on today at NC.) Soak the rich:

Denying government benefits to rich people just makes it that much harder for less than rich people to qualify. You know, eligibility, forms, a bureaucracy to determine that eligibility, etc. The way to not give Donald Trump’s kids free college involves increasing his taxes. Then give the kids “free college.” Democrats really need to get rid of their obsession with means testing everything. There’s a simple way to means test everything: increase taxes on rich people. It isn’t welfare. It’s what the government provides, to everyone, and the price of that is taxes.

We’re gonna get President Trump if the Clinton campaign doesn’t stop talking to itself. I’m sure they all thought this was a true zinger. It isn’t. Echoes of 2008 are still there. Get better.

Indeed. And Sanders needs to get rid of the mindset that a campaign is like the Senate, and that the rules of comity apply. It isn’t, and they don’t. Be loveable after you slip in the shiv, not before.

Moreover: As we noticed when we saw how 50% of the unenrolled did the math and decided ObamaCare’s benefits aren’t worth the costs, people — even working people, without accountants and lawyers — really are smart enough look at both their assets and liabilities over the year. Tax is only one side of the ledger. The other side is benefits (and conservatives never mention benefits, because big gummint.) Single payer means — netmore money in your pocket for a given level of care. The Clinton campaign, by focusing only the tax line on one side of the ledger, is typically disinformative; they’re shovelling the same steaming load of crap we’ve been getting from conservatives over the forty years. I don’t want any more, sir. That’s the Clinton schwerpunkt. Can’t Sanders call bullshit?

“[T]he Clinton campaign has made a conscious decision here. It is not merely criticizing Sanders for suspicious math. It is suggesting the test for any proposed initiative is what taxes it imposes, regardless of what benefits it might bring” [HuffPo]. “This is the kind of argument that conservatives make.” If I’m given a choice between Republican and Republican Lite, I might vote a real Republican, just to bring on the winger Apocalypse and purge the rottenness from the Democrats, who apparently think they can circle the drain forever by doubling down on #FAIL.

“Hillary Clinton hits Bernie Sanders on taxes” [Paul Waldman, WaPo]. “Pledging to never raise taxes on a majority of Americans will tie your hands.” And it’s a conservative, Republican, “drown government in a bath tub” position. So naturally Clinton adopts it.

The Trail

“But on Thursday, [the SEIU’s] 11,500-member New Hampshire affiliate broke ranks with top union brass and threw its support behind the Vermont independent” [Seven Days Vermont]. 

“What makes Sanders run” [CBS]. Interview.

Stats Watch

Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index, November 2015: “The worst may be over for the Kansas City Fed’s district as the manufacturing index posted its first positive reading since February, but still at only plus 1 for a small 2 point gain” [Econoday]. “New orders, at plus 5, are on a two-month expansion streak as is production at plus 3. Backlog orders, however, are in deep contraction, at minus 17 as is employment at minus 8.” Caution: “Of the three regional manufacturing surveys released to date for November, one is in contraction whilst two are barely in expansion” [Econintersect].

Housing: “The Housing Market Has a Major Supply Problem” [Fortune]. Land and labor. I dunno. Skilled labor leaving the workforce? Moving back to Latin America?

Fodder for the Bulls: “Forecasters at Michigan’s Research Center in Quantitative Economics said on Thursday that they expect real gross domestic product to grow 2.6 percent next year and 2.9 percent in 2017. That wouldn’t be white-hot growth by any means, but it would be the strongest since 2006, when the economy grew 2.7 percent. And it would come with some very happy numbers for workers, the forecasters predict, including an unemployment rate that falls below 5 percent next year and to 4.6 percent in 2017” [WaPo]. “The Michigan optimism flows from several trends in fundamental measures of the economy, which suggest sustained improvement to come. Those include upticks in residential construction, a tightening labor market that appears to be starting to deliver wage increases to workers and — in what you might expect to be a well-watched stat in Michigan — a surge in car and truck sales. The economists also believe that the U.S. dollar has more or less reached its peak.”

Fodder for the Bulls: “The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi’s chief financial economist, Chris Rupkey, circulated an email after the report with the title “Jobs market is literally on fire in most states in the union.” The email maintains that optimistic tone and suggests that the geographically broad strength of the labor market could spur the Fed to tighten monetary policy at its December meeting” [Business Insider] Literally?

Shipping: “This week the Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index , which tracks rates for ships carrying dry bulk commodities and seen by investors as a forward-looking indicator of global industrial activity, plunged to an all-time low” [Reuters].

Shipping: “Uncertain opening date of Panama Canal expansion” [Longshore & Shipping News].

Rail: “The 52 week rolling average contraction grew” [Econintersect].

China: “The bottom line: World growth would ‘slow sharply,’ in a China hard-landing scenario, according to Oxford Economics. Close trading partners and commodity exporting countries would bear the brunt, and advanced economies would be significantly affected too, with deflationary pressures intensifying” [Across the Curve]. The Chinese financial sector is said to be buffered because of local ownership.

The Fed, Willem Buiter: “We may be at barely 1 percent at the end of 2016 and I don’t think that in this cycle we are going to see 2 percent. We will be back at the zero lower bound before you can say ‘cyclical downturn'” [CNBC]. “Buiter said he believes that Fed will now have to move in December to be perceived as still being consistent. He said that global central banks will “at best” be able to move benchmark rates back up to 2 percent, whereas historically a normalization would have seen rates above 4 percent.

“New Canada Government Sees Four Years Of Deficits Ahead [Market News]. Sanity, as in looking at the policy effects of deficits, instead of because deficits bad.

“Square Inc. will have to give some investors additional shares valued at $93 million after its initial public offering priced well below a promised threshold” [Wall Street Journal].

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 54 (+3); Neutral [CNN]. Last week: 47 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed).

Our Famously Free Press

“Dearest Gawker Media, Won’t You Please Leave Wonkette This Tiny Crust Of Bread?” [Wonkette].


“Explainer: The legal form of the Paris climate agreement” (COP) [Carbon Brief].

“Like the problem, the solution must be anthropogenic” [EcoWatch]. Or let Gaia take care of it. But we might not like that (for some definition of “we,” I grant.)

“Intestinal worms may help women get pregnant more often” [Science]. “For all their harmful and icky habits, parasites have a lot in common with a fetus in the womb. The immune system regards a parasite and a fetus as interlopers, so both need strategies to foster what researchers call immune tolerance. Parasites can trigger some of the same immune changes that occur during pregnancy—for example, stimulating regulatory T cells, which quell immune attacks.”

“We know the city where HIV first emerged” [BBC]. Kinshasa, in Conrad (and King Leopold’s) Heart of Darkness. Kinshasa was the central node in the rail network the Belgians built, which helped spread the virus.” “[T]here is real power to studying pathogens … through the prism of human society.”


This looks super-nasty. Can any New Yorkers comment?

Guillotine Watch

“In [Scott] Cowen’s thinking, Hurricane Katrina presented a golden opportunity to remake New Orleans as a privatized, corporatized playground for white tourists and tech companies—liberated from the troublesome teachers unions, housing projects, and neighborhood interests that he believes held the city back for decades.  [Boston Review]. An awesome takedown. Scott Owens is truly a miserable human being. And note the central role played by charters and TFA scabs.

“Delusion 1: Gates has financed and perpetuated the same accountability policies started in the early 1980s. If there is a ‘lack of change’ in education (and there is), it is very much at Gates’s feet (or enormous wallet)” [The Becoming Radical]. Another awesome takedown.

Class Warfare

“When the Excluded Organize” [Jacobin]. “[T]he movement … emerged in inspiration to the Montgomery bus boycott, in which domestic workers across the country organized with the specific aim of transforming the occupation of domestic work. They formed a national organization in 1971 called the Household Technicians of America, demanding rights, dignity, and professionalization.” Forgotten, i.e., erased history. On the left too!

News of the Wired 

“Frequent Errors In Scientific Software May Undermine Many Published Results” [TechDirt].

“13 miles of typography on Broadway, from A to Z” [Hopes and Fears]. This is awesome. Jane Jacobs would love it.

“If Your Passport Is Full, Request Those Extra Pages Now: State Dept. Eliminating Page Inserts Jan. 1” [Consumerist].

“Maybe, he said, the internet is like lead pipes in Rome” [Last Word on Nothing].

[Roman plumbing] was this amazing technological infrastructure. It was beautifully made, it provided them with an incredibly high standard of living and it also slowly, gradually made them irretrievably sick and insane*. It poisoned them day by day.

And we look back at it now as this thing that was simultaneously a fascinating part of how their culture worked, and the invention of a new kind of urban living but also as something that was slowly but surely making the ruling class into people who were desperately ill with terrible impulse control without ever realizing it or understanding why.

In other words, what if in 2000 years we look back on our current internet, and think of it as a fascinating but heartbreaking tale of hubris. A moment in time where people were consuming a type of technology they knew wasn’t good for them because it conferred status and prestige. And that thing they craved so much was slowly making them lose their minds.

Nonsense. Try Adderall.

* * *

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 (S):


S writes: “A picture my daughter took at Storm King Art Center, New York.”

I should probably have printed a humorous vegetable, but this photo is so peaceful and restful I couldn’t resist it.

* * *

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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. Tertium Squid

    Lead did not make the Romans sick, and in a footnote the writer equivocates:

    But this is an analogy, so let’s not get too bogged down in the details.

    Roman pipes calcified very quickly so the water’s contact with lead was reduced. Also, the lead pipes were mainly a “last mile” measure, and unlike modern plumbing (where water can sit stagnant in pipes for long periods) the water was running constantly. These factors reduced lead content.

    Doesn’t mean absolutely no one was made sick, but to say that it led to a societal downfall is false, and so is the analogy.

    1. JaaaaayCeeeee

      It’s not just that it’s a bogus analogy, but that our oligarchs will pay you for a bad analogy, while they would never pay you to write the slightly better analogy between lead pipe poisoning and corporate media or purchased government.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Must have been the wine fermented in lead vats because it made the wine taste sweeter (lead tartrate).

      1. ambrit

        Or the lead in common pottery glazes? (I have yet to see a “Not for food use” imprint on anything earlier than 1400 AD.)

  2. Jim Haygood

    Right to travel … and it’s gone:

    Under a new law expected to take effect in January, the State Department will block Americans with “seriously delinquent” tax debt from receiving new passports and will be allowed to rescind existing passports … using a threshold of $50,000 of unpaid federal taxes, including penalties and interest.

    The rule has been passed in similar versions by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It is part of a highway-funding bill, H.R. 22, that is now before a conference committee. Congress is expected to pass it in early December.


    Someone I know received an erroneous six-figure IRS bill. Now their passport would get suspended. Special bonus for escapees expats:

    Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (Tigta) found that the IRS sent 855,000 notices to U.S. citizens abroad in 2014. According to the report, “IRS data systems aren’t designed to accommodate the different styles of international addresses, which can cause notices to be undeliverable.”

    Ignorance that you didn’t receive a misaddressed bill is no excuse. Freedumb much?

      1. Uahsenaa

        I was flipping through the channels while cleaning up the kitchen and casually stopped on one of the CSPANs’ coverage of the opening remarks of the conference committee for this bill. Inhofe literally described his work with Barbara Boxer on this bill as “an unholy alliance.” You can’t make this !@#$ up.

    1. Jess

      Well, I guess the good news (or maybe not good news) is that now renowned tax evader Al Sharpless will not be going anywhere outside the country.

      1. Pavel

        I guess it’s lucky for Hillary that she got all those frequent flier miles and “foreign policy expertise” whilst she was SoS and before she and the rest of the Clinton Slush Foundation get busted for tax evasion.

        1. hunkerdown

          Hillary is a bit better-connected than Martha Stewart. Her loyal once-subordinates at State can slow-walk that request from Treasury, or at least give enough warning to get her on a private plane to Libya or KSA or Israel or Paraguay or some other right-wing dictatorship that owes their power to her.

          Surely you don’t believe that friends of Henry Kissinger are subject to the law?

    2. Arizona Slim

      I received an erroneous tax bill last year.

      IRS claimed that one of my clients had paid me $75,000. (I wish!) The actual amount was $750 and I had the 1099 to prove it.

      Rather than fight this battle by myself, I enlisted the aid of my Congressman’s office. I figured that faxed material coming from his office might have a bit more clout than, oh, something sent from the UPS Store.

      Well, it worked. The IRS didn’t admit that it made a mistake, but I did get a letter saying that I owed zero dollars.

      1. ambrit

        Your Congressman knows that; “All Politics is local.”
        I doubt if the IRS ever admits to ‘mistakes,’ just issues amended paperwork.

      2. A Farmer

        Don’t give your Congressman too much credit. IRS sent me a notice that I owed $15,000 due to a deduction I took on farm income from an arcane depreciation rule. I wrote the response myself, with all the paperwork and about 8 lines of addition and subtraction, and they sent me the same letter saying I owed zero dollars. Even overworked, underfunded bureaucrats aren’t going to argue with documentation and math.

        1. ambrit

          “Even overworked, underfunded bureaucrats aren’t going to argue with documentation and math.”
          That depends on if they are political appointees or not.

  3. Daryl

    > “Maybe, he said, the internet is like lead pipes in Rome”

    But participation on the internet is entirely optional. You can already select what you want from the internet. Sort of like if the Romans had one pipe for clean water and one pipe for molten lead.

  4. wbgonne

    CCSI staff and Jeffrey Sachs discuss the implications of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) for domestic law and policy, focusing on effects within the US. The paper concludes that the risks ISDS poses for domestic law are significant and unjustified, and that there are preferable policy alternatives to pursue as a means of protecting the rights of investors operating overseas.


    To my mind, ISDS is the core of these misnamed “trade deals.” The whole point of the effort is for the neoliberal Democrats and the crony capitalist Republicans to achieve their dream of enacting a global, self-propagating deregulation apparatus. The undermining of regulatory sovereignty is a feature not a bug.

    1. Benedict@Large

      First, I wouldn’t (and Congress shouldn’t) ever voted for anything developed in secret. The TPP is a “NO” vote for that reason alone. I don’t even have to read (or even glance at) the thing.

      But ley’s say I can get over that. Well, then I get to the ISDS, Really? Ceding the legal sovereignty of the U.S. court system? Is that even Constitutional? Can two of the branches of our government cede the authority of the third without a Constitutional amendment? (In fact, even if the Court agreed, it should still take an amendment. Individual branches cannot cede any part of their authority.)

      And there I am again; right back at that point of my not having to read any more of it.

      1. wbgonne

        Ceding the legal sovereignty of the U.S. court system? Is that even Constitutional? Can two of the branches of our government cede the authority of the third without a Constitutional amendment?

        No, Separation of Powers forbids it. How that affects ISDS depends upon what the authority of the judiciary is. Here is the relevant part of Article III of the Constitution:

        Section 1.

        The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

        Section 2.

        The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;–to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;–to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;–to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;–to controversies between two or more states;–between a state and citizens of another state;–between citizens of different states;–between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

        In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.


        There is a lot to work with there.

          1. wbgonne

            Lambert, you have been doing yeoman work on TPP and ISDS and it is much appreciated (though links 1 and 2 in your comment go to the same piece). I try to read all the articles but sometimes fall behind. That said, the issue raised here is a potential specific legal, constitutional challenge: that ISDS violates Separation of Powers because the Executive and Legislative branches have colluded to usurp the power of the Judiciary. Will such a challenge be made? Well, as far as I know, it hasn’t yet and ISDS already exists in other “trade deals” like NAFTA. So who will file the suit is Question No. 1. As for Question No. 2 — what the outcome might be — beats me, but it looks like fertile ground.

      2. hunkerdown

        Be careful. They aren’t ceding authority. They’re promising to compensate foreign investors for exercising authority found to harm said investors’ interests.

        1. wbgonne

          They aren’t ceding authority. They’re promising to compensate foreign investors for exercising authority found to harm said investors’ interests.

          Yes, but they are doing it by usurping the Constitutional power of the judiciary. Arguably.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Columbia is, I think, a bit too genteel for that thesis. But they’re doing very useful work generally, and a lot of the trade stuff seems to be siloed, so it’s good to have another source.

      1. wbgonne

        Agreed, and I should have added that the work is necessary and important. It may influence some people and that’s good enough. All hands on deck!

  5. wbgonne


    And Sanders needs to get rid of the mindset that a campaign is like the Senate, and that the rules of comity apply. It isn’t, and they don’t. Be loveable after you slip in the shiv, not before. … The Clinton campaign, by focusing only the tax line on one side of the ledger, is typically disinformative; they’re shovelling the same steaming load of crap we’ve been getting from conservatives over the forty years. I don’t want any more, sir. That’s the Clinton schwerpunkt. Can’t Sanders call bullshit?

    Much as I love the guy, Bernie is quickly heading towards useful idiocy status, giving Democrats the pretense of a contest and letting Hillary feint Left to wow the rubes (again). And how do we know the Clintonistas think this contest is already over? The feints Left have already reversed.

    Lambert again:

    If I’m given a choice between Republican and Republican Lite, I might vote a real Republican, just to bring on the winger Apocalypse and purge the rottenness from the Democrats, who apparently think they can circle the drain forever by doubling down on #FAIL.

    Just how I feel. Bring on the apocalypse. Eff the Democrats. Nihilism is us. I guess Jim Morrison was right after all:

    I’m gonna get my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.

    What a world. Thanks, Obama.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Well, and again, getting the policies out there is useful. But if Sanders can’t defend them, or worse, ends up discrediting them (a la Syriza) …. That would be bad. But, although I hate the “needs to” formation, Sanders needs to understand he’s not having a genteel policy discussion with Clinton. Richard Morgan:

      “Are you planning to approach these people with something?”

      I nodded. “Indirectly.”

      “Yes, well, some free advice to go with your free information, then. Feed it to them on a long stick. Because if you don’t, they’ll take your hand off at the shoulder.”

      For the Clinton dynasty, this is it (until Chelsea’s ready for deployment). They’ll do what it takes. Will Sanders?

    2. sleepy

      Or, and I hate to bring it up, the Sanders campaign itself was a feint Left, along the lines of what was theorized here a few months ago–“Come for the Bernie, stay for the Hillary”.

      Is Sanders just a nice guy who doesn’t like aggressive political play? Or is his overriding concern to keep the gloves on in order to avoid damaging Hillary’s chances in the general election?

      1. wbgonne

        Is Sanders just a nice guy who doesn’t like aggressive political play? Or is his overriding concern to keep the gloves on in order to avoid damaging Hillary’s chances in the general election?

        That’s what I mean by “useful idiot.”

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        I doubt it. Sanders doesn’t have to. He has an independent base of funding in his small donors, so he has a power structure outside the Democratic party apparatus. To descend to personalities: There are four candidates who are being wholly themselves, giving zero f*cks. One is Trump, another is Clinton*, another is Carson, and another is Sanders. It’s not a coincidence that these are the candidates who are doing well. (And also the candidates labelled crazy or sociopathic by other factions; not to say this is always wrong, of course.) When Sanders is being wholly himself, he wants to talk about policy, period. He has for his entire political life. And now, nearing the end of his political life, surely, he’s doing what he has always dreamed of doing, and before gigantic crowds! I don’t think we need to look a lot deeper into Sanders’ motivations than that. That said, talking about policy before gigantic crowds, even if they accept and get the policy, is not the same as being elected President. Or at least it hasn’t been.

        And it’s the same issue in little with the debates. There was a little boomlet of “Hillary won” after the last debate in Iowa. Then it died. Why? Because Hillary lost. Did that become the story? Of course not. So Sanders won in the sense that he made his points. However, any debater will tell you that debaters must win not only with good judges, but bad ones; that is, judges who determine wins and losses not on the points made, but on demeanor, perceived personality traits, an air of confidence, rhetorical tricks, and so forth. The press, at least, are classic bad judges. And Sanders has to win them too. And the way to win over a bad judge is not by being a nice guy, or reverting to the rules of Senate Comity. It’s a “coffee is for closers only” dynamic.

        * I’m sure giving both the press and the Republicans a humongous upraised middle finger is something Clinton has dreamed of for many, many years. And getting away with it. It’s a version, written on national television, of the Rose Law Firm records mysteriously appearing one day, IIRC on a chair in the White House.

        1. Left in Wisconsin

          I agree. Sanders clearly has his way of campaigning and, given how far he has come in a relatively short amount of time, it is hard to say it’s not working. Also, recall just bringing up the fact that there was still an email investigation on-going brought out the screams from the HRC-oids that he was “going negative.” It’s safe to say the every comment he makes about H from here out will be met with accusations of same.

          Whereas, by sticking to his policy focus, he continues to point out the differences between them, which are large and real. And now that O’Malley has started to find his voice, he and others can continue to beat on HRC’s weaknesses, which are also large and real. It’s obvious that MOM has no shot at VP slot with HRC whereas he is the obvious VP candidate for the admittedly still longshot Sanders nomination.

  6. RedHope

    Re your Sanders comments

    Thank you !

    I’m getting tired of frickin stating the obvious to some of his supporters

    He’s not acting like a candtdate who knows how to win a contested national primary

    If he wants people to question Clinton’s leadership and character as a means of connecting the dots, he needs to connect the dots

    Not just explain why her policy statements are bs but WHY they reflect who she is

    1. Arizona Slim

      Exactly, RedHope. He needs to study the Obama 2008 playbook very carefully. Including the part about how Michelle detested the Clintons and made it very clear via her facial expressions.

      1. Ulysses

        I’m not so sure that Bernie Sanders is failing to understand lessons from past Democratic primaries. It may be, rather, that he is failing to understand the extent to which the entire political system, that he has valiantly tried to reform his whole political career, has been rejected as illegitimate by millions of voters.

        The frightening reality is that people are so disenchanted they might well fall prey to clearly insane demagogues, instead of soberly analyzing the merits of policy proposals– given by sincere reformists like Bernie Sanders.

        Rick Perlstein has this right, when he notes the appeal of the radically irresponsible Donald Trump:

        “We want to think about Trump using our familiar categories, according to familiar norms, judging him by familiar rules. But what Donald Trump is all about is incinerating the existing rules––which are revealed as all too easy to incinerate. He breaks the system just by his manner of being. It’s humbling, because the system he breaks is the only one we know how to understand.

        But with Trump, everything requires revision––for me as much as anyone else.”


        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          That’s what I’ve been trying to get at by characterizing the Trump campaign as kayfabe. But it’s kayfabe that has escaped the arena; real civilians are getting hit over the head with chairs; there’s real blood in the aisles, and so on.

    2. roger the cabin boy

      That seems to be the conventional wisdom here. I think it is wrong. Sanders doesn’t need to make the case that she is corrupt. The MSM has been doing that for 20+ years, he couldn’t add much to that if he tried. There is no point in him taking the low road, since it won’t add significantly to her bad press.

      1. wbgonne

        I disagree. The corporate media had its fun with Hillary over the emails but lost interest after the Behghazi Show was a flop. At that point, the corporate media decided it had been “tough enough” on Hillary and stepped back. I have little doubt that this is exactly what Team Hillary expected.

        The corporate media certainly has not gone after Hillary for corruption. Can you point to a single significant mainstream story criticizing the Clinton Foundation or questioning how the Clintons amassed their wealth or the conflicts of interest the Clintons revel in? I can’t. In fact, the corporate media doesn’t care about any of that because it is the corporate media and buys into the whole neoliberal Savvy Businessman thing. However, the corporate media does do scrivening and loves melodrama memes. If Sanders makes a plausible case raising legitimate concerns about Hillary’s corruption, the corporate media will love it. Notwithstanding the comments by some here, Sanders has plenty of ammunition already on hand to launch such an attack. (I’m happy to assist if wants some suggestions.)

        Why should Sanders do this? Why must Sanders do this? Bcause he is desperate long-shot who made surprising headway tapping into the anti-neoliberal, anti-Clinton sentiment in the country. But Hillary weathered that (see above) and Sanders appears to have peaked and, in fact, seems to be backsliding. (Had Sanders made his Democratic Socialism speech when he was peaking he and it would received far more attention.) That is obviously how Team Clinton assesses things: Sanders is no longer a threat. Hillary has already turned to the general election, which is why she’s begun throwing Progressives under the bus. Another thing Team Clinton knows (or thinks it knows anyhow): the Left will take any abuse and still vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. (In a sense, that appears to be Obama’s primary mission, to prove exactly that proposition.)

        So Sanders began as a wild longshot, had a moment in the sun, and is now dropping back, irreversibly absent some game-changer. If Sanders just wants to tour the country and make speeches, sure, he can continue that for a while. But if Sanders actually intends to challenge Clinton for the nomination he has to bring her down, or at least threaten her so she makes misstakes and the corporate media gets involved.

        Returning to the beginning: take a moment, if you will, to read or re-read the first half of Sanders’s fine speech on Democratic Socialism (the second half of the speech was forgettable anti-ISIS saber-rattling):


        The Clintons are the “economic royalists” Sanders righteously rails against. He even hints at it in his speech. But that is far too subtle to achieve what is needed. Sanders has to take the gloves off and land a couple of solid punches, then hope it pays off. He will probably lose anyway. But he will definitely lose if he doesn’t try. Unlike Clinton, the nomination is not going to be handed to Sanders: Sanders has to take it.


        1. Left in Wisconsin

          I think you are reading way too much into polls. The D electorate is not in the mood for Hillary. They are way out ahead of the D pols, who are of course all already in the pocket for HRC. I think when the actual voting starts, it may be surprising how tight things are. And that’s when we will see the full barrage of D Party attacks on Sanders.

          1. wbgonne

            I think you are reading way too much into polls. The D electorate is not in the mood for Hillary. They are way out ahead of the D pols

            I don’t mean to be snarky but the “D electorate” is who is being polled. And Sanders is getting walloped. And the trend is bad besides. That said, I don’t base my opinion that Sanders is sinking solely upon polls. I also read and observe. I see the behavior at Daily Kos, a fair surrogate for Democratic hyper-partisans, where muted Clinton triumphalism is the order of the day. I see the Democratic Establishment patting Bernie on the head for his accomplished mission, i.e., making Clinton say a few Progressive things, while I watch how Hillary has already moved into general election mode, i.e., to the Right, meaning that she feels confident enough to stop throwing bones to the Progressives. I sense desperation and confusion in the Sanders camp. I see how the news coverage has shifted away from Bernie (cover of Rolling Stone, notwithstanding). I have a feeling — all it is — that Bernie’s fundraising is withering. Despite all that evidence, and more, I freely admit I might be wrong.

            But I am curious: upon what do you base your assertion that Sanders is on a winning trajectory? I just don’t see it. That’s why I think he must go after Clinton in a big bad way. He has to alter the dynamic and he has to do it right now. Why am I wrong?

    3. 3.14e-9

      And I’m tired of the Bernie critics saying he “needs to” get tough. E.g., yesterday’s Jeet Heer article saying he doesn’t have the “killer instinct” to be president.

      Obama could be tough on Hillary because if anyone accused him of being sexist, he could play the race card. Sanders has to be extremely careful. Already we’ve seen how the Clinton campaign took one innocent comment and turned it into White Hetero Male Sexist! The best he could do was to defend his record on women’s rights, but then he’s on the DEFENSIVE (bad), and the damage already has been done. Hillary is counting on the black vote and the women’s vote, both of which easily can be persuaded that Sanders is racist and sexist, simply because he’s an old white guy.

      A reader commented yesterday that he needs to go after her corruption. Well, as another pointed out, the piece in Harper’s, while identifying the smoking gun, had no proof of anything. Right now, we don’t have proof. If he even ventured into that territory without proof, he’d be toast.

      As for the “killer instinct,” why? Everyone seems to take this at face value. WHY? Why do our leaders need to be killers? And how does it follow that because he’s treading carefully with Clinton, he wouldn’t be “tough on terrorism?” I’d rather have a leader with good judgment, and sometimes that means holding back until you can see the whites of their eyes.

      It’s like Captain Picard versus Captain Kirk.

      1. Massinissa

        Noone complains about Corbyn not having ‘killers instinct’ (At least not on Naked Capitalism, on the Torygraph folks do…), even though he too is a politician. Is it just something that American Politicians are required to have?

        1. RedHope

          Corbyn is quietly taking the power away from the conservatives in the party.

          Eg devolving policy decision from central control to unions creating outside influence groups IS going for the jugular in terms of where Corbyn is

          Ultimately you are comparing apples to oranges

          Going for the jugular when in power as the head of a party in the UK looks different than when one is running in a federal primary in the US

    4. JaaaaayCeeeee

      Lambert Strether is doing a solid to everyone, if the Sanders campaign hears him. We can’t expect Paul Krugman (after his quasi blessing on Clinton’s Wall Street reform and punch pulling on TPP) to become a Sanders economics strategist, or Mike Konczal, etc. to cut off an arm, either. Matt Taibbi and David Dayen aren’t getting traction, Jonathan Cohn stays technical and in health care, etc. I hope that Elizabeth Warren or other progressives read Naked Capitalism and know that their reputations depend on Sanders getting what Lambert is saying, and that they talk to Sanders people, and that Sanders people are technical enough to translate accurately to bumper sticker.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Not just me! Atrios, and others. (In fact, the Sanders campaign should listen to others from that era as well; they were right about stopping Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security, and they were also right about Iraq.)

    5. different clue

      His supporters should accept the possibility that he won’t act like a contested national primary winner because he can’t act like a contested national primary winner. It may just be a deep psychological disability that he may well have.

      If that is so, then his supporters will have to figure out how to do the contesting and winning in his behalf, for their own benefit. It seems unfair but life is unfair sometimes. We go to politics with the politician we have, not the politician we wish we had or would have preferred to have had at some future time.

      So . . . how many tire irons are Bernie’s supporters prepared to pick up and use? For their own selfish benefit?

  7. 3.14e-9

    Paul Waldman, WaPo:

    “Clinton is using that 2013 legislation because Sanders has yet to release updated details of either his health care plan or how he’d pay for it. Sanders is also putting off a speech he had planned to give explaining his vision of democratic socialism, which could be because now that the primary campaign is competitive, he’s wary of alienating moderate Dems by emphasizing his leftist bona fides (but who knows; there could be other reasons).”

    As a source of Sanders “putting off” his speech, Waldman cites an 11/17 article on Politico by Annie Karni.

    Oops. But he makes a good comeback with his evaluation of The Speech in today’s Plum Line – of course never mentioning that three days earlier, he was making up reasons that the speech was on “indefinite hold” (Karni).

  8. Steven D.

    Not only should we tax the rich more, we should have a zero-percent tax bracket for the first $50,000 in income. Why tax people’s sweat? Tax the tent extractors.

    1. 3.14e-9

      we should have a zero-percent tax bracket for the first $50,000 in income

      I wrote a letter to the editor to WaPo to that effect 15 years ago, although I argued for a higher number. I’m sure an intern tossed it into the trash.

      Corporations — you know, those “people” — can write off all of their expenses and more. Why should families (and individuals) have to pay taxes when they can’t even meet all of their household expenses? The median U.S. income is around $52K. The official poverty level for a family of four is $23K. There have been a couple of studies done showing how much households need to survive in various parts of the country. The lowest was somewhere in Arkansas, $48K. In NYC, it was $96K. Back when I wrote the letter to WaPo, I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations and came up with 75K for a family of four in D.C.

      Of course, if taxes go toward programs like childcare, healthcare, and college tuition, then those households would get something back, so maybe you’re right that 50K or thereabouts would be a fair cutoff.

    2. Benedict@Large

      Actually, we should teach the people that a fiat-issuing government funds itself, and that taxes serve only to regulate demand.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        People’s Money.

        Ask not how much your government can trickle down to you.

        Ask how much you can trickle down to your government.

      2. Vatch

        This comes up periodically at NC, and it’s partly true, but not completely true. A fiat issuing government creates the money in the first place, and the first time that the money is used by government, the money is funding government without taxes. But the money circulates through the economy, and eventually it will be used to pay taxes, and then the money is funding the government in the form of taxation.

        Theoretically, it is possible for the government to completely fund itself simply by issuing new money. Very quickly, this would lead to out of control inflation, since every time that the government spent anything, it would increase the money supply.

        Whenever the government adds new money to the money supply, it funds itself without taxes. But most government operations are funded by reused or recycled money, that is, taxes. In fiscal year 2014, the U.S. government collected approximately $3 trillion in taxes, and spent approximately $3.5 trillion. All of this money was created by the U.S. government at some time, but 85% of FY 2014 government operations were funded by taxes.

        The problem is that when the U.S. government creates money, it borrows it. This is unnecessary, and helps to make certain banks and individuals fabulously rich.

        1. hunkerdown

          Tax money is NOT funding the government. It’s going into the shredder. The shredder being connected to the printing press is an unnecessary, fraudulent artifact of borrowing our existence from private finance.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          Because the money returns to the government is not the same as saying it funds the government.

          Another way of saying this is that it “comes up periodically” because it has the great merit of being true (at least at the Federal level, where currency is issued).

          1. Vatch

            Because the money returns to the government is not the same as saying it funds the government.

            If the money returns to the government, and the government does not spend that money, then yes, I agree, that money does not fund the government. But if the money returns to the government, and the government spends that money, then that money has funded an activity of the government. Approximately 85% of the U.S. federal government’s activities (including Social Security) are funded by tax money that has returned to the government.

            1. LifelongLib

              The spending is new money being created by the federal government. The money returned to the government is destroyed. It may net out to any amount the government chooses.

              1. Vatch

                That’s overly complicated, and I don’t accept it. It reminds me of Occasionalism, a metaphysical offshoot of Cartesian dualism. From Wikipedia:

                Occasionalism is a philosophical theory about causation which says that created substances cannot be efficient causes of events. Instead, all events are taken to be caused directly by God.

                In other words, if I decide to move my leg, my leg won’t move until God transmits my soul’s intention to my nervous system, which then causes the muscles of my leg to move.

                Taxes are essential to the operation of government. Without the recycling or reuse of money via taxation, the government creation of money ab initio would rapidly degenerate into hyper-inflation. Adding the intermediate steps of monetary destruction and monetary creation is like adding the intermediate step of God’s will whenever I choose to move my leg. Such intermediate steps are completely unnecessary, and are redolent of a Rube Goldberg device.

          1. Vatch

            I agree with this. We may have a philosophical disagreement over the way that government is actually funded, but in our grossly unequal society, the people who have much more than the rest of us must be taxed at a significantly higher rate.

        1. ambrit

          That’s probably the reason the Oligarchs’ minions are defunding the IRS. What’s the use of a law without an enforcement provision?

      3. different clue

        Should we? And how much time and energy would that take? Away from the life and death political warfare we have to fight in the meantime?

        And what if Magical Monetary Thinking is basically false? Should we still waste the vast millions of man-years of time needed to “teach it”? Even if it is just an opportunity for brill-yunt in-duh-lectuals to show off how smart they are with their brill-yunt displays of prolix verbosity?

        1. LifelongLib

          So we should go right on allowing bogus shortages of money to prevent us from doing a lot of things that would make our lives better? When a government that controls its own currency can create as much money as it wants to, and spend it in any way it chooses? How brill-yunt is that?

          1. different clue

            I see I hit a nerve. Carry on with your Magical Monetary Thinking. Perhaps the MMTists can turn the Dollar into the ZimBuck if they get the chance.

              1. LifelongLib

                You assume that economic activity is currently limited by economic capacity. In fact in modern undamaged economies activity generally is limited by demand i.e. people with money to spend (or lacking money to spend). In that situation giving money to people who would like to spend more causes greater economic activity (e.g. goods and employment). Your concern about the dollar becoming valueless would only apply if the U.S. economy were already running at capacity. It isn’t, nor are the economies of other modern countries. Hence the poverty in the midst of potential plenty that so many places are experiencing.

  9. John

    Given current conditions, it seems incredibly optimistic and hubristic that there will be anyone to look back 2000 years from now and reflect on the intertubes.

    1. Massinissa

      Yeah. We will be lucky to make it 200. By 2000 years from now Humans will either be in Space or extinct, and im assuming the latter.

  10. Oregoncharles

    “Can’t Sanders call bullshit?”
    To Be Fair: he prides himself on not negative campaigning, and that’s a real contribution. But if it rules out holding opponents to their records, it’s a negative contribution.

    And in the bigger picture: this may be the biggest single problem with Sanders. For more than 20 years, he’s been going along to get along, mostly with the Democrats. That’s how legislation works; it’s one reason Senators are rarely elected President. But when someone’s an insurgent, and that’s his main selling point, it’s a significant objection. Is he just going to make a speech, then give in? (And who does that remind us of?)

    In this case, campaigning style offers some real evidence about governing approach. That’s even more significant when there’s no real evidence of a “movement” that goes beyond his own campaign. Will he wind up isolated in the White House? Where are the primary challengers of the many conservative Democrats? And as I think Lambert pointed out, he doesn’t seem to be reaching out to the many non-electoral movements that could support his policies – even the single payer movement.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      If Sanders wants to take the high road, than his campaign should find someone to take the low road. Typically, that’s how it’s done.

      Or if he’s not going to do that, then he needs to work out better responses. He should have hit “impugn my integrity” out of the park, but his first instinct was to restore comity.

      1. 3.14e-9

        And yes, I agree that he should leave the dirty work to someone else. And that “someone else” might just be his supporters. Our opinions may not “count,” but when we dig up facts and fling them around the social media, or when we leave informed, factual comments on news sites, I have to think it has some impact.

    2. 3.14e-9

      My two earlier comments have been languishing in moderation for four hours, probably due to several flag words. Essentially, I wrote that Sanders is walking a tightrope with HRC, who whines about negativity and gender bias the minute he says anything remotely critical. You and I both know he’s right, but being right doesn’t matter; what matters is how it plays with the voters, especially two very large constituencies that are easily persuaded that the old white guy is “bad.”

      But there are other reasons that coming out swinging may not be a good strategy. You know the old saying, “Don’t shoot until you can see the whites of their eyes.” What looks like cowardice or complicity may actually be nerves of steel. Only time will tell.

      1. optimader

        My two earlier comments have been languishing in moderation for four hours, probably due to several flag words
        And mine has since this earlier today… I tried to raise the intellectual tenor in this joint during lunch with a monkey walking a dog video :o/


          1. optimader

            waaaah was a laugh not a whine! Who knows, I might have put it in detention too and I’m not even an algo! hahahaha

          2. 3.14e-9

            Thanks, Lambert, but I wasn’t complaining or expecting a faster turnaround (or any turnaround at all, actually). My comments held in moderation were up higher, in response to a different comment, and when a new comment along similar lines appeared, it seemed appropriate to repost a truncated version of my earlier remarks. I mentioned the comments in moderation only so that if they eventually appeared, there would be a reference.

            But thanks for the reference all the same.

              1. 3.14e-9

                I will try to remember to mark satire with an asterisk or put it in parentheses. I had no idea it would be construed as whining, because it simply would never occur to me to whine about my very important words* not showing up on somebody’s blog.

                * Sarcasm

                  1. 3.14e-9

                    The emoticon might work, but I’m talking about using an asterisk with footnote or spelling out the intent inside parentheses, e.g. “(note: that was sarcasm).” I’ve been told more than once that I needed to spell it out. I was in a conversation some months ago about Sanders and wrote an entirely satirical comment in which I referred to him as “a lying sack of do-nothing white liberal hypocrisy.” The whole thing was so over-the-top that I didn’t see how anyone could possibly take it seriously, but of course someone did and began hurling insults. When I pointed out that it was satire, then he made it my fault for not clearly identifying it as such. Humor isn’t funny when you have to explain it. But I’ve tried to be better more mindful of noting when I’m kidding. I neglected to do it this time, because it never occurred to me that it was necessary.

                1. Lambert Strether Post author

                  Your administrators have very little sense of irony about their workload or allocation of time, you will find. In fact, winks and asterisks are unlikely to help; I’d advise against that tactic.

                  1. 3.14e-9

                    Lambert, please know that your work is appreciated beyond measure, as is NC overall. Again, I in no way intended to disparage the moderators, nor would I ever do that. I simply was noting for the record that I was repeating some of an earlier comment that hadn’t yet shown up, nothing more.

      2. Banana Breakfast

        The only hope he has in terms of her reputation is for prosecutions to result from the Foundation scandal. Her general reputation is already in tatters – even for most of her putative electoral (rather than campaign) supporters, she is merely “better than a Republican”. The real breakthrough would have to come in convincing people that the guy they already agree with is electable. It seems obvious, but the US electorate has seen so many consecutive elections of people they didn’t agree with that many of them seem to have accepted the existence of an invisible majority they have to convince.

    3. different clue

      “And who does that remind us of?” Well . . . it reminds ME of McGovern right after he won the D nomination aGAINST the Dparty mainstream. He had an opportunity to establish a whole new style of Genghis Khan liberalism, and he threw it all away by seeking to re-appease the scum he had just defeated.

    4. cwaltz

      I suspect he’s smart enough to understand that if he were to win he’d have to rely on the Democrats to some extent if he wants to implement policy changes. Yes, the Presidency would give him the bully pulpit. However, you still need Congress to appropriate funds or pass the laws you want implemented.

      Bernie isn’t an idiot, there’s a reason he’s playing nice. Just like I’m sure he knew he was an underdog going into this.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Well, I want him to stick the shiv in while being nice.

        When Clinton says, “You’re impugning my intergrity” (paraphrasing) Sanders immediately said “No, I’m not.”

        How much better to start out “Hillary, I understand why you have to do what you have to do. You’re caught up in a bad system. I’m not taking SuperPAC money because that’s the only way I can tell the truth to the American people.” Or some such.

        1. dk

          oh snap!

          But i think the “comity” quality that we’re seeing is a sign of Sander’s real weakness, he’s deep in his own concepts and doesn’t analyse anyone elses far enough for quick strategic attacks on them. Reminds me of Carter, who also struggled tactically, although for different reasons.

          This is the kind of thing that staff can and should be helping with, doing the research and informing/enriching their candidates POV. I am concerned that the HopeAndChange/messiah effect is already gripping the Sanders campaign. “He’s different, so he can do anything!” But righteousness is not what vanquishes the enemy, that’s castrative religious mumbo-jumbo. It’s precision and the willingness to bring it into the opponent’s context.

          And you know who is/was much better at that? Barney Frank. Yeah I know we’re mad at him for signing on with Signature Bank and his take on reinstating Glass-Steagall (inadequate as-is), but that guy is so fast on his feet, and he understands his opponent’s motivations and rationalizations.

          I love what Bernie is doing, but I’m not seeing what it takes to make this stuff happen if he’s elected. It kills me to say it, and i would love to be wrong; but this was my early take on Obama as well, although again for different reasons.

          And I think Sanders is too comfortable with a big military complex to defy the arms machine that is one of the driving forces behind, how shall I say it, militant Wahhabism?

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