Frederick Douglass on Abraham Lincoln

February 12, 2016

Abraham Lincoln was born this day in 1809.   Lincoln’s Birthday was a national holiday until it was absorbed by the meaningless “President’s Day”.

Some question Lincoln’s greatness.  I am not one of them.  The best and truest rebuttal to Lincoln’s critics by Frederick Douglass in an oration delivered at the unveiling of Freedman’s Monument in Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C., in 1876.

Here’s is the meat of the talk.

Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

He was preeminently the white man’s President, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men.  He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country.  In all his education and feeling he was an American of the Americans.

He came into the Presidential chair upon one principle alone, namely, opposition to the extension of slavery.  His arguments in furtherance of this policy had their motive and mainspring in his patriotic devotion to the interests of his own race.  [snip]

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Donald Trump on Bernie Sanders

February 10, 2016

The only thing he does know, and he’s right about, is that we’re being ripped off; he says that constantly; and I guess he and I are the only two that really say that.

Source: Washington Post

The biggest human-created economic problem

February 10, 2016

Debt-and-GDP-II-1-15-2016-510x358

debt-chartII-2-8-2016-510x396

These two charts, which I found on a blog called PeakProsperity, show the world’s fundamental human-created economic problem.

The problem is the fact that debt is increasing faster than economic output.

This is not just true in the United States.  It is true of all the world’s advanced industrial countries.

The results of increasing debt are:

  • An upward redistribution of income from wealthy lenders to non-wealthy borrowers.
  • A diversion of capital away from investment in production to produce new wealth.
  • Another recession, worse than the last, because, as Michael Hudson says, debt that can’t be repaid, won’t be.

The United States and other industrial countries have treated the big banks and investment houses as too big to fail and their executives as too important to jail.

But at some point, either in this economic cycle or the next or the one after that, the bank failures will be too big to bail.

I like to think that the debt problem is caused by malfeasance of bankers and the wealthy.   The reason I like to think so is that this is a solvable problem.

The worse possibility is that the possibilities for economic growth have been exhausted, and that there is nothing left to invest in that is as profitable credit card debt, student debt and other forms of debt.

72 DHS employees are on the terrorist watch list

February 10, 2016

At least 72 employees at the Department of Homeland Security are listed on the U.S. terrorist watch list, according to a Democratic lawmaker.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) disclosed that a congressional investigation recently found that at least 72 people working at DHS also “were on the terrorist watch list.”

“Back in August, we did an investigation—the inspector general did—of the Department of Homeland Security, and they had 72 individuals that were on the terrorist watch list that were actually working at the Department of Homeland Security,” Lynch told Boston Public Radio.

Source: Washington Free Beacon

As Peter Van Buren remarked, this means that either the terrorist watch list is bogus, or Homeland Security has a bad internal security problem, or possibly both.

This isn’t the only problem with Homeland Security.  In a recent covert security check, attempts to smuggle firearms on board airplanes were 95 percent successful.

I think that part of the problem is the enormous and thoughtless expansion of Homeland Security right after the 9/11 attacks and since.

In counter-terrorism, as in any other field, there is a limited number of people who know that they’re doing.  This is not necessarily a problem, as long as the loyal, hard-working, mediocre people are guided by the real experts.

But employment in Homeland Security was ramped up just on general principles before anybody had a clear idea what these employees were to be used for.  I think experienced counter-terrorism specialists were swamped.

The Washington Post ran a series of articles in 2010 on Top Secret America that showed that secret surveillance and intelligence agencies were proliferating at such a rate that nobody had a handle on how many there were or what their missions were.   I’ve read nothing to indicate that things have changed since then.

The return of right-wing populism

February 10, 2016

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many people in Europe and North America turned to populist radical and left-wing parties, while many others turned to populist nationalist and racist parties.

The first group blamed their troubles on the wealthy elite and a failed capitalist system.  The second group blamed their troubles on foreigners, minorities and a failed democratic system.

There were exceptions and overlaps, but I think these broad distinctions apply.  Nationalism and racism are a way of diverting public discontent away from bankers and landlords.

rightwingpopulists20151212_LDD001_0

Illustration from The Economist

We have the same two kinds of populism today.  In Europe, we see Jeremy Corbyn in Great Britain, Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece, and, on the other hand, the United Kingdom Independence Party, the National Front in France and Viktor Orban in Hungary.

Read the rest of this entry »

What a President could do without Congress

February 9, 2016

 American Presidents are not helpless in the face of opposition from Congress.

A sitting President has the power to do many good things on his own authority.

For example:

  • Enforce the laws against financial fraud.
  • Enforce the anti-trust laws.
  • Enforce current labor, environmental and consumer protection law.
  • Refrain from signing trade agreements that hurt American workers and infringe on American national sovereignty.
  • Start renegotiating existing trade treaties.
  • Refrain from acts of war, including bombing, drone strikes and funding of foreign warlords, against countries on which Congress has not declared war.
  • Classify only information that is vital to national security.
  • Refrain from prosecuting whistle-blowers for exposing wrongdoing.

Simply carrying out the Constitutional duties of the President, and refraining from going beyond those duties, would be an improvement over what we have now.

Read the rest of this entry »

What would Trump’s immigration policy cost?

February 8, 2016
Black line is illegal immigrants who enter US without documents; grey line is unauthorized immigrants who enter legally but overstay their visas

Black line is illegal immigrants who enter US without documents; grey line is unauthorized immigrants who enter legally but overstay their visas

Donald Trump has proposed building an impenetrable wall along the Mexican border to halt illegal immigration while hunting down and deporting the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants already in the United States.

2. 2006-modes-of-entry-01-600x311My question: What would this cost?

Anybody can climb over a wall, so a barrier, to be effective, would have to be guarded, like the Berlin Wall.  Maybe it would be possible to use electronic surveillance, perhaps from drones, to detect illegal crossers, but it would still cost a lot of money and require a lot of people.

3.illegalimmigrantsmain-qimg-453a3f0f33d47ef175266090f05f9598Furthermore a wall would not be sufficient to secure U.S. borders.  A large fraction of illegal immigrants enter the U.S. by sea, or enter the U.S. legally and overstay their visas.  More than a million of them are from Asia.

Finding and deporting unauthorized immigrants would be no easy task.  Many of them would be protected and hidden by their employers and friends.  That could be made a crime, too, I suppose.

I don’t see how this could be enforced without a fascist-style or Soviet-style requirement that everybody be required to carry identity papers at all times, subject to arrest if they don’t, and a system of checkpoints so that people have to frequently show their papers.

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An interesting public opinion poll

February 8, 2016

political revolution

A recent public opinion poll found that a majority are willing to consider a “political revolution” to redistribute income from the richest Americans to the middle class.

This includes a majority of Tea Party supporters, of independents and of people who didn’t vote in 2012.

The poll found majorities in favor of raising taxes on the wealthy, raising taxes on corporations, single-payer health care and free college tuition.

But it also found that a majority of Americans think big government is a more serious problem than big business.  Majorities of whites, of blacks and of Hispanics agree on this.

Read the rest of this entry »

What did Hillary Clinton say to the plutocrats?

February 7, 2016
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Hillary Clinton at a Clinton Global Initiatives meeting in 2014

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Hillary Clinton at a Clinton Global Initiatives meeting in 2014

Source: POLITICO

What did Hillary Clinton say in her three 2013 speeches for Goldman Sachs that was worth $675,000 to hear?

So far she has refused to release the transcripts, but reporters for POLITICO interviewed members of the Goldman audience on what she said.

Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish.

Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, in effect: We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it. What the bankers heard her to say was just what they would hope for from a prospective presidential candidate: Beating up the finance industry isn’t going to improve the economy—it needs to stop.

Source: POLITICO

The crooked financial dealings of Goldman Sachs were an important factor in the financial crash of 2008.  The company wrote sub-prime mortgages its brokers knew could not be paid off, repackaged them to seem like secure investments and then after unloading them on gullible customers, made financial bets that they would become worthless.  Many people lost their homes and savings.

Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone summed up the situation well.

The Clintons … have by now taken so much money that when they stand in a room full of millionaires and billionaires, they can use the word “we” and not have it sound odd.  The money has irrevocably moved them to that side of the rope line.  On that side of the line, public anger isn’t legitimate, but something to be managed and waited out … .

Source: Rolling Stone

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Hillary Clinton speaks to the plutocrats

February 7, 2016

Hillary Clinton in 2013 received $1.8 million in speaking fees from Wall Street banks and investment firms—$675,000 from Goldman Sachs alone.

HIllary Clinton

HIllary Clinton

Her husband Bill has received $7.7 million from speeches to banks in the past 15 years.  In all, CNN reported yesterday, the Clintons have received $153 million over the years in speaking fees to various groups.  That’s more than many middle-class people make in a lifetime.

Here is CNN’s breakdown of Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street speaking fees, all in 2013.

  • Goldman Sachs, three speeches, $675,000 total
  • Bank of America / Merrill Lynch, two speeches, $485,000 total
  • UBS (a Swiss bank), one speech, $225,000
  • Morgan Stanley, one speech, $225,000

Here is the breakdown of Bill Clinton’s Wall Street fees, over a period from 2001 to 2014.

  • Goldman Sachs, nine speeches, $1,550,000
  • UBS, nine speeches, $1,690,000
  • Bank of America / Merrill Lynch, four speeches, $770,000
  • Citicorp, four speeches, $700,000
  • Morgan Stanley, one speech, $225,000

Read the rest of this entry »

The differences between Clinton and Sanders

February 5, 2016

LATimesDemocratdebate950x534Source: Los Angeles Times.

Hillary Clinton is the candidate of fear.  Her supporters say their number one goal is to prevent Donald Trump from becoming President.  Bernie Sanders is the candidate of hope.  His supporters say their number one goal is to break Wall Street’s strangle-hold on government and the economy.

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Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Hillary Clinton has been running for President for at least 10 years.  Bernie Sanders is running to build a resurgent progressive movement that will survive beyond his candidacy, win or lose.

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Hillary Clinton has built up a network of donors, supporters, researchers and potential office-holders.  She is well-prepared to run and to assume the duties of the PresidencyIt probably didn’t occur to Bernie Sanders to run for President until a year or so ago.  If Elizabeth Warren had chosen to run, he probably would have stood aside.  He has had to learn how to campaign as he went, and he would have to learn how to govern if he were elected.

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If nominated, Hillary Clinton can count on the support of the Democratic Party leadership.  She is an insider This is not true of Bernie Sanders.  Just as in 1972 when the Democrats nominated peace advocate George McGovern, top Democrats might well sit out the campaign or secretly support his opponent.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to drive down American wages

February 5, 2016

Americans used to say that service jobs were safe from the impact of globalization because there was no way for companies to ship them overseas.

But employers can achieve the same goal by employing unauthorized immigrants, who, like the workers in Asian sweatshops, are outside the protection of American labor law.

A recent example of this was contracting the delivery of the Boston Globe to a company that employed unauthorized immigrants.  The public was upset by the huge number of delivery problems.  It should also have been upset by the loss of jobs of American workers who formerly provided reliable service.

The problem is not the unauthorized immigrants, who are hardworking people who are trying to get by the best they can.  The problem is those American employers who are trying to drive down American wages by any means necessary.

LINK

All the News That’s Fit to Print: How the Media Hide Undocumented Workers by Aviva Chomsky.

The police’s troublesome 1 percent

February 4, 2016

Out of 12,000 Chicago police, 124 are responsible for one-third police of misconduct lawsuits, costing the city $34 million.  Just five police officers were subject of a combined 16 lawsuits, costing the city $1.5 million.

That’s not typical. Of 1,100 lawsuits settled since 2009, only 5 percent paid plaintiffs more than $100,000.

moskosinthehoodPeter Moskos, a former Baltimore street policeman who now teaches criminal justice at NYU, quoted these statistics, which are from a pay-wallled Chicago Tribune article, on his blog.

I’ve been struck by how many of the shooters in high-profile police killings of unarmed civilians have long records of misconduct, which nobody cared about.

My friend Bill Hickok would say this an example of instance of the “power law”, which, when applied to human affairs, indicates that the vast majority of the accomplishments and failures of any group of people is due to a small fraction of people within the group.

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If I voted strategically …

February 3, 2016

If I voted strategically, instead of for the candidate I want to win, I probably would vote for Hillary Clinton in the New York Democrat primary and for the Republican candidate in the general election.

The reason is that whoever is President from 2017 to 2021 is going to be blamed for the next stock market crash — unless it happens later in the current year — and it almost certainly will be worse than the 2008 crash.

It will be worse than the one before because nothing has been done to address the abuses that caused the previous crash—neither punishing accounting control fraud, nor breaking up the “too big to fail” banks, or curbing reckless speculation, nor creating good jobs, nor reducing income inequality.

The main thing that is propping up the financial markets is the Federal Reserve Board’s lid on bank interest rates, which drives investors into the stock and bond market, and this cannot go on forever.

If the Presidency is held by defenders of the status quo, it will be easier in 2020 for progressives to make the case for changing the status quo.

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Election 2016: Iowa winnows the candidates

February 2, 2016

What the Iowa caucuses determined is that neither Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton nor any other candidate is a sure thing for their party’s Presidential nomination.

Here are preliminary vote and delegate counts.

Republicans

  • Ted Cruz, 28 percent, eight delegates
  • Donald Trump, 24 percent, seven delegates
  • Marco Rubio, 23 percent, seven delegates
  • Ben Carson, 9 percent, three delegates
  • Rand Paul and Jeb Bush, one delegate each

Democrats

  • Hillary Clinton, 50 percent, 22 delegates
  • Bernie Sanders, 50 percent, 21 delegates

Iowans winnowed the field to five candidates — Cruz, Trump and Rubio among the Republicans, Clinton and Sanders among the Democrats.  And they made Marco Rubio rather than Jeb Bush, Chris Christie or John Kasich the candidate of the Republican and conservative establishment.

LINKS

Cruz wins Iowa Republican caucuses; Clinton and Sanders in near-tie by Patrick Martin for the World Socialist Web Site.  [added later]  Hat tip for this to Bill Harvey.  As he said, this is excellent analysis from an off-beat source.

The Field Guide to Ted Cruz by Erica Grieder for Texas Monthly [added later]

Read the rest of this entry »

What it would take to rein in the Deep State

February 1, 2016

DeepState51cdQwM-Z8LMike Lofgren’s new book, The Deep State, describes the interlocking  U.S. military-industrial complex, financial oligarchy and police state which is not subject to either the rule of law or democratic control.   The particulars of his description are available in the previous two posts and in the linked articles.

Here’s what I think needs to be done in order to rein in the Deep State.

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authoritarianism9fd18cCongress should exercise the power of the purse to prevent the President from committing acts of war on his or her own initiative.  President Obama has stated that he considers himself free to attack foreign countries by means of bombing from the air, killer drones and Special Operations because these things are not war.  It is only war when large numbers of American ground troops are involved.

Refusing to levy taxes is the historic method used by parliaments and national assemblies to force absolute monarchs to cease aggressive wars and submit to the rule of law.  The U.S. precedent is the Case-Church Amendment of 1973 forced a cutoff of funds for military operations in Vietnam after August 15 of that year, and brought the Vietnam Conflict to an end.

Congress should pass a resolution ending funding for military operations and military aid and subsidies in the Middle East after a specific deadline, except for what is specifically authorized by Congress.

And if the executive refused to comply with that resolution?  The Constitutional remedy for this is impeachment.

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Congress should pass a law allowing prosecuted whistle-blowers to be acquitted if they can show that the information they revealed was kept secret in order to cover up lawbreaking, incompetence or failure, to limit business competition, or to suppress information that is not related to national security.

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How the Deep State can resist democracy

February 1, 2016

DeepState51cdQwM-Z8LThe Deep State is author Mike Lofgren’s term for power centers in Washington, Wall Street and, to an extent, Silicon Valley that determine government policy, yet operate in secret, without accountability to the law or democratic control.

He wrote in The Deep State that the USA is condemned to unending war and economic decline unless the power of the Deep State can be overthrown.

But can it be overthrown?

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Let’s look at the means the Deep State has to protect itself.

The power of moneyWall Street banks and military contractors have more money available to influence elections than any of their critics do.  The Supreme Court has ruled the corporate entities have the same rights as individual human beings, and that spending money can be an exercise of the right of free speech, so there is no practical limit on how much money can be spent on a campaign.

The power of subversionThe FBI has a long history of infiltrating civil rights and peace organizations with informers and undermining them from within.  Ditto for the CIA in foreign elections.  If the FBI and CIA felt threatened, is there any doubt they would use whatever tools they had to protect themselves?

DeepState-e1398185022722The power of information.  The NSA has the means of learning the personal habits and behavior of every American.  Who is there who doesn’t have something in their background that looks bad, or can be made to look bad?  The precedent for this is the FBI’s spying on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and its dissemination of information about his sex life.

The power of repression.  The police crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement, which was coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security, shows how the government treats peaceful protest movements as national security threats.

Suppressing the vote.  Many techniques exist for suppressing the vote or making votes meaningless.  New laws intentionally make it more difficult for members of targeted groups to vote or easier to disqualify them from voting.  The Dieboldt electronic voting machines allow vote tampering. and there is some evidence this is happening.

Financial power.  When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he intended to propose an ambitious program of public workers.  He never did, because he was told this would cause the “bond markets” to lose confidence in him, and interest rates to rise, choking off the economic recovery and increasing the national debt.  If a future President attempted to curb the power of Wall Street, is there any doubt that the financial markets would “lose confidence” in him or her?

Economic dependence.   The Department of Defense and other parts of the Deep State employ millions of people, almost all of them honest, patriotic people who believe they are serving their country.  Reducing the size of these institutions to what’s needed to defend the country would throw many of them out of work.  Without some alternative, this would not only damage the lives of these individuals, but possibly throw the country into recession.

Learned helplessness.  Many Americans have come to think of economic oligarchy and perpetual war as facts of life, about which nothing can be done.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Lofgren and the Deep State

January 30, 2016

This Bill Moyers broadcast is from 2014

Mike Lofgren is a Washington insider.  He was a Republican congressional staff member for 28 years, including 16 years as a senior analyst on the House and Senate budget committees.

DeepState51cdQwM-Z8LHe has written a book, THE DEEP STATE: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, about governmental and private institutions that operate above the law, and independently of the will of the citizens, and how they interlock in ways that mutually reinforce their power.

The Deep State includes the bankers who were prosecuted for financial fraud because they were “too big to fail” and CIA torturers who were not prosecuted or dismissed because that would demoralize the agency.

It is the force that makes the government engage in bank bailouts, warrant-less surveillance and undeclared wars.  It is the force that has made the American public accept endless war and economic stagnation as normal.  It is the explanation of why partisan gridlock and financial sequesters never affect the availability of money to subsidize foreign military forces.

Lofgren’s Deep State includes President Eisenhower’s “military industrial complex”, the FBI, CIA and NSA and their supposed overseers in Congress and the federal courts, Wall Street and its supposed overseers in the Treasury and Justice departments, and Silicon Valley.

They work together, and have revolving doors through which people can move from one to another—for example, General David Petreaus, after his retirement from the military, to a seven-figure job at KKR, a Wall Street private equity form.

None of this is the result of a conscious conspiracy, Lofgren wrote.  It is a natural evolution of power without accountability, and the “group-think” of people who never have their assumptions questioned.

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Who are the most important people?

January 29, 2016

I thank my old high school classmate Joyce Mummert Ireland for sharing this bit of philosophy from Charles Schultz.

1.snoopy1.  Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2.  Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3.  Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.

4.  Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.

5.  Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.

6.  Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

2.schulz-lake

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday.

These are no second-rate achievers.

They are the best in their fields.

But the applause dies .. Awards tarnish …  Achievements are forgotten.

Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

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Can Bernie Sanders bring out the Millennials?

January 28, 2016

SDT-next-america-03-07-2014-0-09
Youth_vote_turnout

Young voters vote for Democrats by large majorities—when they vote.  The question for the Democrats is whether any candidate will generate enough enthusiasm among Millennials to make a difference.

As Chuck Bodd pointed out on Daily Kos, voters under 30 gave Barack Obama his margin of victory in both 2008 and 2012.  My own opinion, like Bodd’s, is that Bernie Sanders is the only Democratic candidate with a chance of doing that.

The difference between Sanders and Obama was that Obama was the candidate supported by idealistic young people, but he also was the candidate of Wall Street and Silicon Valley.  When forced to choose, he went with Wall Street and Silicon Valley.

Maybe there are a couple of millionaires who support Sanders, but he has burned his bridges with Wall Street.  His only sources of support are the middle class, working people and liberal idealists, and he knows it.

LINKS

The Millennial perspective: Why Bernie gets it and why it matters by Chuck Bodd for Daily Kos.

Millennials are the key to Democratic success and overwhelmingly, they want Bernie by Chuck Bodd for Daily Kos.

Bernie Sanders’ Millennial backers help close the gap versus Hillary Clinton by Jeff Zeleny for CNN.

Silicon Valley’s agenda for the Democrats

January 27, 2016

The kinds of Democrats who go to college, get an entrepreneurial career or move to a big city — those who embrace a relatively unpredictable life — want an entirely different role for the federal government: they want the state to invest in modernization, with more high-skilled immigration, expansive free trade agreements, and performance-based charter schools.

Source: The Ferenstein Wire.

Startup founders and college-educated liberals fundamentally reject an atomistic conception of Society: government should be involved in personal decisions, such as finishing school or eating healthy, because they believe that personal decisions ripple out and significantly affect most people in Society.

Source: The Ferenstein Wire

Economically, the technology industry exacerbates inequality between the rich and middle-class, but eradicates poverty by making essential goods freely accessible.  Ultimately, this will trend toward a two-class society of extremely wealthy workaholics who create technologies that allow the rest of society to enjoy leisurely prosperity.  The cost for this prosperity will be inequality of influence

Source: The Ferenstein Wire.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

A San Francisco journalist named Gary Ferenstein says the Democratic Party is no longer the party of factory workers and organized labor.  It is the party of college-educated professionals and high-tech companies, he says, and this is a good thing.

He has published a manifesto on behalf of the Silicon Valley Democrats—which include Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton—and against “protectocrats” such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

While not all Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and professionals think alike, any more than labor union members, white people or any other large category of people do, I think that Ferenstein does speak for many people from that background, and that his ideas are worth discussing.

His basic idea is that the government should give free rein to creative entrepreneurs, while trying to change individual behavior so as to make people more productive.  The high-tech start-up corporation is his model for all the institutions of society.

Unlike the typical neo-liberal, he does not advocate allowing people to fend for themselves.  Government should assure everyone an adequate education, adequate medical care and everything else they need to be economically productive.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

He believes that the key to better education and better public health services is internal competition.  He therefore favors Obamacare over a universal single-payer system, and charter schools over universal public education.

This is a form of radicalism that has appeared time and again in modern history—a radicalism that would revolutionize the way people live, yet leave the structure of political and economic power unchanged.

Ferenstein asserts that change is always good, there are no fundamental conflicts in society and education is the solution to all problems.  Nobody struggling to survive in today’s harsh economy would believe any such thing, but I’m sure that there is a constituency that does.

He deserves credit for making that constituency’s assumptions explicit, and showing how they influence the Democratic Party leadership.

What follows is more of Ferenstein’s Silicon Valley manifesto, my comments and links to the full text of his writings.

Read the rest of this entry »

If Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a chance …

January 26, 2016

If Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a chance of winning, why is Wall Street so afraid of him?  As well as the Democratic establishment?  Also, don’t believe everything Hillary Clinton supporters say about Sanders’ health care plan.

What is killing Southern white women?

January 26, 2016

 

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Two researchers at Princeton University published a study last November indicating that the death rate for middle-aged white Americans was on the increase.

Statistical blogger Andrew Gelman analyzed the figures and concluded that the increase is concentrated among white women in the South.

Double click to enlarge.

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One thing he did was to adjust the figures according to age.  Not everybody in an age group, such as 55 to 64, is the same age, and changes in age distribution can skew the figures over time.

The top chart shows the results of Gelman’s adjustment and analysis.

The Princeton study said the main causes for the increased death rate were drug-related (overdoses), alcohol related (liver disease) and suicide—all indicators of despair.   An earlier study said higher mortality among white women was correlated with lack of education and heavy smoking.

Why would this affect Southerners, whites or women more than other Americans?  I don’t know.  I’m pretty sure, however, that southern white women, like other Americans, would be healthier and happier in a high-wage, full-employment economy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Progress, poverty and inequality

January 25, 2016

_87760046_world_wealth_disparity_624gr
inequality-chart-OUSSource: Oxfam.

I can’t get my mind around the recent report by Oxfam that 62 families have greater combined wealth than half the world’s population, which is between 3 billion and 4 billion, and that 1 percent of the world’s population has greater wealth than the remaining 99 percent.

I can’t reconcile this with studies by people such as Hans Rosling and Max Roser showing that the overall well-being of the world’s population is improving.

ourworldindata_the-life-expectancy-of-the-world-population-in-1800-1950-and-2012-–-max-roserSource: Our World in Data.

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Equality and equality of opportunity

January 25, 2016

A lot of people say they don’t believe in equality as such.

Instead they believe in equality of opportunity.

But you can’t have equality of opportunity without equality of starting points.

Nor can you have equality of bargaining power, nor equality of political power.

mobility

Click to enlarge.

An American with growing up in a poor neighborhood in a big city, or in a poor, isolated rural area, with parents who are unemployed and poorly educated, does not have the same opportunity to rise in the world as I did, as a boy born to middle-class, college-educated parents in a small town.

Nor did I myself have the same opportunities as the sons of millionaires, such as George W. Bush, Mitt Romney or Donald Trump.

I don’t think that this is something you can change, at least not in a fundamental way within our existing system.

There are things that can be done to increase equality of opportunity without changing cash income.  These include services—help to pregnant mothers, public schools, nutritious school lunches, public libraries, higher education—that are equally available to everyone.

meritocracy

Click to enlarge.

They also include laws to protect people from being denied opportunities because of race, religion, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation.

But the completely level playing field does not exist.  A certain degree of inequality of opportunity is inevitable in a free enterprise society, as is a certain degree of inequality of political power.

How do you strike the balance between rewarding people for what they actually accomplish, and judging their accomplishments based on the obstacles they have had to overcome?

I don’t have a good answer for this.  What is reasonable to expect is that (1) a smart ambitious person starting out at the bottom of the income scale should do better than a lazy ignorant person starting out at the top of the income scale and (2) all hard-working, honest people should be able earn enough to provide a decent material standard of living.

LINKS

Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong by Matt O’Brien for the Washington Post.

Unpacking education and teacher impact by P.J. Thomas for the National Education Policy Center.

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