Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Full Employment and the Myth of the General Strike

Georges Sorel thought he had made a ‘happy choice’ with his use of the term ‘myth.’ But he soon was disabused of that illusion by critics who dismissed the anachronism of myths and others who accused him of falsifying “the real opinions of revolutionaries.”

In his essay, “Myths of the Twentieth Century” published three decades after Sorel’s Réflexions sur la violence,,” Robert Binkley credited Sorel — along with Henri Bergson, William James, Vilfredo Pareto and Sir James Frazier — with having “prepared the way” for the 20th century’s metaphysical ‘Tower of Babel’ and, consequently, with having betrayed ‘truth’. “For truth became a variable, determined by a personal equation, a problem, or a culture. As the prestige of truth fell, the prestige of myth rose… Men began to talk of the myth of science, the Christian myth, the myth of the nation, the myth of socialism, the myth of the general strike.”

Binkley must have realized that he was blaming the messenger for the message. Whatever science and progress might have meant to its 19th century eulogists. their status as “truth” was contingent and ephemeral. Critics did not concoct out of nothing the defects they criticized.

Binkley summarized “four great myths in the contemporary western world” in the following passage:

These four are: the original Christian myth, from which the others are descended ; its secularized version of the world order or great society; the materialistic version with its eschatology of the proletarian paradise; and the antithetic or reactionary myth of the nation, with its mystery of blood and soil.

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Clinton’s lead now more than a million votes UPDATED

As I explained last week, Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency despite having fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. She has already set a record for the biggest popular vote victory despite losing the Electoral College; according to CNN, she now (11/17/16 5:00am EST) leads by about 1,045,000 votes, roughly twice the margin of Al Gore’s victory over George W. Bush in 2000. This equates to 0.8% of the popular vote.

Moreover, Clinton’s lead will only increase in the coming days. The CNN infographic cited above shows that only 78% of California’s votes (where Clinton leads by roughly 3 million votes) have so far been counted. Her raw vote margin will continue to climb there until the votes are all counted.

People have raised two primary arguments against my position that having the Electoral Vote trump the popular vote is undemocratic. The first takes the view that Trump won under the rules as they are: If the popular vote were determinative, he would have campaigned more in California, New York, Texas, and other population centers, and, in his mind at least, he would have recorded an even bigger victory. The problem for this claim, as Josh Marshall has pointed out, is that Clinton would have also campaigned more in those states. Increasing voter turnout usually improves Democratic electoral fortunes, so electing the President by popular vote means that Democratic margins would increase, not decrease.

The second argument claims that focusing on the Electoral College as the reason for Clinton’s loss lets her off the hook for her weaknesses as a candidate and a campaigner. And there is no doubt that she had her weaknesses. The problem with this view is that the existence of the Electoral College is a necessary condition for her to have lost. None of her campaign’s other problems would have led her to lose the election if the Electoral College did not overweight the Wyomings of this country relative to the Californias. This structural disadvantage that populous states face is one of the biggest threats to democracy in America. And we’ve got to do something about it, soon.

Update: It’s now over 1.5 million, according to CNN.  California still only has 83% tallied. Some sources have Clinton’s lead over 2 million now. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

Cross-posted from Middle Class Political Economist.

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On Second Thought …

After reading this article in today’s NYT detailing how things unfolded in the theater before, during and after the Hamilton performance on Friday evening, I’ve concluded the obvious: that the cast and crew members and the overwhelming number of audience members are paid, professional protesters.

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Trump Now Has His Joseph Goebbels. As Nominee for Attorney General.

I do not believe that this man will be confirmed.  Even despite this.

Things of this sort can change, bigly, once confirmation hearings begin.  And not just because of his brazen, lifelong white supremacism.  Also because, well, among other things, Florida voters just adopted an amendment to the state constitution legalizing medical marijuana.  Buy a yuge margin.

Read through the NYT editorial I’ve linked to.  No one—and I do mean no onewants this kind of thing.  Outside of Alabama and Mississippi, of course.

This choice is beyond-belief vile.  And by the end of his confirmation hearing, everyone will know the specifics. And that Donald Trump thought it would be fine to reward this man in this precise way for being the first member of Congress to endorse him.

So Jeff Flake, Joe Manchin and Susan Collins think he’s fine.   Then again, presumably they don’t plan to run for president.  Marco Rubio likely does, though.  And his own state, the largest swing state, just voted to legalize medical marijuana. And there’s also that large-Hispanic-population thing in his state.  Just one example.

Here’s betting that McCain won’t vote for him either.  He doesn’t plan to run for president, having already been there and done that, but there’s that little thing about Sessions’ support for torture of various kinds, including waterboarding.

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UPDATED: Be sure to read this article published Friday at Yahoo News.  I didn’t see it until just now.

Updated 11/20 at 3:25 p.m.

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A Particularly Poignant, and Revealing, Juxtaposition of Politico Articles Published a Day Apart

Terry Havener, 62, a retired union carpenter, pictured with Johnstown in the background. He was hoping for Bernie. He voted for Jill Stein. | Scott Goldsmith for Politico Magazine

– Photo caption in THE FRIDAY COVER: What Trump Voters Want Now The blue-collar workers who put Donald Trump in the White House are ready for him to deliver. How much time will they give him?, Politico, article by Michael Kruse, yesterday

Juxtapose that article with a Politico article by Ben White, from a day earlier, titled “Bankers celebrate dawn of Trump era: A populist candidate who railed against shady financial interests on the trail is putting together an administration that looks like an investment banker’s dream.

Yesterday’s article is mostly about lifelong Democrats in Johnstown, Penn., who voted at least once for Obama (who won the town and its county both times) but who voted for Trump, who there decisively.  So Mr. Havener is the exception in that he didn’t vote for Trump.  But neither did he vote for Clinton.

These are not Trump’s “base” voters, and they make clear that Trump will not hold them for long by trying to lie his way through his administration.  The Mad Hatter routine will not work with them.  This will be the most virulently pro-corporate, pro-already-extremely-wealthy administration since Warren Harding’s, and they will know it.

Elizabeth Warren on Thursday gave a fairly detailed speech on the Senate floor listing Trump’s many statements and explicit promises to working-class voters, juxtaposed with the express positions of the people in charge of respective relevant parts of Trump’s transition team: an aggressive proponent of privatizing Social Security in charge of selecting top people at HHS, as just one of many specific examples Warren listed.

I would love to see ads run on Rust Belt media markets showing that part of Warren’s speech.  And then warning that Trump will simply say that he’s doing exactly the opposite of what he’s actually doing.  This is the way to fight this.  It is the only way to fight this.  These are not terribly expensive media markets.

These ads also should run through social media, on Facebook as ads and in news feeds, and in Twitter feeds.  They should become a regular feature of American life.  They would be funded in the same way that the Sanders campaign was.  And they should say that.

Meanwhile, there is the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend.  People should get this information to their relatives through Facebook ahead of the holiday, if possible, and at the Thanksgiving dinner if Trump is discussed.

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ADDENDUM: Reader EMichael, who is originally from Pennsylvania, and I just had an exchange of several comments in the Comments thread that readers of this post will be interested in, I think.

Added 11/19 at 10:40 a.m.

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Hey, President-Elect Trump: Congratulations on your quick success on Wednesday! [Addendum added.]

Congratulations on your quick success on Wednesday, Mr. Trump!*

Now how ’bout gettin’ to work on that Carrier plant in Indianapolis that is in the process of shutting down, its production being moved to a new plant in Mexico.  And other manufacturing plants that, like Carrier, actually ARE slated to move outside the country.

And then, after Carrier announces its change in plan, could you make a few phone calls to a few companies that outsource their manufacturing and assembly?

And then maybe … Walmart.  Get Walmart’s CEO on the phone.  Can you get Walmart to stop doing virtually all its purchasing from wholesale companies whose products are from China, Vietnam and other countries that aren’t, y’know, the USA?

And when you have an extra moment, maybe you can get your daughter Ivanka on the phone and try hard to persuade her to get her company to stop having its products made in China.

Look. Shouldn’t Bill Ford or at least Ford’s public relations office put out a statement correcting Trump’s, um, misimpression that a plant in Kentucky was ever scheduled to move to Mexico?

I get that that is a dangerous move, given Trump’s nature.  But a courageous move at the outset by Ford’s CEO would put everyone on notice that we’re in for some serious fascist tactics in the next four years, and they need to try to undermine the success of those tactics.

*H/T Paul Waldman

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ADDENDUM: Here’s a detailed article about this in the Washington Post.** Do read the article.  Then ask Trump about whom he plans to pick as his, um, Labor Secretary.  And whether his NLRB member pics will be … pro-union.

No, don’t bother with that last question.  It’s not just that we don’t have to ask, cuz we already know.  It’s also that we know that Trump will say they will be pro-union picks.

One absolute certainty is that Trump will continue to say the opposite of what he is doing is what he is doing, and say the opposite of what happened is what happened. On absolutely everything.

We are about to have Joe McCarthy combined with the Matter Hatter as president of the United States.

Added 11/18 at 12:27 p.m.

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*I switched the link from a Politico article to one by Jim Tankersley in the Washington Post, which provides the full information.

Added 11/18 at 5:44 p.m.

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Lock Him Up!!

Folks … this is crazy.

Even apart from the profound national security danger and, at least seemingly, breach of federal criminal law–hey, James Comey, wanna investigate this?–there is that little issue about, y’know, LOBBYISTS CONTROLLING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

And to think we thought the only conflicts of interest would be finance industry and fossil fuel industry cabinet department and regulatory capture.  We were naive.

Will Fox News report this?  Will this make it into all those circular Facebook feeds?  Will there be a Twitter hashtag on it?

Look.  Supposedly there are all these Democratic billionaires and near-billionaires poised to begin trying to start a rebuilding of the party from the ground up, beginning with state legislative races.  Better extremely late than never on that.  But the best way to begin that–and in any event–far and away more immediately important–is to force this gross, concerted bait-and-switch into the public’s consciousness.  Meaning massive information campaigns on this.

Every Republican senator up for reelection, and every Republican House member, needs to be put on notice that this–this–will be the dominant issue in the 2018 election cycle.  But first and foremost, those in the Midwest and the Rust Belt need to know this.  That’s where the information campaign should begin.  Tomorrow.

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It’s Clear By Now That the Second-Most Powerful Person in the Federal Government Will Be Bernie Sanders.

The Big Question Is, Who is the MOST Powerful Person: Paul Ryan or Donald Trump?

“I think my title [of head of outreach] is to be head of outreach and that’s something that I take very seriously,” he said, without explaining any more about the new role.

But Sanders did pound home his remedies for the Democratic Party.

“We need major, major reforms to the Democratic Party,” Sanders said going on to say that Trump was able to tap into discontent among Americans who felt completely ignored by the rest of the American political system.

Trump, Sanders continued, “said I hear that you are hurting and I hear and understand that you’re worried about the future, about your kids, and I alone can do something about it — and people voted for him.”

Sanders went on to tick off the promises Trump made that Democrats would hold him accountable for.

“He said we will not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Now I think that we should expand Social Security,” Sanders continued. “That is what he said, and pay attention to see what he now does. The question that will be resolved pretty quickly is whether or not everything that he was saying to the working class of this country was hypocrisy, was dishonest or whether he was sincere — and we will find out soon enough.”

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Donald and Deportations

This post is partly inspired by “The cracks are already starting to show between Donald Trump and Republicans” by Amber Phillips at The Washington Post. My general impression is that the article mainly shows that cracks are already starting to show between Donald Trump and Donald Trump. More generally, the fact that Trump and the other Republicans are lying a lot about what Obama has done makes it almost impossible to determine how they will change things.

A case can be made that there plan is to mainly stick to current policy (except by cutting taxes on rich people of course) and to rename the current policy and claim credit for what Obama has done and continue to claim he did something horrible. I wish I believed this is what will happen. I am sure they will make major changes. The point is that their statements are vague and often based on false factual premises, so it is impossible to figure out what they will actually do.

Consider deportation of undocumented aliens.

Trump: “What we are going to do is get the people that are criminals and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, a lot of these people, probably 2 million. It could even be 3 million,” he told CBS’s Lesley Stahl in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday. “After the border is secured and after everything gets normalized, we’re going to make a determination on the people that you’re talking about, who are terrific people.”

One plausible interpretation of this is “We are going to stick to current policy, and consider possible policy changes late in my second term”. Under current policy, people with criminal records are deported. Trump proposes sticking with that policy. He doesn’t explain how sticking with current policy will cause an increase in the rate of deportations. He doesn’t even claim that, under his policy, people will be deported at a higher rate than under Obama’s policies. He says 2 million people will be deported, but he doesn’t say when. According to ABC “President Barack Obama has often been referred to by immigration groups as the “Deporter in Chief.”Between 2009 and 2015 his administration has removed more than 2.5 million people through immigration orders, ” Trumps 2 maybe 3 million people claim is consistent with between two and three million in the next six years (with Trump assuming he will be re-elected).

The quoted statement is perfectly consistent with sticking to current policy including the conditions for deportation and the rate of deportations.

It is also possible that Trump proposing sticking with current policy but says the outcome will be bigly more winning, because Trump is a winner. He might argue that, because of his excellent management and winnerness, la migra will do things much more quickly.

It is fairly likely that Trump believes that applying the current policy will cause a large increase in the rate of deportations, because he doesn’t know what current policy is.

Finally, it is possible that he is just lying and plans to deport people who wouldn’t be deported under current policy.

Trump is so vague that it is not possible to prove that there is any “crack” separating Trump and Congressional Republicans. In fact, it is not possible to prove that there is any “crack” between Trump and Obama.

This also true of other policy issues. For example, Trump and the other Republicans agree that they will repeal Obamacare and replace it with something which protects people with pre-existing conditions and is based on consumer choice and markets. One reasonable interpretation of this is that they plan to replace Obamacare with Obamacare. This will come as no surprise to Obama who told us they would do this.

Also they continue to denounce the Obama stimulus and propose a big increase on infrastructure spending

McCarthy: McCarthy said on Fox News that “there is a place we could find common ground with Republicans and Democrats” on infrastructure. But he seemed unable to explain how Trump’s infrastructure spending plan differs from President Obama’s 2009 stimulus. “Obama never had infrastructure in his stimulus,” he said. (Infrastructure spending was a major part of Obama’s stimulus.)

So far this post has been wildly optimistic. Again, I don’t really hope that Republicans will mostly stick with Obama’s policies except for cutting taxes on the rich. I’m sure they will do horrible things. I am also sure that they haven’t told us what horrible things they will do, because they are still promising all things to all people. They haven’t switched from messaging to policy making yet. I hope wish they never make policy.

On the other hand, I think that the strategy of copying Obama while continuing to denounce him is likely to be politically successful. Republicans have managed to convince many Americans that Obamacare is horrible in some mysterious way. The hope was that people would notice that, for example, there aren’t any death panels. If Republicans stick with Obamacare but call it TrumpCare, there won’t be any new proof that Obamacare doesn’t have horrible provisions.

The public doesn’t know what current policy is. Many are convinced that Obama policy is extremly leftist and unsuccessful. This makes it easy for Republicans to convince them that the repealing Obama’s policies and replacing them with Obama’s policies is a huge improvement and that Republicans deserve credit for Obama’s gigantic accomplishments. The strangest thing is that I suspect that Obama is OK with that.

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