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

Before we can get to issues…

Via US News:

Less than half of recently polled Trump supporters believe Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer, despite the president’s eldest son admitting he attended the controversial meeting.The latest survey from Public Policy Polling finds that only 45 percent of Trump voters believe Trump Jr. attended a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya

.…

In spite of confirmation from Trump Jr. himself, 32 percent of respondents said the meeting didn’t happen and 24 percent said they’re not sure.

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DID MAYA MACGUINEAS of CRFB LIE on TIME magazine website OR WAS SHE JUST FOOLIN’ AND DID ANYONE NOTICE

by Dale Coberly

 

DID MAYA MACGUINEAS of CRFB

LIE on TIME magazine website

OR WAS SHE JUST FOOLIN’

AND DID ANYONE NOTICE

 

Maya MacGuineas is president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) which reliably confuses the Federal Budget with the Social Security program.   CRFB claims to want to cut government spending to balance the Budget,  but it spends most of its time arguing for the need to cut Social Security.

Social Security is not funded by the federal budget.  It is paid for entirely by the people who will get the benefits.

In MacGuineas op-ed on TIME magazine’s website

https://act.myngp.com/el/826676200205584384/2618988919232268288

she says a number of things reasonable people could agree with.  This is not surprising,  a  technique of expert liars is often to draw you in with reasonable, and true, statements and then lead you to false, and dangerous conclusions.  MacGuineas does lead you to false conclusions without necessarily “lying,”  and I will get to those.  But I’d like to begin with a statement which she made that is not true which I find particularly egregious.

“My goal would be to both ensure that those who depend on the program are protected, while also balancing the growing cost of Social Security with other pressing priorities — from programs for children, the vulnerable, public investments, and shoring up our education and worker retraining systems”.

While it may be doubted that MacGuineas is sincere in her concern for “programs for children, the vulnerable, public investments, and shoring up our education and worker retraining systems,”  Social Security has nothing to do with funding for any of these programs.  Social Security is paid for entirely by the workers who will get the benefits.  It subtracts not one dime from the federal budget. Except, of course, when the Congress is obligated to REPAY the money it BORROWED FROM Social Security.

MacGuineas could no doubt find funds for her favorite programs by taking a gun and demanding your wallet.  This would be exactly the same as cutting Social Security to find the money to pay for someone else’s favorite program. Taking money from SS and using it to pay for other programs would not cut your “taxes” one dime.  Neither would it cut “the budget.” All it would do would to leave you “busted, dead broke”  when time came for you to retire.   This is a shell game”  “Lookee!  We’re going to cut SS in order to spend on other programs.  This will save you money, see!” The reason the SS tax was created as dedicated funding with a separate trust fund,  was to make sure the money collected for Social Security was not confused…is not fungible…with other government money.

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Non competes

Via Alternet, Thom Hartmann writes:

…This type of labor system has been the dream of conservative/corporatists, particularly since the “Reagan Revolution” kicked off a major federal war on the right of workers to organize for their own protection from corporate abuse.Unions represented almost a third of American workers when Reagan came into office (and, since union jobs set local labor standards, for every union job there was typically an identically-compensated non-union job, meaning about two-thirds of America had the benefits and pay associated with union jobs pre-Reagan).Thanks to Reagan’s war on labor, today unions represent about 6 percent of the non-government workforce.

But that wasn’t enough for the acolytes of Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman. They didn’t just want workers to lose their right to collectively bargain; they wanted employers to functionally own their employees.Prior to the current Reaganomics era, non-compete agreements were pretty much limited to senior executives and scientists/engineers.If you were a CEO or an engineer for a giant company, knowing all their processes, secrets and future plans, that knowledge had significant and consequential value—company value worth protecting with a contract that said you couldn’t just take that stuff to a competitor without either a massive payment to the left-behind company or a flat-out lawsuit.

But should a guy who digs holes with a shovel or works on a drilling rig be forced to sign a non-compete? What about a person who flips burgers or waits tables in a restaurant? Or the few factory workers we have left, since neoliberal trade policies have moved the jobs of tens of thousands of companies overseas?Turns out corporations are using non-competes to prevent even these types of employees from moving to newer or better jobs.America today has the lowest minimum wage in nearly 50 years, adjusted for inflation. As a result, people are often looking for better jobs. But according to the New York Times, about 1 in 5 American workers is now locked in with a non-compete clause (bolding mine) in an employment contract.Before Reaganomics, employers didn’t keep their employees by threatening them with lawsuits; instead, they offered them benefits like insurance, paid vacations and decent wages.

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Not business but finance models

Financialized business models sticks to faith based “Market knows best” rule.

…The number of MBAs graduating from America’s business schools has skyrocketed since the 1980s. But over that time, the health of American business has decreased by many metrics: corporate R&D spending, new business creation, productivity, and the level of public trust in business in general.

There are many reasons for this, but one key factor is that the basic training that future business leaders in this country receive is dictated not by the needs of Main Street but by those of Wall Street. With very few exceptions, MBA education today is basically an education in finance, not business—a major distinction. So it’s no wonder that business leaders make many of the finance-friendly decisions. MBA programs don’t churn out innovators well prepared to cope with a fast-changing world, or leaders who can stand up to the Street and put the long-term health of their company (not to mention their customers) first; they churn out followers who learn how to run firms by the numbers. Despite the financial crisis of 2008, most top MBA programs in the United States still teach standard “markets know best” efficiency theory and preach that share price is the best representation of a firm’s underlying value, glossing over the fact that the markets tend to brutalize firms for long-term investment and reward them for short-term paybacks to investors. (Consider that the year Apple debuted the iPod, its stock price fell roughly 25 percent, yet it rises every time the company hands cash back to shareholders.)

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Trump: the endgame (op-ed)

Trump: the endgame

There was some economic news last week which is important for the long term, and I’ll try to post about it later today or tomorrow, but in the meantime …
I’m as interested in the latest Trump-Russia tidbit as the next person, but really, don’t we all already know the endgame?

Remember during the campaign, no matter what devastating gaffes Trump made, he always rebounded into the low 40%’s? Well, about the same thing has been true for the last 5 months.  No matter what the news, Trump’s approval rating is 38% +/-3%:

So here, as a public service, to save you all the sturm und drang of the next 3 years, I present you in narrative form with the endgame:

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Will the Reign of Witches Pass?

“our present situation is not a natural one.”

Many want to change to the popular vote to elect a president as HRC the loser in the election received more popular votes than the election winner and lost in the Electoral College. There are activities going on today with regard to the EC and how it’s vote will be determined in the future. The EC vote is being driven by the numbers of Congressional Representatives in each state plus the Senators. Since the number of House Representatives has been frozen at 435, the bias in power and representation has been slowly shifting to lower population and/or small states.

City Limits Org. quotes David Birdsell on the bias we are experiencing in our government. “ By 2040, 70 percent of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states, which are also home to the overwhelming majority of the 30 largest cities in the country. By extension, 30 percent of Americans will live in the other 35 states. Bluntly meaning, 70 percent of Americans will be represented by 30 Senators and 30 percent of Americans represented by 70 Senators.”

I could not find the direct article to support the 70% of the population living in 15 states by 2040 other than the quote on City Limits Org. I was able to construct my own Excel spreadsheet using 2016 numbers off of Wikipedia – U.S. states and territories by population.

Congressional Districts 2
Using the Wikipedia numbers, I found 66% of the US population resides in the 15 largest states. If population continues to grow at

its present rate, I would think we would be at 70% of the population in 15 states well before 2040. Well so what, what does this mean (redundant alert)? 66% of the United States population living in 15 states are represented by 30 Senators and the other 34% of the population in 35 states are represented by 70 Senators. In the Senate, ~ two thirds of the population in the US is underrepresented in the Senate by design. Nothing is going to change this dynamic, as the Senate was established by the framers of the constitution to give equal representation by state. In other words, we are stuck with the present Senate representation by state. Article V states:

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GOP leaders definitely knew about hacking — did they benefit too?

Via Salon, Digby writes:

GOP leaders definitely knew about hacking — did they benefit too?

McClatchy also reported that the Justice Department is looking into “whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton.” That’s an issue I’ve written about previously here on Salon, based on some post-election investigative reporting by the New York Times.

This raises once again the question of just what was going on in the Republican Party during this period. After all, it wasn’t just Donald Trump who benefited from Russian hacking. The GOP-dominated House majority was a major beneficiary as well.

Remember, the congressional leadership knew in 2015 that it was happening. Reuters has reported that the so-called Gang of Eight (Republican leaders in Congress) was told that Russian hackers were attacking the Democratic Party but that the information was so top secret they could not share it. As we know, hackers attacked the Democratic National Committee and the personal email of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. But they also hacked the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and information gleaned from that hack was put to use in some 2016 campaigns for Congress.

Also recall that one month before Donald Trump Jr. took that meeting with the Russian lawyer, House Majority Leader Kevin “loose lips” McCarthy was talking about Trump’s connections to Vladimir Putin in a room full of Republicans

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three bad ideas which I think would be political winners for Democrats

Matthew Yglesias commands,
I obey. Now I just have to come up with three bad ideas.

1) $25 minimum wage. I am not sure about the $15 dollar proposal. I’m pretty sure that $25 would be too high. I guess it would be popular too.

2) Protection that’s what you’re here for . I am sure that total protectionism is a bad idea, and hinting at it worked pretty well for Trump.

3) Eliminate all taxes on the lower 99%.

I tend to wonder if maybe this isn’t such a bad idea, but I suspect that it would imply either huge deficits, undesireable cuts to Federal spending, or taxes on the top 1% which are higher than optimal.

In any case, I am rock solid certain that many Republicans are sure that Democrats are soon going to propose this and win all future elections. They wouldn’t argue against class warfare in the complete absense of any class warfare (except for theirs on behalf of the rich) if they weren’t terrified.

4) I would say health care reform with coverage of pre-existing conditions, gauranteed issue, Community rating and no mandate (to promise all the nice things without the necessary costs and destroy the individual insurance market entirely) except that Obama has already done that (the Barack Hussein Obama Jr was elected president of the USA, so don’t even think of tyring to tell me that bad policy is bad politics).

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Robert Samuelson At The Washington Post Is Bashing Social Security Yet Again

Robert Samuelson At The Washington Post Is Bashing Social Security Yet Again

Yet again.

I grant that he did not do  it at length or present a lot of clearly incorrect nonsense.  But bash Social Security he did, using an old ruse to do so, combining it with Medicare to invoke a long term deficit danger due to the two of them together, when in fact it is well known that it is the Medicare part of that projection of future spending that leads to all the scary looking deficit numbers, not the Social Security part.

Most of the column by Robert J. Samuelson today,”Everybody’s mad at somebody,” is a lament about political polarization in the US today, and the obnoxious effect this has policy making.  Fred Hiatt has a similar column, “Trump’s wasted opportunity,” although I would say that for once Hiatt avoided saying anything too silly, noting possible political compromises on a carbon tax, immigration policy, and tax reform, that might have been possible if Trump had been willing to be a nonpartisan leader, but that look unlikely to happen given his descent into cheap partisanship, as well as his general ignorance and incompetence.  Most of Samualson’s column deals with past history of compromises made and how we got to not doing that anymore. However, his misguided statement on Social Security appears in a single paragraph, which I shall quote in its entirety now, regarding supposed compromises or issues that need compromising that are not likely to be.

“To take two familiar examples: The Republican promise to repeal and replace Obamacare while also  reducing premiums and expanding coverage was never possible.  It was make-believe. Similarly, the Democratic refusal to deal with the escalating costs of Medicare and Social Security is crushing other worthy government programs – a strange position for a pro-government party.”

So here is RJS back to  playing the role of WaPo Very Wise Person, or whatever, calling for  a compromise between the supposedly equally unwise positions of  the two parties.  But, the hard fact is that his analysis of the impossibility of the GOP position is completely accurate.  He falls down when he gets to the Dem side.  Again, there is a rising trend of medical care costs, which affects Medicaid as well as Medicare. If he had replaced Social Security with Medicaid, he would have been much more accurate, and clearly we need some sort of program to get rising medical care costs under control

But throwing in Social Security there instead of Medicaid (which the GOP is trying to cut without cost controls, just throw people off) as part of their Obamacare repeal and replace, muddies the waters, although it fits in with the longstanding campaign by the WaPo ed board to slash Social Security. And it does have RJS back on his regular Monday spot playing that old game, even if  he did not make too much of a silly fuss about it this time.  But some of us have our eyes on him, and will call him out when he pulls this nonsense, when we catch him. And he was at it again here.

BTW, Happy Fourth of July, you all.

Barkley Rosser

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