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

Dr. Anthony Fauci kicks some Dr. Rand Paul butt

The lies and politics in this are so deep, it defies explanation. How can someone defend Rand’s decision? I sit and listen to this and then I listen to McConnell say the Repubs will appoint a new SCOTUS Justice shortly disallowing a new president from doing so. There is no honor in these people. They would just as soon sell us into slavery if it allows them the status to maintain their position. How will history judge these liars?

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The 2020 Presidential and Senate polling nowcast: shift in the control of the Senate to democrats looks increasingly likely

The 2020 Presidential and Senate polling nowcast: shift in the control of the Senate to democrats looks increasingly likely

 

Here is my weekly update on the 2020 elections, based on State rather than national polling in the past 30 days, since that directly reflects what is likely to happen in the Electoral College. Remember that polls are really only nowcasts, not forecasts. They are snapshots of the present; there is no guarantee they will be identical or nearly identical in early November.

Let’s begin with Trump’s approval. After several weeks of improvement, last week Trump’s approval eroded very slightly, and this week was virtually unchanged – and remains right in its normal range for the past 3 1/2 years:

 

It is safe to say that Trump’s post-convention, “law and order” bounce has plateaued. There is no information yet as to how the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg may impact the result.

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“Constitutionalism”

Democratic Despotism:

“We find latent in their conception of law— and some have been publicly preaching this view— that law emanates solely from the will of the majority of the people, and can, therefore, be modified at any time to meet majority wishes. This doctrine is absolutely totalitarian, and is contrary to our basic conceptions of the source of law. We have seen that our political system is predicated on the doctrine that there are some immutable laws of nature and certain other divinely sanctioned rights, which the Constitution and our tradition recognized as being above and beyond the power of the majority, or of any other group of individuals or officials of the Government. There are, also, other rights, which because of man’s historic experience, that are specifically protected by the Constitution, and which can only be modified under the prescribed method set forth in the Constitution; and, consequently the majority- will is not free to modify them as it pleases, but only in the circumscribed manner prescribed by the Constitution. That is why our system has been characterized as a government of laws, not of men. That is the distinction between impersonal law and personal law. Americanism is the system of government by impersonal law: totalitarianism is the system of government by personal law.” (emphasis added) — Raoul E. Desvernine, vice-president of the American Liberty League, Democratic Despotism. 1936 (cited in “Business Organized as Powerr: The New Imperium in Imperio” see also “Constitutionalism: Political Defense of the Business Community during the New Deal Period.”)

“Business Organized as Power”:

“As stated in its constitution, the [American Liberty] League’s purposes were, among others,  “to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States,” “to teach the necessity of respect for rights of persons and property,” “to encourage and protect individual and group initiative and enterprise, to foster the right to work, earn, save and acquire property, and to preserve the ownership and lawful use of property when acquired.” To win these goals the League went further than any previous liberty-loving, liberty-saving organization in our history. Crucial to its functioning was the National Lawyer’s Committee, a group of some 58  prominent attorneys, which issued reports or opinions in advance of Supreme Court decisions, opinions setting aside with solemnity and erudition one after another of the entire New Deal legislative mélange. The League went still further: this private court having, for example, formally declared the Wagner Labor Relations Act unconstitutional, openly advised employers to ignore its provisions.”

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China’s climate announcement

Easily lost in the news of the day, from the NYT:

President Xi Jinping of China pledged on Tuesday that his country would adopt much stronger climate targets and achieve what he called “carbon neutrality before 2060.” If realized, the pledges would be crucial in the global fight against climate change.

This may be mostly PR, but it may signal a significant increase in China’s commitment to decarbonization.  We will learn more as details are provided and China’s next 5-year plan is released in 2021.

If this does reflect an increased commitment to decarbonization, it could be as important as the outcome of the U.S. election for the future of the climate, for several reasons:

China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.  This is (I believe) the first time it has committed to net zero publicly.  A 2050 target would be better than 2060, but a real commitment to hit 2060 would be a huge improvement.

If China moves away from fossil fuels, it may put some pressure on states that participate in its Belt and Road Initiative to scrap plans for new coal fired power plants.  These states have their own agendas and other options, but Chinese pressure would help.

A clear Chinese commitment to clean energy may help persuade Americans who see China as both a military and economic threat and as having relatively competent leadership to prioritize climate policy.

Finally, if China is committed to a green energy transition, this opens the door to formation of a “climate club” that includes the United States, Europe, and China.  Working together, these countries and others could pressure holdouts to reduce their emissions (by imposing tariffs on their exports, for example).  This is critical.  There are many countries in the world that will not voluntarily cut back on their use of fossil fuels.  Asking nicely will not work.  International climate policy needs more stick and less carrot, and switching to a new regime will be much easier if the Chinese are on board.

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Jones v USPS September 21, 2020

Steve Hutkins of Save The Post Office updates us on the “Jones vs USPS” suit filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He has been live-blogging the events from Save The Post Office blog.

September 21, 2020

Big news today: The plaintiffs have won a second suit against the Postal Service. The judge in Jones v USPS, Victor Morrero of the SDNY, has ordered a preliminary injunction preventing the Postal Service from enacting changes that endanger voting by mail. The order is here. It’s the second such order for a preliminary injunction, following the order in Washington v USPS issued on Sept. 17. The Associated Press has the first article about the Jones decision, here, and CNN reports here.

The Jones order directs the Postal Service to “treat all Election Mail as First-Class Mail or Priority Mail Express” and to provide the court a cost estimate for doing so;  to “pre-approve all overtime that has been or will be requested for the time period beginning October 26, 2020 and continuing through November 6, 2020”; and “submit to the Court a list of steps necessary to restore First-Class Mail and Marketing Mail on-time delivery scores to the highest score each respective class of mail has received in 2020.”

The Jones order also directs the Postal Service to submit a proposed memorandum to all USPS managerial staff (the “Guidance Memorandum”) that explains all USPS policy requirements concerning the treatment of Election Mail and that clarifies late and extra trips are not banned, do not require pre-approval, and will not result in disciplinary action.

Judge Morrero has also ordered the Postal Service to provide not only the same weekly updates on service performance that the USPS is providing Congress but also more detailed reports that disaggregate 2-day and 3-5 day service reports and include variance data showing how many days late the mail is.

These are the same detailed reports that, at my request, the Postal Regulatory Commission asked the Postal Service to provide. The Postal Service said that it would take 56 weeks to prepare such reports, and it failed to submit them by the deadline, Sept. 18. It will be interesting to see how the Commission responds to this failure and what the Postal Service does in response to Judge Morrero’s order to produce these reports.

As a side note, we’re happy to report that Mark Jamison, regular contributor to savethepostoffice.com, submitted oral and written testimony in Jones, and his comments are cited several times in Judge Morrero’s order.

In Richardson, the plaintiffs have filed a Reply in Further Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. The Reply frequently cites the order for a preliminary injunction in Washington, and concludes with a request for a “special master”: “The grave constitutional harm that will result from USPS’s failure to implement any changes ordered, along with the extremely short time in which USPS must implement those changes, requires supervision to ensure that it is done. Therefore, Plaintiffs request that the Court exercise its discretion to appoint a master to assist in the implementation of the Court’s orders.”

In Vote Forward, defendants DeJoy and USPS have submitted a Response to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Expedited Discovery, arguing that “expedited discovery would impose an undue burden on USPS as its key personnel are consumed with assessing and coordinating the agency’s compliance with the injunction” in Washington. The defendants also argue that there is already a “wealth of available, relevant evidence” from the other cases so that additional expedited discovery would be duplicative and burdensome.

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The “Trump Effect” On Happiness

The “Trump Effect” On Happiness

 In a column in yesterday’s Washington Post, Dana Milbank has written on “Trump has made our lives worse. Here’s the proof.”  He labels this apparent outcome of the “Trump Effect.”

Since 1972 the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago has annually studied the nation’s mood. They survey people to find out how they identify their level of happiness. As of this summer, an all-time record low of 14% declared themselves “very happy.” This compares with 29% saying that at the lowest point after the 2008 financial crisis. OTOH, fully 36% declared themselves to be “satisfied” with their financial situation and a record low expressed dissatisfaction, the survey taken at a time when expanded unemployment benefits were still in effect.  But Milbank declared that this amounted to a disjuncture between peoples’ economic conditions and declared happiness, with this contradicting, or at least failing to support, a longstanding finding from happiness surveys in the past.

This may be an overstated conclusion. Milbank did not report on it, but studies over the years have found that higher-income people tend to declare themselves to be happier than lower-income people. This may still hold.  In the US this finding has been part of the famous “Easterlin Paradox,” that higher-income people report higher levels of life satisfaction (or happiness) at any given point in time while over time as national income rises, happiness levels do not rise. Indeed, another data source with a longer time horizon on this found US national happiness to have gradually declined since 1957. It must be noted that this finding of declining national happiness as national income rises does not show up in al nations, although it has been observed in several others besides the US, leading to much controversy and debate. Richard Easterlin himself (still alive well into his 90s) has emphasized the impact of distribution of income and perceived economic security, with peoples’ happiness depending on how they compare themselves with others.  So even though income rose rapidly, the ending of old age pensions and rising income inequality led happiness levels in China to decline from around 1990 to around 2004, although they have increased again since as pensions were extended to rural areas.

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“The US is a white Christian country. Everyone else is here on sufferance:”

“The US is a white Christian country. Everyone else is here on sufferance:” Donald Trump, James II, and the Glorious Revolution – by New Deal democrat

For the past year +, I have been reading about the History of Republics -really, a History of the Rule of Law – that has taken me through Ancient Rome, Venice, Genoa, Florence, Switzerland, the Dutch Republic, and currently the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in the UK.

There are enough parallels between that event and the US in 2020 that it is worth some more detailed comparison.

Recently I came across a quote attributed to FDR that I think perfectly encapsulates the current GOP view of the United States:

“The United States is a white Christian country. Everyone else is here on sufferance.”

Now, FDR was a total political animal. He wasn’t necessarily stating his own deeply held view. Rather, more likely he was voicing his opinion of the most prevalent political ideology of the country.

I think that quote – variously reported as “Anglo-Dutch” or “white Protestant” is spot on. It encapsulates an idea that people of color and white non-Christians (including, arguably, Catholics, or at least those who aren’t “pro-life”) are second class citizens. They are de jure equal, but are only entitled to their voice so long as they don’t disturb the hegemony of the founding white Protestants. Hence why “real America” consists of the lily-white areas of the Midwest and West, and why Whites in the South are entitled to rule their States.

Both US political parties really agree with that divide. Think about it: are Blacks and Hispanics *relatively* worse off compared to Whites when the GOP is in control?  If that is true – and I certainly believe it is – then it necessarily also means that Whites are *relatively* worse off compared to  Blacks and Hispanics when Democrats are in control.  I actually think partisans of both parties agree with both of those statements. What they differ on is which outcome is “fair.” That certainly accords with dozens of quotes I have read from partisans and regular supporters on both side of the divide.

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Lifted from comments (Fred C. Dobbs)

The most complicated election in modern history is coming

— soon. Are we prepared?

via @BostonGlobe – September 20

A TEST FOR DEMOCRACY

Experts worry about a nightmare election during a pandemic marred by disenfranchisement and chaos, followed by an acrimonious legal and political dispute over the results that would test the nation’s democratic resolve. …

(A lengthy article, in six parts.)

Chapter 1 – A history of disenfranchisement
Chapter 2 – Fear and mistrust
Chapter 3 – Running elections amid COVID-19
Chapter 4 – Legal battles
Chapter 5 – Disinformation and cybersecurity
Chapter 6 – Mail-in voting

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2019: the year that the late economic expansion finally bore fruit for nearly all of society

2019: the year that the late economic expansion finally bore fruit for nearly all of society

Yesterday  (Sept. 16) the Census Bureau released its 2019 information concerning median household income and poverty rates. Unfortunately, this data is always released in September of the following year, so is already somewhat stale. Just for example, since the information is collected between February and April of the following year, we may not get complete information about the impact of the coronavirus until two years from now!

Also, since the information is across *all* households, not just wage- or salary-earning households, but includes, for example, retirees as well as the unemployed, it should not be used to infer information about wages.

That being said, in 2019 the economy was doing very well, and both un- and under-employment were reaching repeated new lows, and inflation remained subdued, real median household income rose significantly – up 6.8% over 2018:

As is obvious from the graph, this was a new all-time high.

 

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