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

A “Summer Rerun – The Victory of Privilege”

Yves Smith is back at Naked Capitalism, having been out for medical reasons. Angry Bear and I wish her well in recouping and rehabbing.

An Introduction; At Naked Capitalism, Yves posted a commentary from September 2018 on the topic of “Privilege.” Intertwined with her experience as a child growing up in factory-dominated towns to what is being experienced in the South – Alabama . . . where she now resides. Although a college town, it is a somewhat radical change from the northeast.

I do not want to keep this introduction ongoing as the dialogue and want she, Lambert, and the author present says more than I can recreate in my own words. Enjoy . . .

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Summer Rerun – The Victory of Privilege,” Naked Capitalism, Yves, June,

Yves here. Lambert recently flagged this 2018 post on privilege by our sometimes guest writer, Andrew Dittmer, who was fond of the handle Outis Philalithopoulos, as having been on to something.

I feel compelled to add that here in 2021, when the idea of privilege would logically be even better established than in 2018, from what I see in Alabama in 2021, it isn’t. And if my belief based admittedly on limited indicators is correct, it illustrates how big and diverse (if you want to put a positive frame on the phenomenon) or fragmented the US is. I saw this as a child moving from paper mill town to paper mill town, which in theory should have had a lot of commonalities, but without exception had very different caste/status systems. Despite the intervening decades national network programming to provide cultural homogenization (admittedly now in reverse due to Internet-spawned narrow interest content and news), my belief is the amount of acceptance of new social norms is shallower that elites and influencers on the coasts remotely comprehend.

June 23, 2021 “Letters from An American”

I subscribe to various sites from which I extract data. Each morning, this is my read while drinking my coffee – black. A brief Introduction as taken from Professor Richardson’s site:

This is a chronicle of today’s political landscape, but because you can’t get a grip on today’s politics without an outline of America’s Constitution, and laws, and the economy, and social customs, this newsletter explores what it means, and what it has meant, to be an American.

These were the same questions a famous observer asked in a book of letters he published in 1782, the year before the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War.

Hector St. John de Crevecoeur called his book “Letters from an American Farmer.”

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June 23, 2021
Heather Cox Richardson
Jun 24

When voters elected Democrats to take charge of the national government in 2020—despite the efforts of some Trump supporters to stop that from happening—Republican lawmakers built on the anger the former president had whipped up among his supporters to impose a Trumpian vision on their states.

They reworked election laws to solidify their hold on their state governments. According to the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab, so far 18 states have put in place more than 30 laws restricting access to the ballot. These laws will affect around 36 million people, or about 15% of all eligible voters. In Georgia, a new law means that county election boards will no longer be bipartisan but will be appointed by Republicans; other states are similarly stripping power from Democrats to put Republicans in charge.

The Media’s Continued Fascination of One Donald J. Trump

Commenter Mike Smith (?) has another good comment up in the Open Thread. I am putting him out here also in the main stream. Thanks Mike.

As media becomes more and more “boring” there is considerable ince time for news outlets to begin reporting from the sidelines again as Trump ramps up his 2024 campaign. Here in Texas, we already have people donating and flying Trump 2024 flags, Texans For Trump is all too often. As the Democrats yell at each other whether or not to break the filibuster, the Republicans are quietly consolidating power, and not so quietly changing the rules. 

As the rules are changed to make a highway to federal government have fewer speed bumps, the media will also start focusing yet again on the shenanigans coming from Trump rallies in the coming future. 

I say all of this because we have seen this before. The “no way he can be the nominee” folks who supported Hillary were then blindsided. The moderate democrats noticed one consistent thing that in 2015 looked like theater, but turned out to have predicted the outcome of 2016. Media coverage. 

The salacious nature of incendiary comments is ripe for click bait articles and headlines from both Fox and CNN. On one side the “can you believe he said ____” is then critiqued into crazy town to be put with all of the warped arrows in a closet. On the other side there is a “what he really means is” and is dutifully explained to whip up fear that leads to polling. 

My prediction is that the 2024 race will be Biden vs. Trump 2.0 where Biden will have 4 exhaustive years of presidential engagement, whilst the media whips up a frenzy and Trump begins to gain support at the Republican party works at the state level knowing that it will take years for SCOTUS to intervene in some of this new legislation that will guide the next election. Media coverage, highways with no off ramps, fear, and a stagnant economy with high unemployment is ripe for a demagogue takeover…once again. 

Cover All Births And Modernize Maternity Care

Medicare For All? Start At The Beginning: Cover All Births And Modernize Maternity Care | Health Affairs

It has been two years since I wrote on women’s healthcare and three important topics impacting women; clinical trials done without women participants, a failing birth control device – Essure, and maternal healthcare. The Health Affairs article is suggesting Medicare for all Maternal Care as an improvement to lacking healthcare for all women. Improving the availability of maternal healthcare for women is very much needed. As I wrote in A Woman’s Right to Safe Healthcare Outcomes; there is also a need for improving the care. There are too many symptoms being missed or ignored for the mother before, during, and after the birthing of a child.

Medicare is fee for service care. Medicare determines what will be paid. Those are the good parts. Dr. Donald Berwick claimed 30% of Medicare expenditures for care was waste and doctors knew it. However, Medicare for all Maternity is an important step forward which will level the field of care for “all” women.

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A Bit of History

EMTALA or the “Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act” passed Congress in 1986. Its purpose was to require hospitals to provide emergency care for everyone crossing hospital thresholds regardless of the ability to pay. It also provides a means to pay hospitals for those patients who could not afford to pay. With the passing of the PPACA, each person was to be insured in one form (Commercial Insurance) or another (Medicaid/Medicare). The Medicaid Expansion mandate for states fell by the wayside with the Roberts Court ruling. Going with it was the federal government reimbursing hospitals.

Within the EMTALA, Congress was establishing, delivering a baby was an exceptional occurrence with inherent risks, and in such cases, delivery needed to be covered. Unfortunately, universal coverage for pregnancy was never been achieved with the passage of this bill. Although not having insurance at the time of delivery is not common, more than one in five people lack insurance either in the month just before pregnancy, during pregnancy, or in the postpartum period. With that being said, there was no provision made before or after delivery other than Medicaid and Medicaid will only cover 2 months of postpartum care.

The EMTALA is part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 or COBRA. Mitch McConnell (elected to the Senate in 1984), passed the bill with a 96-0 vote when bipartisanship was in vogue. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill on April 7, 1986. 

Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed without Republican votes. Within the American Rescue plan are provisions providing states the option to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 to 365 days. The ARP had  unanimous support in the House as a stand-alone bill. While in the Senate, the support was not so strong and this time McConnell voted against healthcare for pregnant women. Also and as you may or not know, Republicans are attempting to use the funding for the American Rescue Plan to fund the proposed Infrastructure Plan.

Why is this so important?

Producer Prices Rises 0.8% in May

Producer Price Index YoY Records for Final Demand and Intermediate Services; 46 year High for Intermediate Goods, 48 year High for Raw Materials

Commenter RJS and MarketWatch 666 blogger

The seasonally adjusted Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand rose 0.8% in April, as prices for finished wholesale goods rose 1.5% while margins of final services providers rose 0.6%…that increase followed an April report that the PPI was 0.6% higher, as prices for both finished wholesale goods and margins of final services providers rose 0.6%, a March report that had the PPI 1.0% higher, as prices for finished wholesale goods rose 1.7% while margins of final services providers rose 0.7%, a revised February report that now has the PPI 0.6% higher, with prices for finished wholesale goods on average 1.4% higher, while margins of final services providers increased by 0.2%, and a re-revised January report that now has the PPI 1.2% higher, with average prices for finished wholesale goods rising 1.6%, while margins of final services providers increased by 1.0%….on an unadjusted basis, producer prices are now a record 6.8% higher than a year ago, up from the 6.2% year over year increase indicated by last month’s report, while, the core producer price index, which excludes food, energy and trade services, rose by 0.7% for the month, and is now 5.3% higher than in May a year ago, up from the 4.6% year over year increase as was shown in April . . .

A Bridge Over Troubled Water and Politics?

Commenter Fred Dobbs had much of this in the Open Thread, June 19th at 9:33AM. I highjacked it, added more up to date detail, and an opinion. I did find it interesting.

Somewhere there is a print(s) and BOM for this structure along with specifications (which were alluded to as BD vs BC steel) for materials along with a comparison of structural strength necessary. The Chinese did not build this on a whim.

And why Chinese steel and components?

Bay Bridge spokesperson Bart Ney disputed the accuracy of Paul’s claims and said 70 percent of the steel being used for the new span is fabricated in America. Ney said foreign companies are used out of necessity for some parts of the project.

“The primary contractor chose China to deliver those parts because the capacity is not here in the United States right now. There was no American fabricator that would build those specific parts of the bridge,”

Manufacturing Group Protests Chinese Steel Used in Bay Bridge Construction, KPIX CBS

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Bridge Comes to San Francisco With a Made-in-China Label

June 25, 2011

SHANGHAI — Talk about outsourcing. At a sprawling manufacturing complex here, hundreds of Chinese laborers are now completing work on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Next month, the last four of more than two dozen giant steel modules — each with a roadbed segment about half the size of a football field — will be loaded onto a huge ship and transported 6,500 miles to Oakland. There, they will be assembled to fit into the eastern span of the new Bay Bridge.

The project is part of China’s continual move up the global economic value chain — from cheap toys to Apple iPads to commercial jetliners — as it aims to become the world’s civil engineer. The assembly work in California, and the pouring of the concrete road surface, will be done by Americans. But construction of the bridge decks and the materials that went into them are a Made in China affair. California officials say the state saved hundreds of millions of dollars by turning to China.

May Retail Sales Fell 1.3% After April Sales Were Revised 1.4% Higher

Commenter RJS and MarketWatch 666 blogger

Seasonally adjusted retail sales fell 1.3% in May after retail sales for April were revised 1.4% higher . . . the Advance Retail Sales Report for May (pdf) from the Census Bureau estimated that our seasonally adjusted retail and food services sales totaled $620.2 billion for the month, which was a decrease of 1.3 percent (±0.5%) from April’s revised sales of $628.7 billion, but 28.1 percent (±0.7 percent) above the adjusted sales of May of last year…April’s seasonally adjusted sales were revised from the $619.9 billion reported last month to $628.7 billion, while March sales were revised from $619.8 billion to $623.12 billion, which meant that March to April percent change was revised from virtually unchanged (±0.5%) to an increase of 0.9 percent (± 0.2 percent) . . . the $3.3 billion upward revision to March sales should increase nominal first quarter PCE at around a $13 billion annual rate and add about 0.23 percentage points, give or take, to 1st quarter GDP when the 3rd estimate is released at the end of the month . . . estimated sales before seasonal adjustments, which were extrapolated from surveys of a small sampling of retailers, indicated sales actually rose 3.0% before the adjustment, from $625,636 million in April to $644,362 million in May, while they were up 27.7% from the $504,607 million in actual sales of May a year ago . . .

Included below is the table of the monthly and yearly percentage changes in sales by business type taken from the Census pdf….the first double column below gives us the seasonally adjusted percentage change in sales for each type of retail business from April to May in the first sub-column, and then the year over year percentage change for those businesses since last May in the 2nd column; the second pair of columns gives us the revision of last month’s April advance monthly estimates (now called “preliminary”) as revised with this report, likewise for each business type, with the March to April change under “Mar 2021 r” (revised) and the revised April 2020 to April 2021 percentage change in the last column shown…for your reference, our copy of the table of last month’s advance April estimates, before this month’s revision, is here . . .

No Risk for Children from Covid? ? ?

Just catching up on my healthcare readings and ran across an article in my email account from MedPage Today. The articles come on a daily basis and I also get them from Modern Healthcare (which limits articles), Health Affairs, NEJM, JAMA, etc. It is more than I could read at any one time unless, I give up more time to read and absorb them.

There has been much conversation and arguing on whether there should be vaccinations for children. I have been waiting for something addressing the issues by those opposing it in a clear, concise, manner including some medical reasoning. “Let’s Recognize Childhood COVID as the Crisis It Is,” MedPage Today, June 2021 appears to do such.

The calculus of risk changes drastically when considered from a public health lens, especially with considerations unique to children. 

“From 1999 to 2019, influenza was the eighth leading cause of death in children. Yet this season, one pediatric flu death has been documented. This year’s result is likely due to aggressive non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). In the same 2020-2021 season, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports (as of early June) 327 U.S. deaths in children, and the CDC reports 452 both due to COVID-19 (both are underestimates, as data is incomplete). In comparison and in ~ 1 year COVID-19, has killed twice as many children as influenza does most years, and hundreds more in the same interval of time, despite painstaking efforts to prevent infection.”

Let’s Recognize Childhood COVID as the Crisis It Is,” MedPage Today

COVID-19 is a leading cause of death amongst children.

SCOTUS Rules 7-2 in Favor of ACA

Writing for the majority on the ACA ruling, Justice Breyer:

“We do not reach these questions of the Act’s validity, Texas and the other plaintiffs in this suit lack the standing necessary to raise them.”

The lack of standing comes from:

“The states having brought the suit could not show that they will suffer any injury from the fact that some form of the mandate is still in effect, and threw out the lawsuit as a result.”

In the majority were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, accused the majority of ducking the constitutional issues that conservatives for years have argued make the federal healthcare overhaul unconstitutional.

More later:

Still a developing report and waiting on additional emerging details.

CALIFORNIA ET AL. v. TEXAS ET AL.

“An estimate of the impact of revisions to 1st Qtr GDP are here” . . . Commenter RJS

May Retail Sales Fell 1.3% After April Sales Were Revised 1.4% Higher

Seasonally adjusted retail sales fell 1.3% in May after retail sales for April were revised 1.4% higher . . . the Advance Retail Sales Report for May (pdf) from the Census Bureau estimated that our seasonally adjusted retail and food services sales totaled $620.2 billion for the month, which was a decrease of 1.3 percent (±0.5%) from April’s revised sales of $628.7 billion, but 28.1 percent (±0.7 percent) above the adjusted sales of May of last year . . . April’s seasonally adjusted sales were revised from the $619.9 billion reported last month to $628.7 billion, while March sales were revised from $619.8 billion to $623.12 billion, which meant that March to April percent change was revised from virtually unchanged (±0.5%) to an increase of 0.9 percent (± 0.2 percent) . . . the $3.3 billion upward revision to March sales should increase nominal first quarter PCE at around a $13 billion annual rate and add about 0.23 percentage points, give or take, to 1st quarter GDP when the 3rd estimate is released at the end of the month . . . estimated sales before seasonal adjustments, which were extrapolated from surveys of a small sampling of retailers, indicated sales actually rose 3.0% before the adjustment, from $625,636 million in April to $644,362 million in May, while they were up 27.7% from the $504,607 million in actual sales of May a year ago . . .

Included below is the table of the monthly and yearly percentage changes in sales by business type taken from the Census pdf . . . the first double column below gives us the seasonally adjusted percentage change in sales for each type of retail business from April to May in the first sub-column, and then the year over year percentage change for those businesses since last May in the 2nd column; the second pair of columns gives us the revision of last month’s April advance monthly estimates (now called “preliminary”) as revised with this report, likewise for each business type, with the March to April change under “Mar 2021 r” (revised) and the revised April 2020 to April 2021 percentage change in the last column shown . . . for your reference, our copy of the table of last month’s advance April estimates, before this month’s revision, is here . . .