Thomas Frank on Fake Populism & Silicon Valley Fantasies | Useful Idiots

Thomas Frank rejoins the show to talk about the past, present, and future of the Democratic party. Hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper look into the Trump rallies planned for this weekend.

There Should Be No Doubt Why Trump Nominated Amy Coney Barrett

Amy Coney Barrett, whom President Trump has nominated to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, was born in 1972, so she can expect to spend several decades shaping both American law and American life. As it happens, a year before Barrett’s birth, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., then a prominent lawyer in Richmond, Virginia, and later a Supreme Court Justice himself, wrote a now famous memorandum to the United States Chamber of Commerce, arguing that businesses needed to take a more aggressive hand in shaping public policy. “The American economic system is under broad attack,” he wrote, from, specifically, the consumer, environmental, and labor movements. He added that “the campus is the single most dynamic source” of that attack. To counter it, Powell suggested that business interests should make a major financial commitment to shaping universities, so that the “bright young men” of tomorrow would hear messages of support for the free-enterprise system. A little less than a decade later, a pair of law professors named Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia signed on as the first faculty advisers to a fledgling organization for conservative law students called the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. The efforts of the Federalist Society were lavishly funded by the business interests invoked by Powell, and it has trained a generation or two of future leaders. Not all of them have been “bright young men.” Some are women, including Barrett, and her confirmation would vindicate Powell’s plan and transform the Supreme Court.

Barrett made an appealing first impression in 2017, during her confirmation hearings to the federal bench. She and her husband are the parents of seven children. For many years, she was a popular professor at Notre Dame Law School, which she also attended and from which she graduated summa cum laude. She clerked on the Supreme Court for Justice Scalia. As a judge on the Seventh Circuit, she has been a reliable conservative voice. Even liberal peers in the academy find her personable. She will probably do well in providing the artful non-answers that are the currency of Supreme Court confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, just as she did in 2017.

But there should be no doubt about why Barrett has been chosen. Much of the commentary about her selection will focus on the issue of abortion, and her likely role in overturning Roe v. Wade. During the 2016 campaign, Trump repeatedly promised to appoint Justices who would vote to overrule that landmark, and with his three selections, including Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, he appears to have delivered. Barrett is not only a member of a conservative organization within the Catholic Church; her legal writings, and the views of some who know her, suggest that she would overturn Roe.

Still, it’s worth remembering the real priorities of Trump and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, in this nomination. They’re happy to accommodate the anti-abortion base of the Republican Party, but an animating passion of McConnell’s career has been the deregulation of political campaigns. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision brought the issue to wide public attention, but McConnell has been crusading about it for decades. He wants the money spigot kept open, so that he can protect his Senate majority and the causes for which it stands. This, too, is why the Federalist Society has been so lavishly funded over the years, and why it has expanded from a mere campus organization into a national behemoth for lawyers and students. Under Republican Presidents, Federalist Society events have come to operate as auditions for judicial appointments. The corporate interests funding the growth of the Federalist Society probably weren’t especially interested in abortion, but they were almost certainly committed to crippling the regulatory state.

Barrett is a product of this movement, and not just because she clerked for Scalia. Her writings and early rulings reflect it. Her financial-disclosure form shows that, in recent years, she has received about seven thousand dollars in honoraria from the Federalist Society and went on ten trips funded by it. But it’s not as if Barrett was bought; she was already sold. The judge has described herself as a “textualist” and an “originalist”—the same words of legal jargon that were associated with Scalia. (She believes in relying on the specific meaning of the words in statutes, not on legislators’ intent. She interprets the Constitution according to her belief in what the words meant when the document was ratified, not what the words mean now.) But these words are abstractions. In the real world, they operate as an agenda to crush labor unions, curtail environmental regulation, constrain the voting rights of minorities, limit government support for health care, and free the wealthy to buy political influence.

It should go without saying that the nomination and the expected confirmation of Barrett in the final days before a Presidential election represent a paramount act of hypocrisy for McConnell and the other Republicans who denied even a hearing to Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court, in 2016. But the fact that these Republicans are willing to risk that charge shows how important the Supreme Court is to them. Far more than a senator, a Supreme Court Justice can deliver on the agenda. The war on abortion is just the start.

Joseph Stiglitz: the Right’s China Policy was Designed to Raise Profits by Weakening Wages (Labor)

Joseph Eugene Stiglitz (/ˈstɪɡlɪts/; born February 9, 1943) is an American economist, public policy analyst, and a professor at Columbia University. He is a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2001) and the John Bates Clark Medal (1979).[2][3] He is a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank and is a former member and chairman of the (US president’s) Council of Economic Advisers.[4][5]
some ways I one has to recognize that
42:32
China may have been lucky they began the
42:37
development strategy just at the moment
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when the West was very open to importing
42:43
manufacturing goods it was a moment
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where because there were a large profit
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opportunities in the West that sustained
42:58
the opening with wrong without regard to
43:01
the effects and workers over the over
43:04
the effects and the overall economy so
43:09
in a way China’s success is testimony to
43:13
the failures of democratic politics in
43:16
the United States in Western Europe
43:19
because the rules the game were designed
43:26
worked to advantage American
43:29
corporations Western European
43:31
corporations with no attention paid to
43:37
the consequences to the workers as the
43:41
United States d industrialized now some
43:43
countries in Europe did pay attention
43:45
and they did have active labor market
43:49
policies that shifted workers from the
43:53
old sectors that were dying into the new
43:55
sectors and Scandinavia has been very
43:58
good in these active labor market
44:00
policies which I think are really
44:02
important in the United States we didn’t
44:06
do that even though economic theory said
44:11
opening up of trade between an
44:14
banks country like the United States and
44:16
China West events would result in lower
44:21
real incomes for unskilled workers
44:24
there’s a missing Stover theorem and it
44:28
was unambiguously clear even though we
44:31
were getting cheaper goods real incomes
44:34
of unskilled workers would go down and
44:36
it’s only if you had a mystical belief
44:39
in trickle-down economics would you
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think otherwise but our politicians did
44:44
have a mystical belief in trickle-down
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economics and they asserted this over
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and over again and so even when you know
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in the Democratic Party we tried to get
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Trade Adjustment Assistance we try to
44:59
have some active labor market policies
45:01
when we couldn’t because of concerns
45:04
about austerity and not enough budget
45:07
concerns they wouldn’t work we went
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ahead anyway there is a growing sense
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the United States though that actually
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the agenda on the right was to increase
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unemployment and suffering you say why
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would they anybody you know why do
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people want suffering well it was part
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of a concerted agenda if you look at to
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weaken the bargaining power of workers
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and drive down the wages which increases
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profits so if you look at this from a
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conservative point of view the reforms
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and our labor laws and reforms in the
45:51
way antitrust policy was enforced that
45:55
reform is a not the right word but
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changes in those laws changes in
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corporate governance and implicit
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understandings the legal frameworks and
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in the investment agreements in the
46:10
trade agreements the investment
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agreements they gave more secure
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property rights if American firms
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invested abroad than if they vested at
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home which meant that they were
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encouraged to invest abroad which also
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meant that if the firm if workers came
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to affirming
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we want higher wages and the firms know
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if you we give you if you continue to
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demand higher wages we’re going to leave
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that was more credible so I think it was
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a deliberate strategy to drive down the
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wages of workers and it worked in terms
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of the economics that I described before
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it did drive down the wages but it has
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now led to these this political backlash
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with which we are dealing so there is a
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relationship between China’s success and
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some of the problems that we’re facing
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it wasn’t inevitable we could have
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managed it better we should have managed
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it better but we didn’t but just as a
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footnote the point I’m making is that
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that was a particularly
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Africa won’t be able to follow the
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manufacturing export-led growth model
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that led to the success of East Asian
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countries including China in fact now
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globally manufacturing employment is in
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decline in any country that believes
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that manufacturing should be at the
47:46
center of their economic policy is
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misguided it can be part of it it can’t
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be at the center well let me just
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conclude by SEP some let me just
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conclude by a set of remarks about that
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in a way that pertain to all countries
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but we’re we’re china realized this in a
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way more forcefully than many others
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have and that is that reform is a
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never-ending process that societies are
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always changing technology’s changing
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and therefore the policies that are
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going to make a society successful have
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to change in a corresponding way
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for China China’s entering a new stage
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of development it’s facing critical
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problems of inequality health
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environment livable cities markets won’t
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solve those problems in fact many of
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those problems have been created by the
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fact that they had markets that were too
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unfettered to under-regulated
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they’re going to have to regulate them
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better there are further questions posed
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by changing globalization the
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recognition of the risks of excessive
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financialization the West
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I believe hasn’t succeeded in adequately
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taming financial markets as you know
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this is this week is the 10th
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anniversary Lehman Brothers and and a
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lot of people are talking about have we
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done enough I think it’s absolutely
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clear no and what’s particularly
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disturbing is the Trump administration
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is trying to undo the inadequate things
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that we’ve already done again I was at a
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dinner right before the inauguration of
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Trump where one of his chief economic
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advisors was there
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I don’t normally associate with his
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people might make it clearer but it was
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an embassy dinner so I and I didn’t know
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he was going to be there anyway
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and he was talking about how he was
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going to deregulate the financial sector
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within weeks after taking office and the
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first thing that struck me is he clearly
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had no idea of our democratic processes
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yeah he really thought you know Trump is
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the dictator he gets to write rewrite
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all the rules no no none of these
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processes that we put in place as
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democratic checks against authoritarian
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leaders no knowledge of that was just so
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clear but the second point I was going
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to ask what somebody who asked it before
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I did quizzically
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didn’t we have a crisis in 2008 and the
51:02
implicit answer was that was ancient
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history and we have to move on but it’s
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not ancient history and I think the
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risks are very much with us one of the
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concerns that I increasingly seeing in
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China is that as China grows the
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influence of vested interest will grow
51:28
and you can feel it already
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another just a little anecdote every
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year when I go to China I often talked
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to the finance minister and I’ve been
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pushing them to move away from their
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debt finance growth model to more tax
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financed in particular I’m telling them
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they need a carbon tax and it would
51:56
raise a lot of revenue it would help
51:59
clean up their air pollution exceed me
52:02
an obvious idea and the finance minister
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every year says great idea and he says
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we have some political problems which he
52:14
means the auto industry the coal
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industry this you know steel industry
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and so forth we’re gonna work on it next
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year we go through the same conversation
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as China has grown and it has taken on
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many of the features of a modern vested
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interest economy we’re getting change is
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becoming more difficult and that of
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course is is very worrisome but the
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principles that guided China in the
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first 40 years are likely to continue to
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be relevant and that by that I mean the
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pragmatism crossing the river by feeling
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this still stone they’re going to be new
53:02
problems not fully foreseen would that
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appear it will have to address these
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problems
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using insights from theory and past
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experience and the second critical point
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is openness there is much to be learned
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from experiences of others and from the
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ink sykes of non-ideological economic
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analysis and again we’re in a particular
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moment where I hate to keep coming back
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to the United States but we’re a little
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bit obsessed with with our problems one
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can’t help but reflect on the closed
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mindedness of our current administration
53:48
of not looking around you know if you
53:52
think you’re number one and you think
53:54
that you’re the there’s nothing to learn
53:57
from anybody else that is part of the
54:02
beginning of the end so we hope that
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this is just a temporary interlude but
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as we reflect on what makes I know
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successful in the ways it is I think
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there are a lot of lessons for all of us
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to think about how we can make our own
54:21
economy successful for all of us thank
54:24
you
54:30

Meet the Renegades: Michael Hudson

With every major financial recovery since the second World War beginning in a place of greater debt than the one before it, how could we not have foreseen the financial crisis of 2008? In this episode of Meet the Renegades, economics professor and author, Michael Hudson argues we did.

How could an economy that created so much debt also save the banks rather than the economy itself, following the 2008 financial crisis? Michael discusses the phenomenon of debt inflation and how the economic curriculum should change.

“If you’re teaching economics, you should begin with the relationship between finance and the economy, between the build up of debt and the ability to pay.”

Michael discusses the ‘Great Moderation’, a common misrepresentation of a healthy economy in which job productivity was increasing, labor complacency was at an all-time low was a complete myth. Michael argues that ‘traumatized’ workers were too in debt to fight for better working conditions leading up to the 2008 financial crisis and how this reflects neo-classical ideas.

Michael offers solutions – urging the importance of writing down the debt and keeping basic services in the public sector, ridding the economy of financial tumors through a proper tax policy based upon the this public sector model.

Don’t Let Wall Street STEAL Your Dreams and Your Retirement – Robert Kiyosaki [Millennial Money]

Depending on your 401 (K) or your pension is a recipe for retirement disaster! America is facing a retirement crisis and every day there are more and more victims of this corruption.

Yes, America Is Rigged Against Workers

No other industrial country treats its working class so badly. And there’s one big reason for that.

The United States is the only advanced industrial nation that doesn’t have national laws guaranteeing paid maternity leave. It is also the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee workers any vacation, paid or unpaid, and the only highly developedcountry (other than South Korea) that doesn’t guarantee paid sick days. In contrast, the European Union’s 28 nations guarantee workers at least four weeks’ paid vacation.

Among the three dozen industrial countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has the lowest minimum wage as a percentage of the median wage — just 34 percent of the typical wage, compared with 62 percent in France and 54 percent in Britain. It also has the second-highest percentage of low-wage workers among that group, exceeded only by Latvia.

All this means the United States suffers from what I call “anti-worker exceptionalism.”

Academics debate why American workers are in many ways worse off than their counterparts elsewhere, but there is overriding agreement on one reason: Labor unions are weaker in the United States than in other industrial nations. Just one in 16 private-sector American workers is in a union, largely because corporations are so adept and aggressive at beating back unionization. In no other industrial nation do corporations fight so hard to keep out unions.

The consequences are enormous, not only for wages and income inequality, but also for our politics and policymaking and for the many Americans who are mistreated at work.

To be sure, unions have their flaws, from corruption to their history of racial and sex discrimination. Still, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson write of an important, unappreciated feature of unions in “Winner-Take-All Politics”: “While there are many ‘progressive’ groups in the American universe of organized interests, labor is the only major one focused on the broad economic concerns of those with modest incomes.”

As workers’ power has waned, many corporations have adopted practices that were far rarer — if not unheard-of — decades ago:

  • hiring hordes of unpaid interns,
  • expecting workers to toil 60 or 70 hours a week,
  • prohibiting employees from suing and instead forcing them into arbitration (which usually favors employers), and
  • hamstringing employees’ mobility by making them sign noncompete clauses.

America’s workers have for decades been losing out:

  • year after year of wage stagnation, i
  • ncreased insecurity on the job,
  • waves of downsizing and offshoring, and
  • labor’s share of national income declining to its lowest level in seven decades.

Numerous studies have found that an important cause of America’s soaring income inequality is the decline of labor unions — and the concomitant decline in workers’ ability to extract more of the profit and prosperity from the corporations they work for. The only time during the past century when income inequality narrowed substantially was the 1940s through 1970s, when unions were at their peak of power and prominence.

Many Americans are understandably frustrated. That’s one reason the percentage who say they want to join a union has risen markedly. According to a 2018 M.I.T. study, 46 percent of nonunion workers say they would like to be in a union, up from 32 percent in 1995. Nonetheless, just 10.5 percent of all American workers, and only 6.4 percent of private-sector workers, are in unions.

But this desire to unionize faces some daunting challenges. In many corporations, the mentality is that any supervisor, whether a factory manager or retail manager, who fails to keep out a union is an utter failure. That means managers fight hard to quash unions. One study found that

  • 57 percent of employers threatened to close operations when workers sought to unionize, while
  • 47 percent threatened to cut wages or benefits and
  • 34 percent fired union supporters during unionization drives.

Corporate executives’ frequent failure to listen to workers’ concerns — along with the intimidation of employees — can have deadly results. On April 5, 2010, a coal dust explosion killed 29 miners at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia. A federal investigation found that the mine’s ventilation system was inadequate and that explosive gases were allowed to build up. Workers at the nonunion mine knew about these dangers. “No one felt they could go to management and express their fears,” Stanley Stewart, an Upper Big Branch miner, told a congressional committee. “We knew we’d be marked men and the management would look for ways to fire us.”

The diminished power of unions and workers has skewed American politics, helping give billionaires and corporations inordinate sway over America’s politics and policymaking. In the 2015-16 election cycle, business outspent labor $3.4 billion to $213 million, a ratio of 16 to 1, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. All of the nation’s unions, taken together, spend about $48 million a year for lobbying in Washington, while corporate America spends $3 billion. Little wonder that many lawmakers seem vastly more interested in cutting taxes on corporations than in raising the minimum wage.

There were undoubtedly many reasons for Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, but a key one was that many Americans seemed to view him as a protest candidate, promising to shake up “the system” and “drain the swamp.” Many voters embraced Mr. Trump because they believed his statements that the system is rigged — and in many ways it is. When it comes to workers’ power in the workplace and in politics, the pendulum has swung far toward corporations.

Reversing that won’t be easy, but it is vital we do so. There are myriad proposals to restore some balance, from having workers elect representatives to corporate boards to making it easier for workers to unionize to expanding public financing of political campaigns to prevent wealthy and corporate donors from often dominating.

America’s workers won’t stop thinking the system is rigged until they feel they have an effective voice in the workplace and in policymaking so that they can share in more of the economy’s prosperity to help improve their — and their loved ones’ — lives.

Why Silicon Valley Loved Uber More Than Everyone Else

Uber was the most valuable private company in history, but the public market has not been as enthusiastic. The reason explains a lot about how the tech industry works.

But some of it should go to Silicon Valley’s cultural divergence from the business reality. Investors loved the company not as an operating unit, but as an idea about how the world should be. Uber’s CEO was brash and would do whatever it took. His company’s attitude toward the government was dismissive and defiant. And its model of how society should work, especially how labor supply should meet consumer demand, valorized the individual, as if Milton Friedman’s dreams coalesced into a company. “It’s almost the perfect tech company, insofar as it allocates resources in the physical world and corrects some real inefficiencies,” the Uber investor Naval Ravikant told San Francisco magazine in 2014.