Just because the Swamp is “Normal” doesn’t mean it is OK

Saagar Enjeti blasts Biden’s potential administration after reports from The American Prospect detail how strategic consultants will define Biden’s cabinet.

Cited Piece

The American Prospect: How Biden’s Foreign-Policy Team Got Rich

00:00
all right Sagar what’s on your radar
00:01
well the RealClearPolitics average has
00:03
Joe Biden up 8.7% Achon average over the
00:07
last three weeks nationally and in every
00:09
single battleground state and yesterday
00:11
we featured this map on the show it
00:13
shows that the upper bound of what is
00:16
electoral possibility in November is a
00:18
massive electoral landslide none of this
00:21
is a guarantee as we learned in 2016 but
00:24
what does it mean is that we have to
00:26
start taking very seriously what it
00:29
actually means for Joe Biden to become
00:31
President of the United States and
00:33
commander-in-chief this is especially
00:35
relevant after the most recent deep
00:37
state plot to derail Afghan peace
00:39
negotiations and the bipartisan push to
00:41
keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan
00:43
for no reason our friends over at the
00:45
American Prospect gave us a distressing
00:47
look into what exactly we’re dealing
00:49
with here on the national security front
00:51
if Biden ever ascends to the Oval Office
00:54
and just how deep the swamp will extend
00:57
inside the prospect details how to close
01:00
Biden associates Anthony blinken and
01:02
Michele Flournoy decided to start a
01:04
boutique consulting firm for defense
01:06
contractors and fortune 100 companies
01:09
after they unexpectedly found themselves
01:11
without a job in here with Hillary
01:13
Clinton’s administration blinken and
01:15
flora Noyes practice entails helping
01:17
tech companies try to get Pentagon
01:19
contracts helping defense contractors
01:21
get more contracts and basically
01:23
advertising itself as a one-stop
01:25
consulting shop for any massive
01:27
corporation that wants help influencing
01:29
the national security or diplomatic
01:31
swamp now in a particularly galling
01:33
section of their website the pair
01:35
literally advertise that they can help
01:37
major companies quote develop a strategy
01:39
for expanding market access in China
01:42
blinken and Flournoy are not going to be
01:45
low-level aides in a Biden
01:46
administration floor annoy was well
01:49
known in Washington to be the next
01:51
Secretary of Defense in waiting under
01:53
hillary clinton administration i
01:54
personally attended an event with her
01:57
and biden in 2016 in which biden
02:00
jokingly called her Madame secretary and
02:02
which she jokingly referred to Biden as
02:04
mr. president blinken on the other hand
02:06
was deputy national security adviser
02:08
under Obama and a Deputy Secretary of
02:11
State
02:12
recent Biden campaign event he was
02:15
introduced as quote senior foreign
02:17
policy advisor and the rest of Biden’s
02:19
foreign policy team is exactly the same
02:21
as the prospect lists including Nicholas
02:23
burns of the Coen Group Kurt Campbell of
02:26
the Asia group Tom Donilon of Blackrock
02:29
Investment Institute Wendy Sherman of
02:32
the Albright Stonebridge group and
02:34
former Hillary adviser Jake Sherman of
02:36
macro advisory partners you beginning to
02:39
sense a theme here former very high
02:41
ranking national security officials now
02:43
working as outright consultants for
02:45
finance Sears and Chinese companies and
02:47
defense contract or companies who take
02:49
those people on as clients does any of
02:52
this bother Joe Biden
02:53
well when the prospect asked his
02:55
campaign for comment this is what they
02:57
had to say quote there’s a difference
03:00
between consulting and lobbying and that
03:03
here’s a pretty strong line there so
03:05
presumably we don’t have to have a ban
03:07
on people who were consultants at one
03:09
time on another since I am one myself it
03:12
is just too good to be true
03:14
what’s disgusting about this is the pure
03:17
nakedness of it all Michele Flournoy as
03:20
they point out literally serves on the
03:21
presidential intelligence advisory on
03:23
the CIA directors external advisory
03:26
board on the Pentagon’s defense policy
03:28
board she has access to very classified
03:30
and important information who knows what
03:32
she is and isn’t using to influence her
03:35
advice to the most powerful corporations
03:37
in the world under Biden they will this
03:40
is only going to ramp up a member of the
03:42
firm that floor annoyin blinken found it
03:44
even admitted to the prospect that Biden
03:46
would be great for business saying quote
03:48
think about it if Biden were to win we
03:50
do think that companies will start
03:52
coming to West exec for hey what is the
03:55
Commerce Secretary thinking the clear
03:57
picture we’re getting here Biden and his
03:59
team is that they’re not rigidly
04:01
ideological if they were outright
04:03
neo-cons
04:04
in a way I would respect it more but
04:06
worse they are transactional neo
04:08
liberals who will tell you with a
04:10
straight face that they believe in
04:12
making the country a better place while
04:13
enriching themselves off perpetuating
04:16
the status quo that can’t afford to get
04:18
out of Afghanistan because it would hurt
04:20
their clients they can’t afford to pull
04:23
back from Europe because it would hurt
04:24
their a bit
04:25
consult companies who want to do
04:27
business with NATO the grifting list is
04:30
on and on and on and the wholesale
04:33
ownership of Biden’s foreign policy team
04:34
by this system and his inability to push
04:37
back against it is a signature of some
04:40
very troubled times to come in the next
04:42
four years if he ever ascends to the
04:45
presidency and crystal I mean I don’t
04:47
know if you read this piece but it is
04:48
stunning because it’s not just blinking
04:50
and floran wise he points out every
04:52
single person works for some consultancy
04:55
group and then not even that it’s just
04:57
it’s the naked lack of reporting why
04:59
does this have to come from a
05:01
progressive left outlet you should in
05:03
the new york times be investigating this
05:05
is manna ford stone level stuff right
05:07
yeah they don’t care because it’s just
05:09
normal it’s like a normal grift of
05:11
washout yet that everybody is just like
05:13
oh yeah you know she made a couple
05:14
million bucks here a couple million
05:16
bucks they’re gonna be the next defense
05:17
secretary who knows how many contracts
05:19
gonna steer their way to somebody’s
05:21
friend oh good just normal now they’re
05:23
like the fish swimmin in the ocean they
05:25
can’t see the water this is just like
05:26
the way things are done indeed I mean it
05:29
reminds me a lot of you know when we
05:31
were talking about hunter Biden
05:35
congressman Ted Louise like people serve
05:37
on boards right make money the fact that
05:41
is normal doesn’t mean it’s okay that
05:43
actually makes it so much worse and I
05:46
really encourage people to go read this
05:48
piece it’s it’s such an important look
05:50
inside the way that policy is actually
05:53
made and the human beings who are at the
05:56
table and the interest sometimes that
05:58
are secret by the way they’re not
06:00
upfront about life they don’t have I’m
06:03
also you know I’m also working with
06:04
Northrop Grumman just so you know so
06:06
when I’m advocating for like this
06:07
missile system that they have to make
06:09
you might want to know that piece of
06:11
information I mean that is literally
06:12
laid out in this piece and it is
06:15
completely common operating procedure in
06:17
this town so on the one hand it’s just
06:19
like it’s so normal that they don’t even
06:21
think to report on it and look into who
06:24
the individuals are who they represent
06:26
how that might influence their policy
06:28
and on the other hand the other piece of
06:30
this is like so much of our political
06:32
coverage I touched on this yesterday
06:34
when we were talking about Susan Rice’s
06:35
potential VP
06:37
or any of the other potential VP picks
06:39
it’s all just treated as horserace yes
06:42
and personality driven and like
06:44
demographic driven like what boxes do
06:46
they check rather than actually digging
06:49
into the substance and the policy and
06:51
what that might mean for an
06:52
administration especially when you do
06:54
have someone like Joe Biden that’s the
06:55
other piece that’s interesting here is
06:57
they talk about the way that he’s a
06:58
perch for the policy it sounds actually
07:00
a lot like Trump yeah it’s very
07:02
personality driven he has this like
07:03
glad-hand approach he he believes in
07:06
these personal relationships many of
07:08
which have gotten him into a lot of
07:09
trouble in terms of his decision-making
07:11
trusting people and leaders that he
07:13
really has arrested one of the best
07:15
parts of the piece yeah about I forgot
07:17
actually this because this is my
07:18
background he was the guy who backed
07:21
Nuri al-maliki right Iran who is the
07:24
person who started a sectarian civil war
07:26
gave rise to Isis Andrew into the
07:29
country after he was like his but yeah
07:33
and it was like fighting walked into
07:34
Iraq thinking he was dealing with to
07:36
Delaware political bosses is like yeah
07:38
it turns out the sunni-shia conflict is
07:40
a lot more complicated right and then
07:42
maybe we should apply a little bit more
07:43
intellectual rigor there that is
07:45
actually the piece that worries the most
07:47
because you can see it right now on
07:48
Afghanistan because Biden and his team
07:51
are like Oh Trump wants to get out of
07:52
Afghanistan they’re gonna abandon Biden
07:55
has a record of pushing restraint in
07:57
Afghanistan his entire record was saying
07:59
hey don’t do this let’s do the
08:00
counterterrorism thing even in 2006-2007
08:03
he was writing op-eds against the surge
08:05
which is a long history of being anti
08:08
intervention whenever that was the
08:09
politically convenient kind of
08:11
contrarian thing to do right but this
08:12
goes to show with Susan Rice doing the
08:15
Afghanistan thing and I played his
08:17
comments here over last week we talked
08:18
about dereliction of duty for Trump and
08:20
all of that about how we have to stand
08:22
up to the Russians I just that’s when
08:23
you really knew this is a truly
08:25
transactional non-ideological figure who
08:28
will go wherever the winds blow that is
08:30
a disaster that is how you got Libya
08:33
Libya was the politically convenient
08:35
thing to do how did it work out for
08:37
everybody right maybe it would’ve been
08:38
better to have somebody hot saying yeah
08:40
nobody talks about that one well and
08:42
here’s something too exactly like what
08:44
you’re saying when you
08:45
have someone who doesn’t have like a
08:47
fixed ideology that they’re committed to
08:50
or an agenda overseas that they’re
08:52
committed to then the people that you’re
08:54
talking about here blink it in Flournoy
08:55
and all the rest they’re the ones that
08:57
fill in the gaps they’re the ones that
08:59
actually drive the policy then once it’s
09:00
set the range of options that are
09:02
available so just like we’ve seen with
09:04
Trump where he’s like I want to get out
09:06
of out get it like that’s just not even
09:07
an option that’s put in on the table
09:09
they’re like your options are you can
09:10
increase by five thousand ten thousand
09:12
or seventy-five thousand right it’s like
09:13
but I want to get out I don’t understand
09:15
that’s how they get you that’s what they
09:17
do every single time it’s and it’s not
09:19
just and some of these people are
09:21
ideological and then some of them just
09:23
have you know personal professional and
09:25
monetary direct monetary interests in
09:28
serving this particular role because
09:30
yeah why that well look if they go in
09:32
the administration they’ll cut all the
09:33
ties specifically those industries
09:35
they’ve got all those connections still
09:37
they know where their breads gonna be
09:38
buttered after they exit the
09:40
administration so don’t think that just
09:42
because they technically cut ties at
09:44
that point means that they have really
09:46
like the independence of thought doesn’t
09:48
even matter they admit it they’re on off
09:50
basically on background to this prospect
09:52
reporter being like yeah you know if
09:54
Biden being the president that’d be
09:55
great for us great for people we’ll call
09:57
for us and be like what is the former
09:58
West deck partner who’s now the Commerce
10:01
Secretary think about X that is worth
10:03
billions to companies right if they’re
10:05
like hey we need to know which way the
10:07
administration is probably going to
10:08
swing on the new Chinese tariffs that is
10:10
literally worth hundreds of billions of
10:12
dollars same on the defense secretary if
10:14
they’re gonna on Yemen that was the
10:15
example that was given there whenever
10:17
she was talking about how Michele
10:18
Flournoy was advocating I think of more
10:21
Patriot missiles for for Saudi Arabia
10:23
she failed to disclose we’re not
10:25
disclosed nobody knows she won’t even
10:27
admit which defense contractor she works
10:29
for and wouldn’t deny that Raytheon who
10:32
manufactures these Patriot missiles was
10:34
one of her company the only thing they
10:36
would say is quote one of the defense
10:38
primes which is one of the five largest
10:40
defense codes and they said like it’s
10:41
one of their contracts it’s in the
10:43
ballpark
10:43
know if you really want to understand
10:45
why we have the foreign policy that we
10:48
have why we keep getting into these
10:49
conflicts overseas that we can that’s
10:51
what once we get in that you can never
10:53
ever get yourself out of this piece
10:55
really lays
10:57
like the nitty-gritty of how that works
10:59
and look it is the norm basically almost
11:02
without exception with a few outlier
11:05
exceptions almost anyone who ended up in
11:07
the presidency these the type of people
11:09
who would come in and it’s by partisan I
11:12
mean the same ideology the same monetary
11:15
interest pervades both parties we saw it
11:17
with the Afghanistan peace that we
11:19
covered yesterday the amount of support
11:21
in Congress bipartisan support to
11:24
prevent the president from drawing down
11:26
troops in Afghanistan a place that we
11:28
have been for years and years and years
11:30
and where American lives are still being
11:32
put at risk for what for what this piece
11:37
really lays out like the internal
11:39
details of how exactly that girl highly
11:41
recommend everybody read it and I’m
11:43
looking forward to your raid our next
11:44
crystal

Progressive Capitalism Is Not an Oxymoron

We can save our broken economic system from itself.

Despite the lowest unemployment rates since the late 1960s, the American economy is failing its citizens. Some 90 percent have seen their incomes stagnate or decline in the past 30 years. This is not surprising, given that the United States has the highest level of inequality among the advanced countries and one of the lowest levels of opportunity — with the fortunes of young Americans more dependent on the income and education of their parents than elsewhere.

But things don’t have to be that way. There is an alternative: progressive capitalism. Progressive capitalism is not an oxymoron; we can indeed channel the power of the market to serve society.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s regulatory “reforms,” which reduced the ability of government to curb the excesses of the market, were sold as great energizers of the economy. But just the opposite happened: Growth slowed, and weirder still, this happened in the innovation capital of the world.

The sugar rush produced by President Trump’s largess to corporations in the 2017 tax law didn’t deal with any of these long-run problems, and is already fading. Growth is expected to be a little under 2 percent next year.

This is where we’ve descended to, but not where we have to stay. A progressive capitalism based on an understanding of what gives rise to growth and societal well-being gives us a way out of this quagmire and a way up for our living standards.

Standards of living began to improve in the late 18th century for two reasons:

  1. the development of science (we learned how to learn about nature and used that knowledge to increase productivity and longevity) and
  2. developments in social organization (as a society, we learned how to work together, through institutions like the rule of law, and democracies with checks and balances).

Key to both were systems of assessing and verifying the truth. The real and long-lasting danger of the Trump presidency is the risk it poses to these pillars of our economy and society, its attack on the very idea of knowledge and expertise, and its hostility to institutions that help us discover and assess the truth.

There is a broader social compact that allows a society to work and prosper together, and that, too, has been fraying. America created the first truly middle-class society; now, a middle-class life is increasingly out of reach for its citizens.

America arrived at this sorry state of affairs because we forgot that the true source of the wealth of a nation is the creativity and innovation of its people. One can get rich either by adding to the nation’s economic pie or by grabbing a larger share of the pie by exploiting others — abusing, for instance, market power or informational advantages. We confused the hard work of wealth creation with wealth-grabbing (or, as economists call it, rent-seeking), and too many of our talented young people followed the siren call of getting rich quickly.

Beginning with the Reagan era, economic policy played a key role in this dystopia: Just as forces of globalization and technological change were contributing to growing inequality, we adopted policies that worsened societal inequities. Even as economic theories like information economics (dealing with the ever-present situation where information is imperfect), behavioral economics and game theory arose to explain why markets on their own are often not efficient, fair, stable or seemingly rational, we relied more on markets and scaled back social protections.

We are now in a vicious cycle: Greater economic inequality is leading, in our money-driven political system, to more political inequality, with weaker rules and deregulation causing still more economic inequality.

If we don’t change course matters will likely grow worse, as machines (artificial intelligence and robots) replace an increasing fraction of routine labor, including many of the jobs of the several million Americans making their living by driving.

The prescription follows from the diagnosis: It begins by recognizing the vital role that the state plays in making markets serve society. We need regulations that ensure strong competition without abusive exploitation, realigning the relationship between corporations and the workers they employ and the customers they are supposed to serve. We must be as resolute in combating market power as the corporate sector is in increasing it.

If we had curbed exploitation in all of its forms and encouraged wealth creation, we would have had a more dynamic economy with less inequality. We might have curbed the opioid crisis and avoided the 2008 financial crisis. If we had done more to blunt the power of oligopolies and strengthen the power of workers, and if we had held our banks accountable, the sense of powerlessness might not be so pervasive and Americans might have greater trust in our institutions.

The neoliberal fantasy that unfettered markets will deliver prosperity to everyone should be put to rest. It is as fatally flawed as the notion after the fall of the Iron Curtain that we were seeing “the end of history” and that we would all soon be liberal democracies with capitalist economies.

Most important, our exploitive capitalism has shaped who we are as individuals and as a society. The rampant dishonesty we’ve seen from Wells Fargo and Volkswagen or from members of the Sackler family as they promoted drugs they knew were addictive — this is what is to be expected in a society that lauds the pursuit of profits as leading, to quote Adam Smith, “as if by an invisible hand,” to the well-being of society, with no regard to whether those profits derive from exploitation or wealth creation.

 

Dividers, Not Uniters

In a new book, Steve Kornacki looks back at the 1990s — and finds the roots of today’s polarization in the Clintons’ ascent.

..  the 1990s was until recently an invisible decade. “The holiday from history,” it was called, a “lull” where nothing much really happened, a candy-colored coma between the Berlin Wall’s fall on 11/9 and the 9/11 attacks less than a dozen years later.

.. The Red and the Blue, is a political procedural that sets out to explain how we went from giga-landslides in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s to Electoral College squeakers today, how Republicans disappeared from the coasts and Democrats died their final deaths in the South and Midwest.

.. it benefits from the context provided by Trump’s ascent, which has clarified that one big reason we’re seemingly reliving the 1930s today is because both the Left and Right spent the 1990s and early 2000s rehashing the culture wars of the 1960s and early ’70s.

.. Because cable and the Internet have so completely transformed American culture over the past two or three decades, it’s easy to forget (and younger people can’t even remember) just how norm-shattering Bill Clinton was, compared to the Greatest and Silent Generation leaders who came before him. To social conservatives and foreign-policy hawks, Clinton’s election was downright triggering, and deserved nothing less than full-on #Resistance. Historian Steven Gillon famously interviewed one who succinctly fumed that Clinton was “a womanizing, Elvis-loving, non-inhaling, truth-shading, draft-dodging, war-protesting, abortion-protecting, gay-promoting, gun-hating Baby Boomer!”

.. aside from Gary Hart, whose ill-fated career was recently reexamined in the Jason Reitman movie The Front Runner, America hadn’t had a youthful, truly sexualized major-party presidential nominee since JFK — until Clinton came along.

  • .. The Federal Reserve’s preference for financialization and neoliberalism was at its very peak under the influence of Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan.
  • Nearly half of Americans still thought “sodomy” — never mind same-sex marriage or civil unions — should be illegal.
  • And while America was pro-choice, huge percentages of voters demanded restrictions to abortion-on-demand.

The Red and the Blue gives an excellent Gen-X-plaining of just how systemically, institutionally, and culturally impossible it would have been for Democrats to move even farther leftward than they did back then — of how much damage their “too far left” brand had done to the party in the ’80s and of the disastrous political consequences of Bill Clinton’s attempts to govern from the left in 1993–94, as epitomized by Hillary’s attempt at health-care reform. He reminds his readers with his trademark aptitude for facts and figures that America in the 1990s was still very much living in what Sean Wilentz called The Age of Reagan.

.. He manages, for example, to nail the most salient point of the abusive relationship between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich: that it was at heart a love story, and/or a co-dependency worthy of Dr. Phil. One man could simply not have managed to stay in office without the other.

.. It was Clinton hatred on the social right that gave us Gingrich, and it was Gingrich’s surefire ability to trigger the libs that protected Clinton year in and year out. “Do you want him – or me?” became the basic campaign pitch of both men.

.. his Officer Friendly approach to the media is just too naïve by half, especially for someone who is a cable-news host with considerable experience in online journalism. In Kornacki’s telling, reporters merely report, offering just the facts or serving as quickie Greek choruses and footnote sources. This might work for a tenth-grade term paper, but for a book that seeks to illuminate the decade that saw the rise of the Internet, the birth of Fox News, unprecedented media consolidation, and what Eric Alterman called “the punditocracy” at the height of its influence, it’s entirely inadequate.

From highly influential anti-Great Society “Atari Democrats” like
  • Michael Kinsley,
  • Joe Klein,
  • Sidney Blumenthal, and
  • Robert Samuelson and proudly un-PC pundits like
  • Camille Paglia,
  • Ben Wattenberg,
  • Bill Maher, and
  • Andrew Sullivan to donor-funded think tanks like
  • Heritage and
  • Cato, an entire intellectual infrastructure was shaping the national narrative for what became Third Way Clintonism well before the Clinton era began. Yet most of these people and institutions do not even appear in Kornacki’s index, or if they do, they’re curtly dispensed with in one or two lines.

.. It’s possible that with Donald Trump’s attacks on the press (and with some people using criticism of “the media” as an anti-Semitic dog whistle), Kornacki didn’t want to even go there.

.. But a book on 1990s polarization that omits Steve Jobs, Roger Ailes, and Bill Gates from its index? One that effectively ignores the O.J. trial, Maureen Dowd’s gendered, campy, sexist (certainly by today’s standards), Pulitzer-winning coverage of Monicagate, and Clarence Thomas vs. Anita Hill?

.. writers as far apart as Ann Coulter and Eric Alterman blamed Al Gore’s loss in 2000 on the media’s hatred of him (and his hatred of them)?

.. Limbaugh’s pioneering tactic (soon perfected by Gingrich, Coulter, and Karl Rove) of branding anyone whose politics were even slightly to the left of, say, Sandra Day O’Connor or Dianne Feinstein, as a Loony Liberal, Radical Leftist, or Femi-Nazi. From Clinton and Dubya well into the Obama years, red-meat conservatives intentionally fuzzed the line between corporate social-liberals and the true hard left of Michael Moore, Pacifica Radio, and Thomas Frank, and Kornacki captures their strategy perfectly.

.. Aside from the Obamas themselves, no other politician would even remotely disrupt or challenge Clintonistas’ hold on the Democratic party for another ten or 15 years. But Clintonism could only continue as long as the true far-left remained repressed, and as long as the economy kept humming.
.. When a fist-shaking socialist senator from Vermont lined up an army of Millennials in formation behind him eight years after the dawn of the Great Recession caused in no small part by Clinton-era financial policy, it became crystal clear that Newt Gingrich had won the war.
.. When they exited the White House, the Clintons left behind a Democratic party that working class, rural, and/or religious whites had become almost allergic to, one more dependent on African-American and Latino voters than ever.
.. Donald Trump cruised to triumph in 2016 using all of the dog whistles and wedge issues that Gingrich, Rove, Buchanan, and Ross Perot had refined to perfection.
.. And just as education-conscious, socially liberal white professionals reacted against Gingrich’s and Buchanan’s reactionary rhetoric in the late ’90s, Trump’s Republican party has now been effectively evicted from places as once-synonymous with the GOP as Long Island, Maine, New Jersey, San Diego, and Orange County.

Anthony Kennedy’s Imperial Legacy

In the American republic’s slow transformation into a judicial-executive dyarchy, with a vestigial legislature that lets the major controversies get settled by imperial presidents and jurists, Anthony Kennedy occupied a particularly important role.

He was appointed to the Supreme Court at a time when the Republican Party was officially interested in curbing judicial activism and restoring power to the elected branches of government. As the court’s swing vote, though, he instead consolidated the judiciary’s imperial role — taking the expansive powers claimed by judicial liberals in the Warren era and turning them to his own purposes, his own vision of the common good.

He did this without a particularly coherent constitutional theory

.. showing neither humility nor rigor in his ultimate decisions

.. overruling state and federal law more frequently than any justice to his right or left, pontificating in sweeping and self-righteous and faux-poetic prose

.. seeking to establish the court as the decisive and unifying authority for a sprawling and divided country.

.. Without being a completely consistent libertarian, he was a general champion of freedom

.. Kennedy was the modern court’s most “neoliberal” justice, embracing corporate freedom and sexual freedom as a kind of unity, attacking restraints on campaign spending and mandates to buy health insurance in the same spirit as restrictions on pornography or flag-burning or abortion.

.. I admired Scalia’s originalism precisely because it establishes plausible (if, of course, debatable) limits on judicial activism

.. Even when he was right on the merits of an issue, he was still too aggrandizing, too eager to impose his own judgment, too quick to short-circuit legislative debates.

.. what he delivered was, in some sense, what both the political class and the public increasingly desire from their government: not republican deliberation but quasi-monarchical action.

.. judicial activism increasingly fills the empty space created by legislative sclerosis and political cowardice

.. unwillingness of elected representatives to act on controversial issues.

.. tried to act as the “good emperor” that our decadent system and polarized country may require — by balancing his own liberal rulings on abortion and same-sex marriage, for instance, with subsequent decisions that allowed some space for pro-life activism and protected some religious liberties against the anti-clericalism of the left.

.. even if you accept that our country increasingly craves a kind of stabilizing central power, Kennedy’s freedom-first synthesis did not succeed in supplying it.

.. Instead, our age of opioids and suicide and sterility, and the heartland populists and Bronxian socialists that anomie has conjured up, strongly indicates that his neoliberal model needs correction — that the freedom of capital and genitals is not enough for human flourishing, that community and solidarity need to have their day, even if it comes at the expense of certain liberties and transcendentalist idylls.

.. John Roberts, Kennedy’s likely successor as our First Archon, is better suited than his predecessor to the imperial task. We know that Roberts is more temperamentally cautious than Kennedy

.. he’s both more friendly to religious conservatism (witness his Obergefell vote) and more willing to

let social-democratic policymaking stand (witness his vote to save Obamacare).

 

The Breakdown of the Capital-Labor Accord and Okun’s Law

we talk a lot about the “post-war capital-labor accord” and the golden age of the 1940s-1970s. In these years, inequality went down, unions flourished, civil rights laws were passed along with LBJ’s Great Society programs like Medicare, etc. Corporations saw themselves as not just profit-seeking nexuses-of-contracts but also as institutions with duties to their stakeholders – employees, local community organizations, etc.

.. Then everything went to hell in the 1970s. Oil shocks, poor economic performance, large increases in foreign competition, an overheated economy created by the meeting of increased social spending and increased military spending, all combined to create massive inflation and other sorts of economic upheaval.

.. union contracts were blamed for causing inflation and big business began to push for

regulatory changes (to fight the hated EPA and OSHA, along with unions) and increased layoffs.

Institutional investors, growing rapidly in size in part *because* of the prosperity of the “golden age” (e.g. the massive pension funds like CALPERS and TIAA-CREF), began to demand discipline from corporations unused to having to listen to anyone

.. Changes in financial regulations and institutions made possible the junk bond market and, in turn, a more active market for corporate control – suddenly, large firms that were used to making acquisitions became targets.

.. by the mid-1980s, the golden age had ended along with the capital-labor accord and something new had begun – perhaps we can call it the “neoliberal era

.. This era’s hallmarks include the dramatic decline in unions, massive increases in the share of wealth going to the top 1% and .1% (cf. Piketty and Saez), massive increases in the share of profits going to finance (cf. Krippner 2005), and an overall change in the way that corporations perceived themselves.

.. No longer institutions with obligations beyond profit-seeking, corporations became (thought of as) legal fictions that served the sole purpose of maximizing shareholder value

.. The old dominant strategy of firms was to “retain and reinvest”, the new mantra was to “downsize and distribute

.. The old model of the firm was GM – a massive, vertically integrated institution that dominated a market and did everything in-house. The new model was the “Original Equipment Manufacturer” (OEM), a firm like Nike that designs a product and markets it but outsources and off-shores as much of the actual producing, distributing, etc. The firm is now a brand, an identity demarcating a certain set of contracts, whose value is more about intangibles than men and machines.

.. Okun’s Law is an economic relationship between the magnitude of an economic downturn (in terms of real GDP) and increases in unemployment

..  if GDP (production and incomes, that is) rises or falls two percent due to the business cycle, the unemployment rate will rise or fall by one percent. The magnitude of swings in unemployment will always be half or nearly half the magnitude of swings in GDP.

.. The last downturns – 1991ish, 2001ish and the current moment – have all been characterized by “jobless recoveries” or, more broadly, much larger decreases and much smaller increases in unemployment than would be predicted by Okun’s law.

.. “businesses will tend to “hoard labor” in recessions, keeping useful workers around and on the payroll even when there is temporarily nothing for them to do”.

.. Manufacturing firms used to think that their most important asset was skilled workers. Hence they hung onto them, “hoarding labor” in recessions. And they especially did not want to let go of their prime productive asset when the recovery began. Skilled workers were the franchise. Now, by contrast, it looks as though firms think that their workers are much more disposable—that it’s their brands or their machines or their procedures and organizations that are key assets.

.. The 1980s saw a reordering of the world – a transition from a period governed by one set of rules that privileged the relationship between businesses and their employees to one that privileged (relatively speaking, in ideology anyway) shareholders.

.. What variables should we care about, if GDP seems to be connected less to welfare than it used to be?

.. the neoliberal period is marked by dramatic, mind-boggling increases in executive compensation without, as far as I know, any signs of better performance or increased shareholder value.

The New Republic’s Super Buzzy, Lefty Upgrade

103-year-old magazine today is a repudiation of its stuffy, neo-liberal past.

Two months later, the “new” New Republic resurrected itself, with eminent Canadian leftist Jeet Heer in the driver’s seat and a buzzy cover story stolidly titled “Whitewash”—a sizzling takedown of the magazine’s complicated racial and social-class history under Peretz’s nearly four-decade tenure. Then the magazine went full-throttle in favor of the Sanders cult, with sometimes frankly Marxist cultural analyses, attacks on Hillary Clinton (from the left), calls for single payer, the $15 minimum wage, resistance to Trump, and opposition to military interventionism.

.. Hughes’ move was not merely a rebooting or rebranding—it was a repudiation of the magazine’s past.

.. “I bought The New Republic to take back the Democratic Party from the McGovernites,” he told the Wall Street Journal in 2012.

..  If William F. Buckley Jr. sought to reform and update the conservative movement with National Review in the 1950s, Peretz was just as redoubtable in his goal to remake Democratic liberalism in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Not until Roger Ailes joined Fox would an editor exert the kind of ideological tone-policing that Peretz proudly did at TNR.

.. During the 1980s and ’90s, The New Republic’s rise mirrored that of neoliberalism (a philosophy for which it became the definitive journalistic exponent), alongside yuppie New Democrats such as Gary Hart, Joe Klein, Larry Summers, Al From, Al Gore, and an Ivy-educated Arkansas power couple named Bill and Hillary Clinton

.. Once the Vietnam War (and the Pinochet takeover of Chile) ended virtually all support on the left for “imperialist” U.S. interventions, these foreign policy hawks (with which Peretz, Charles Krauthammer, and Leon Wieseltier were very much in accord) left for Team Republican.

.. Once the Vietnam War (and the Pinochet takeover of Chile) ended virtually all support on the left for “imperialist” U.S. interventions, these foreign policy hawks (with which Peretz, Charles Krauthammer, and Leon Wieseltier were very much in accord) left for Team Republican.

..  TNR’s two signal editors—a wisecracking Jewish atheist who attacked supply-siders from the right (Kinsley never believed that tax cuts for the rich, or anyone else, paid for themselves)

.. University of Kansas grad Thomas Frank ruthlessly satirized The New Republic in Salon as a place where sheltered young Ivy know-it-alls would “exercise the prerogatives of their class” by sliding into “ready-made” positions of power where they would “pantomime seriousness” while “trolling” the real left.

.. Peretz and Kinsley transformed the stodgy Washington insider into a brash, impudent, ironic, and irreverent voice that no other “serious” journal dared to match in those pre-cable/pre-Twitter days.

.. Peretz and Kinsley transformed the stodgy Washington insider into a brash, impudent, ironic, and irreverent voice that no other “serious” journal dared to match in those pre-cable/pre-Twitter days.

.. Kinsley agreed utterly with Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, and Margaret Thatcher—three of his all-time favorites—that the stagflation of the late 1970s and early ‘80s was directly due to greedy labor unions

.. And when Andrew Sullivan, openly gay, Catholic, Thatcher Tory, took the helm in 1991, TNR doubled down on “trolling the Left,”

.. Then came the attacks by conservative writer Betsy McCaughey against Hillarycare in 1993-94, followed by the controversy over Charles Murray’s 1994 bestseller, The Bell Curve.

.. “DAY OF RECKONING” cover—bordered in blood red with a cigarette-smoking “Preciousand Mary” black welfare queen—where the editors demanded that President Clinton sign Newt Gingrich’s welfare reform bill.

.. None of this would have been particularly remarkable in the pages of National Review or The American Spectator. But what made The New Republic sui generiswas that it took these positions while proudly, even aggressively, touting itself as the arbiter of acceptable liberal Democratic dialogue. TNR was a living rebuke to other opinion-meisters such as The NationMother JonesIn These Times, and NPR’s Democracy Now!, which more-or-less stayed with New Deal liberalism and 1960s-style idealism.

..  Peretz’s best friend and former student Al Gore was humiliated in his 2000 run for the Presidency—denied victory because of Ralph Nader’s Bernie Sanders-like attack from the left

.. And when TNR offered full-throated support for Bush’s Iraq and Afghanistan interventions after 9/11—while capital-L liberals stood in opposition—whatever credibility the magazine had as The Voice of Liberalism finally collapsed. As far as left-wing voices were concerned, TNR’s neoliberalism and George W. Bush-style neoconservatism had now become practically one and the same.

.. one might say that there was simply no room left on the Left anymore for “even the liberal” New Republic. The death of the Peretz TNR and the rise of Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Black Lives Matter, the Democratic Socialists of America, Jeremy Corbyn, Chapo Trap House, The Young Turks, Mr. Robot, and Jacobinmagazine were all but simultaneous.

.. TNR alum Jonathan Chait, who has emerged as perhaps the top (white male) tone-policeman of (neo) liberals versus The Left, as he illustrated in his recent New York magazine piece, “How ‘Neoliberalism’ Became the Left’s Favorite Insult.”

.. From 1975 to 2014 (not coincidentally the era that historians Sean Wilentz and Gil Troy christened the twin “Ages” of Reagan and the Clintons), The New Republic was as indispensable an idea factory for “New Democrats” as the Heritage Foundation and Fox News were for Republicans