Department of Bust Out Profit Models and Vampiric Capitalism
Wikileaks did us all another service yesterday by releasing the “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP): Investment Chapter Consolidated Text,” and collaborating with the New York Times to get the word out. Jonathan Weisman wrote the story for the New York Times. Apart from providing a very high level and very selective summary of what the chapter says, the article contains talking points used by proponents and opponents of the TPP. I think a close commentary on the article and associated issues would be useful. So here it is. Read more about The New York Times Covers the TPP: A Commentary
Well, fast-tracking the TPP would make it easier to offshore our jobs and would put downward pressure, enormous downward pressure, on Americans' wages, because it would throw American workers into competition with workers in Vietnam who are paid less than 60 cents an hour and have no labor rights to organize, to better their situation. Plus, the TPP would empower another 25,000 foreign corporations to use the investor state tribunals, the corporate tribunals, to attack our laws. And then there would be another 25,000 U.S. corporations in the other TPP countries who could use investor state to attack their environmental and health and labor and safety laws. And if all that weren't enough, Big Pharma would get new monopoly patent rights that would jack up medicine prices, cutting off affordable access. And there's rollback of financial regulations put in place after the global financial crisis. And there's a ban on "Buy Local," "buy domestic" policies. And it would undermine the policy space that we have to deal with the climate crisis—energy policies are covered. Basically, almost any progressive policy or goal would be undermined, rolled back. Plus, we would see more offshoring of jobs and more downward pressure on wages. So the big battle is over fast track, the process. And right now, thanks to a lot of pushback by activists across the country, actually, they don't have a majority to pass it. But there's an enormous push to change that, and that's basically where we all come in.
The public debt-to-GDP ratio is, perhaps, the most important measure used in discussions of the relative fiscal sustainability of nations. Nations with high levels of debt-to-GDP are viewed as having more serious fiscal problems than nations with lower levels. Nations having increasing ratios over time are viewed as becoming less fiscally sustainable, while those with decreasing ratios are viewed as more fiscally sustainable.
But is the public debt-to-GDP ratio really a valid measure of fiscal sustainability, or is it a measure that incorporates a neoliberal theoretical bias in its fundamental assumptions? In the United States, the total value of public debt subject to the limit at any point, is the total principal value of all the outstanding debt instruments sold by the Treasury Department. The GDP is the aggregate value of the production of goods and services in the United States within a particular period of time, adjusted for price changes.
So, the public debt is a variable measuring a cumulated stock, while GDP is a flow variable measuring economic activity within a particular period of time. Why compute a ratio of a cumulated stock to a flow within a circumscribed period of time?
Well, in this case of the debt-to-GDP ratio, neoliberal economists reason that the stock, the debt, can only be reduced if the government takes away part of the flow each year to repay a portion of the stock, the debt, leaving less of the flow to add financial savings to the private sector. After all, what other sources of government revenue are there except taxation? Read more about The Value of the Right Ratio Is Zero
Just as every Spring we can count on the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF) to do a supportive press release when the CBO issues one of its budget outlook 10 year projection reports, we can also count on being treated to public statements by Maya MacGuineas joining in the Peterson Army choir, warning about the coming debt crisis, and singing about the glories of deficit and debt reduction. And this while completely ignoring the real and sad consequences of deficit and debt reduction policies throughout the world since the crash of 2008, as well as previous applications to Latin American, Asian, and the nations of the disintegrated soviet empire, most notably Russia itself. Let's look at Maya MacGuineas latest effort; her testimony to the Senate Budget Committee. Read more about Maya MacGuineas: The Profound Fiscal Irresponsibility of Resistance to Facts
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF) always does a press release when the CBO issues one of its budget outlook 10 year projection reports. The PGPF did another in January quoting its President and COO, Michael A. Peterson. Let's go through that press release and see how many troublesome or false statements we can find. Here's a breakdown of the press release quotation from Michael Peterson.
Today's CBO report reminds us once again that our nation has significant fiscal challenges that have yet to be solved.
It certainly does, but I doubt that Peterson and I would agree on what those challenges are. He thinks they have to do with bringing the national debt under control. I think they have to do with creating full employment with a federal job guarantee program, price stability, a robust economy, a great public and free educational system through graduate school, stopping and reversing climate change, providing everybody in, nobody out, no co-pays and no deductibles health care for all, a first class infrastructure, and a greatly expanded social safety net including a doubling of SS benefits.
He thinks the debt is a long-term problem that we have to start to solve now. I think there is, literally, no public finance-related debt problem for a fiat sovereign like the U.S., and that the problem that exists is not a debt problem, but a political problem created by Peterson and his allies across the political spectrum who have propagandized the view that there is a debt crisis since the mid-1970s, with increasing success since the 1990s. Read more about The Peterson Foundation Sings the Same Old Song
The last few weeks have seen at least two posts calling attention to the potential use of the platinum coin in America's political economy. The first to appear was Rob Urie's piece in Counterpunch provocatively titled: “The Trillion Dollar Catshit Coin” And the second was Mike Sandler's post in The Huffington Post called “Greece and the U.S. Senate: Economics for the 99%.
Let's begin looking at these with Sandler's effort. He reports on two challenges to austerity. The first is from Syriza's victory in Greece and its promise to Greek voters that it will end austerity. The second:
The austerity mindset faces a new foe in the U.S. Senate as well. The re-shuffle of the last U.S. election that put austerity-minded Republicans in power has ironically resulted in a new anti-austerity economist being hired by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Senate Budget Committee -- Professor Stephanie Kelton of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Professor Kelton is a proponent of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), a very pro-stimulus economic approach. Her hiring represents the biggest step forward for MMT, since the PR coup of the Trillion Dollar Platinum Coin in 2013. At that time, Kelton reportedly created the #mintthecoin hashtag that was featured in columns by Paul Krugman and others.
Sanders' hiring of Kelton is a break from the more conciliatory "balanced budgeting" approach of some Democrats, such as former treasury secretaries with ties to Wall Street and fiscally-conservative "deficit hawks." Kelton and her MMT colleagues go beyond the traditional Keynesian stimulus of short-term deficit spending. They seek to unleash the power of monetary policy to circumvent the scarcity mindset imposed on government action, perhaps even bringing the Trillion Dollar Coin back into the discussion.
Of course, Sandler means to say fiscal policy in the above, since MMT economics greatly favors reliance on fiscal, rather than monetary policy, in spite of the “monetary” in its name. But apart from that, he projects that we may see the platinum coin come back into prominence soon. Read more about Return of the Coin?
Andre Damon in “Obama’s ‘pro-middle class’ budget: Cut corporate taxes, raise military spending, slash Medicare” calls out Obama’s supposed populist, legacy-saving, proposed fiscal budget for 2016 and the NYT’s propagandizing of it as an “unfettered case for spreading the wealth.”
More Obama and corporate media bullshit. What else is new?
Philip Guelpa in “New York City’s housing and homelessness crisis intensifies under de Blasio” offers some very troubling statistics and analyses. Bill de Blasio, NYC Democratic mayor, has been in office a year now and the enormous problems of homelessness and unaffordable housing are worsening even from the “12-year-mayoral-tenure” of billionaire Mike Bloomberg.
Here are 15 serious considerations from Guelpa’s report and analysis: Read more about Major 'Mayor-de-Blasio-FAIL’ re NYC Homelessness & Housing
Dysfunctional democracies are provoking anger, confrontations, crises and conflicts for the following reasons:
- In many cases, the citizens of dysfunctional democracies are unable to decide who runs for office, who gets elected and what laws are passed because of obstacles erected to prevent them from doing so.
- Several of these obstacles, for example election laws in the U.S., result in the election of lawmakers, such as those who control the U.S. Congress, who represent only a minority of eligible voters and pass legislation that rarely represents the will of a majority of voters.
- According to extensive research, special interests, wealthy individuals, corporations and financial institutions tend to exert greater influence than voters over lawmakers’ legislative actions because they finance lawmakers’ electoral campaigns.
- Rogue lawmakers whose actions are not controlled by their constituents but by influential groups and wealthy campaign funders are contributing to the creation of increasing inequalities of wealth that enable a small percent of the population to acquire most of their nation’s wealth, while the rest of the population has little or no wealth and few if any opportunities to create wealth.
- Undemocratic political parties that control electoral machinery and do not allow competitive parties to take root prevent voters from setting party agendas and nominating and electing candidates of their choice, increasing the legislative disconnect between voters’ and lawmakers’ priorities.
The spectacular intrusion of special interests into the passage of the $1.1 trillion government spending bill on December 13, 2014 was breathtaking as bankers and lobbyists whipped the vote by calling Congressional representatives directly to demand a host of special interest provisions, including the following:
- Repealing the Dodd-Frank prohibition on locating derivatives trading activities in the same bank subsidiary company as their depositories containing checking, savings, and other accounts insured by the FDIC.
- Raising individual campaign contribution limits by roughly 10 times the present limit.
- Allowing businesses to default by as much as 1/3 of their private pension obligations.
- Preventing the EPA from introducing new climate protections.
So it is now abundantly clear that what we have is government by minority rule in which special interests reign supreme. Clearly, this cannot continue. It is for this reason that we are sharing the post below describing the only solution to the democracy crisis of which we are aware that can be implemented in the near future. It is long and we do not expect many readers to get through it in one sitting, or even at all. But if it piques your interest, you can re-locate it here at a more opportune time.
INTERACTIVE VOTER CHOICE SYSTEM
Technical Features of the Interactive Voter Choice System (U.S. Patent No. 7,953,628)
Accelerating the Technological Evolution of Democracies
Group Forming Network
World's First Large Scale Consensus Building and Conflict Resolution Platform
A Closer Look at Complex Adaptive Systems (CASs)
Integrating IVCS-Enabled CASs into Electoral and Legislative Processes
Summary and Conclusion Read more about The Technology Solution to the Democracy Crisis
President Obama's remarks to the Business Roundtable on Trade raise alarm bells for us all, and suggest that he is still pushing his pro- 1% agenda for all it is worth. Perhaps it would be better if Congress just treated him as a lame duck from here on in. Here are a number of statements from his talk and answers to questions, and my comments on them. Read more about A Credibility Problem?
Today I received an e-mail from the Friends of (the very popular with progressives) Senator Bernie Sanders. In it the Senator says:
I'm joining with the members of Progressives United to send a clear message to President Obama that we will stand with him when he vetoes Republican legislation that attacks the well-being of the struggling middle class.
Join me and members of Progressives United to urge the president to VETO any Republican legislation that attacks working families.
Carl Gibson, a writer blogging at Reader Supported News, provides an "Open Letter to the Democrats" giving his view of why they lost the Congressional Elections of 2014. He endorses the President's view that people didn't show up to vote because their choice of politicians didn't motivate them. And to this view he adds that the Democrats did not get his generation's support because they didn't “. . . get populist.” And he goes on to say:
2014’s low voter turnout was historic. Voter turnout actually hasn’t been this low since the 1940s. As Mother Jones pointed out, voter turnout for people under 30 was dismal. In this election, people like me only made up 12 percent of those who voted, while people aged 60 and older made up almost 40 percent of total voters. In 2012, when President Obama was re-elected and Congressional Democrats made gains in the House and Senate, millennials made up almost one-fifth of all voters, and voters 60 and older made up just 25 percent of the electorate, bringing us a little closer to a tie. It isn’t hard to see the difference – this year, Republicans steamrolled you, Democrats, because most of us stayed home and let our Fox-watching uncles and grandparents decide on who was going to represent everyone else.
So how do older people pick who runs Congress? Like every other voting bloc, they pick the ones who run on issues most important to them. And as Vox reported, data consistently shows that younger people want their tax dollars spent on education and job creation. Older voters want their money spent on Social Security and war. The Republicans who swept the U.S. Senate ran largely on fear campaigns over ISIS, promising to be more hawkish than their opponents in an eagerness to pour money and troops into Iraq and Syria to snuff out America’s newest boogeyman.
Contrast the unified Republican message with the profound silence from you Democrats on addressing the trillion-dollar student debt crisis, rampant inequality and underemployment, and your collective fear of openly embracing economic populism, and you cook up what we saw on Tuesday night. Older people showed up, highly motivated to elect war hawks. Younger people mostly stayed home, disillusioned with the only alternative on the ballot who didn’t even talk about the issues affecting our lives every day.
In her recent post-election piece “It's Time to Work on America's Agenda” Elizabeth Warren points out that the changes in Washington and in various States aren't changing the fact that
The stock market and gross domestic product keep going up, while families are getting squeezed hard by an economy that isn’t working for them.