Sunday, May 8, 2022

On Our Virtual Route 66 This Week In Our World

It has been quite a week in America.    Our team was in the community this weekend as we had a chance to visit the Huntington Library in San Marino, California and present two images we captured above.

The draft opinion by the US Supreme Court was published that promised to revoke Roe V Wade which will trigger the Abortion ban in at least 26 states.   This is as the Ukraine war rages on with no end in sight as the May 9th Victory Parade looms.    Former President Trump scored a win in Ohio and Indiana as his endorsed candidates won their respective primaries .

Our team pulled together a weekly curation of the week that was that we hereby present for review: 

While most eyes were on the leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision this week, the Biden administration continued its work to move the country forward, demonstrating that investing in ordinary Americans creates a strong economy.

Since the 1980s, Republicans have insisted that the way to establish strong economic growth is to cut business regulations and taxes in order to free up innovation and capital for investment. Rejecting the system in place since 1933 that used the government to keep the economic playing field level and protect the rights of workers, Republicans argued that the economy worked best when business leaders ran it. Government should support the employers on the supply side of the economy rather than the workers and consumers on the demand side.

In response to those who challenged this “supply-side” economics on the grounds that government deficits would explode as tax receipts fell, Reagan Republicans argued that tax cuts would pay for themselves with economic growth, so Americans could have both lower taxes and continued services. And, although Reagan tripled yearly deficits and nearly tripled the national debt—from $995 billion to $2.9 trillion—the idea that tax cuts paid for themselves by boosting investment in the economy, became gospel on the right. At the same time, supply-side economics never delivered the extra growth it promised.

As soon as he took office, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, President Joe Biden rejected traditional supply-side economics and launched a policy that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called “modern supply-side economics.” Biden’s plan, Yellen explained, focuses on “labor supply, human capital, public infrastructure, R&D, and investments in a sustainable environment.” Rather than focusing on putting money into the hands of the “demand side” of the economy—consumers—it focuses on developing a strong labor force in a strong democracy to create growth through hard work and innovation.

That system has paid off with the fastest economic recovery since the pandemic of any of the wealthiest liberal democracies that make up the Group of Seven (G7) countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The U.S. job market has bounded back from the depths of the pandemic at an astonishing rate. Today’s job report showed that employers added another 428,000 jobs in April. For the past year, the economy has added, on average, more than half a million new jobs a month, for a total of 8.3 million since Biden took office. Unemployment is at a 50-year low at 3.6% (this number counts only those who are unemployed and are actively looking for a job). Since there are currently 1.9 vacancies for every unemployed person, giving workers leverage over employers, wages grew 5.5% in April.

That upward pressure of wages might be part of what is driving soaring inflation. Over the past 12 months, the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index, which is a method of measuring how much it costs for an ordinary consumer to buy goods and services, has risen 6.6%. If you take fuel and food out of that index, it’s still 5.2%, and the Fed likes inflation to be no more than 2%.

Supply chain issues have also driven up prices, both because of shortages and because the ten shipping companies that dominate the global trade have jacked up prices so astronomically that U.S. importers have asked the U.S. government to intervene (this year container companies will pocket $300 billion in profits, up from $23 billion before the pandemic).

The skyrocketing price of oil, which has translated into soaring gasoline prices, has also driven up prices: the American Automobile Association says the average price of a gallon of gas nationally today is $4.279 a gallon (prices are significantly cheaper in the South than in the West, where in some places they are more than $5.75 a gallon). Higher gas prices drive up the price of everything by increasing the costs of shipping even further.

Global oil production dropped dramatically during the pandemic, with oil-producing nations cutting production by about 10% globally. Producers have been slow to increase production to keep up with the global recovery, not least because they are making record profits. Yesterday, Shell, which is Europe’s largest energy company (and which did, in fact, begin its business in the early 19th century importing decorative seashells from Asia to England), reported its largest quarterly profit ever, at $9.1 billion. It said it will use the windfall to buy back shares of the company, increasing the value of the company’s stock.

The Biden administration has asked Saudi Arabia to increase production, but the Saudis have resisted that request, joining the rest of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and their allies, including Russia, in saying global shortages are the West’s fault because of their sanctions on Russia. Indeed, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions have badly disrupted oil supplies, driving prices up further.

But there is also a foreign policy story here: Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was close to the Trump administration and is close to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, with whose new investment firm he has recently invested $2 billion despite Kusher’s lack of experience in investing. In contrast, in February 2021, Biden released a U.S. intelligence assessment that MBS had approved the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And while presidents have tended to downplay the idea that the 9/11 hijackers—15 of whom were Saudi out of 19 total—had any connection to the Saudi government, Biden ordered the Federal Bureau of Investigation to declassify documents that suggest there may have been a Saudi spy involved.

It seems unlikely MBS is losing sleep over Biden’s popularity sinking as gas prices rise.

The administration has undertaken steps to curb inflation. Although it does not have control over either Chinese supply chains—stressed by a surge in Covid—or the Russian war on Ukraine, there are domestic levers it can use. At the end of March, the administration began releasing a million barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a policy it expects to continue for 6 months.

To counter Republican claims that the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which Democrats passed in March 2021 and which jump-started the economy, was a failure because it was so expensive, Biden this week pointed out that increased tax revenues have in fact reduced both the deficit and the national debt, both of which went up significantly under former president Trump. (Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also cut budget deficits—Clinton actually produced a surplus—and the Republicans who followed them used those savings for tax cuts.) This year’s budget deficit will drop by $1.5 trillion, the biggest decline in a single year, easing inflationary pressures by keeping the government from borrowing.

Today, Biden called for Congress to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act, which focuses on building goods in the United States to avoid future supply chain crises and would provide new manufacturing jobs in small and medium-sized companies (the country has added 473,000 manufacturing jobs since he took office). It would bring home production that the U.S. has ceded to China and, Biden suggested today, rebuild the Rust Belt. Currently, the House and the Senate are in the process of merging two bills, one passed by each chamber, into a final bill.

“This is a bipartisan bill,” Biden told workers at United Performance Metals near Cincinnati, Ohio, accompanied by the state’s senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rod Portman. “Senators Brown and Portman are working hard to get it done.” “Pass the damn bill and send it to me,” he urged. “If we do, it’s going to help bring down prices, bring home jobs, and power America’s manufacturing comeback.”

On Wednesday, Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve Board, announced an interest rate hike of a half percent, the biggest hike since 2000. Their hope is to cool down the heated economy enough to slow inflation without throwing people out of work.

Stocks rallied immediately after the announcement, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (one of the indexes for gauging the movement of the stock market) gaining about 900 points. The next day wiped out those gains and more, and today was similarly rocky. It seems the switch from a policy of heating up the economy to cooling it down has made investors jittery.

In other news today, a new book coming out by Mark Esper, former secretary of defense under Trump, reveals that the former president wanted the military to recall to active duty retired General Stan McChrystal and Admiral William H. McRaven in order to court-martial them for disloyalty to him. It also says that Trump wanted to have the U.S. military launch missiles at Mexican drug labs, quoting him as telling Esper that “[w]e could just shoot some Patriot missiles” into our neighbor and ally, Mexico, and no one would know it was the U.S. because Trump could just deny it.

Esper pointed out that such an attack on a sovereign nation would be an act of war.




May 6, 2022

By Marc Cooper

Oh my. Just look at who is upset that Deputy Pope Sam Alito’s feverish jeremiad against the sin of abortion was secretly leaked from the Supreme Court. 

They’re the same hooligans, bullies and hucksters who have systematically turned that court into one big stinking pit of nasty partisan politics who are now weeping over its violation.

There’s a lot of panty-twisting going on about how the “hallowed traditions,” the “sanctity,” the very “mystery” of the highest court in the land has been so terribly soiled by that leak.

Oh please.  This unaccountable, radically unrepresentative, arrogant and detached gaggle began seriously slipping into the sleaze decades ago.  From seating Clarence Long John silver Thomas, electing Dubya as President, to hobbling the ACA, defanging the Voting Rights Act, to Republicans ignoring Obama’s pick then fast-tracking religious fanatic Amy Coney Barrett, to tolerating the wife of one justice who advocates overthrow of the government, and now systematically wrecking 50 years of societal advance on reproductive rights, just exactly what credibility or seriousness did the court have in any case?

Praise and glory to The Leaker!  Apart from everything else, it was a public service to expose what a nasty little bitch Sam Alito is -- a bitter, misogynistic, Catholic ideologue who bolsters his argument by quoting a 17th Century philosopher who also opposed abortion and who, by the way, called for execution of women witches.

The Alito Draft, while likely to be sanded and smoothed down during the final edit process leading to its publication in a month or so, marks a serious inflection point in our political life and future.

Takeaway One:  There is no immediate way to block the coming abortion ban

Let’s get one thing clear immediately.  This IS the real beginning of the end of legal abortion in at least half the states.

Democrats are publicly breathing fire, vowing they will spare no energy in defending abortion.  Chuck Schumer has set next Wednesday for a Senate vote that would codify Roe, making it a federal statute legalizing abortion coast to coast. 

That is expected to pass, immediately after the Senate approves expropriation of all banks and the passage of all major industry to worker’s control.

The usual Democratic suspects have already said they will not vote to modify the filibuster, a pre-requisite for moving to codify abortion,.  And even if there were no filibuster, the Democrats lack the 51 votes necessary for that. There are numerous abortion deniers among the Democratic ranks.

So, while we will hear screeching to the heavens over the next few weeks that it is Republicans standing in the way of over-riding the court, it is, in fact, Republicans and some Democrats that are the obstacle to legalizing abortion.

Takeaway Two: This is just the beginning of a new offensive

Conventional Wisdom projects that very soon, maybe by summer, America will be divided into Abortion Deserts and Abortion Havens. Washington State, where I live, is just one of several pro-choice states that is already taking measures to serve abortion refugees that will be streaming in from neighboring Republican strongholds.

Maybe that will be the final outcome of this terrible decision. Maybe not.  It might get worse. Republicans will control congress starting next year and there is every reason to believe that neo-fascists in the party will be pushing for a national ban on abortions.  A President Biden can veto such a move and Democrats can use the filibuster to stop it, but one can also be sure that one day there will be a total GOP government with no obstacles to such a ban.

In the meantime, consider the Alito Draft a first shot in a new, prolonged and all-enveloping culture war. The Republicans have exactly no popular programmatic policies to put forward. They are going to relentlessly pound away on cultural issues as the easiest route to expanded political power.

The logic used by Alito –simply that rights not specifically mentioned in the constitution cannot automatically be covered by interpreting the privacy provisions within it—kicks the door wide open to repealing gay marriage, inter-racial marriage and contraception.

Alito wrote that those areas would remain protected even though he effectively removed the constitutional umbrella over them.  It’s not hard to imagine a whole lot of states acting on that first part of Alito’s opinion while ignoring the second.

Anybody, then, who believes they live in a “safe” state or who does not believe this is just an opening gambit in a much broader push, is not paying attention.

Takeaway Three: The Alito Draft is a golden opportunity for the Democrats, and they will most probably blow it

The last people I look to save me is the Democratic Party. But you’d think it was self-interested enough to save itself.  You would probably be wrong.

The Democrats seem to be blithely waltzing toward the midterm buzzsaw without a care in the world.  It’s not just that Biden is a “poor communicator.”  It’s not just that the “messaging” is off.  It’s not just a debilitating split between “centrists” and “progressives.”  No, it’s about a governing party that seems to have no visible program, no visible agenda.

High level Democrat consultants, like the Obama team of David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs have spent the last couple of months urging the party “to pick a fight, any fight.”  Picking a fight on a major issue. –any piece of the shipwrecked Biden agenda—would allow the Dems to engage and mobilize their voters and produce a better turn out.

Midterm elections, left on their own, inevitably turn into an up-down referendum on the incumbent president and his party. And when that president in question has an approval rating bobbing around 40%, the outcome can be catastrophic.

To mitigate the coming damage, Democrats needed to turn the midterms into a “choice” not a referendum.  That’s done by highlighting the differences between the parties and directly warning of the negative consequences in electing Republicans, especially Trumplicans.

Read The Coop Scoop by Marc Cooper in the new Substack app
Now available for iOS

To date, Democrats and Biden in particular, have done a piss poor job in this regard. While the Republicans go chugging along blocking all administrative initiatives, refusing cooperation with the 1/6 committee, still kowtowing to the Great Moron in Florida, outlawing abortion in red states and busily putting into place a pro-coup team for 2024, here’s Joe Biden, still shuffling around, mumbling about “my Republicans friends in the Senate,” and praising the Gods of Bipartisanship.

I guess you can say Sam Alito and the The Mystery Leaker have done the Democrats a big favor. They have not waited for the Dems to pick a midterm fight. They dropped the Mother of All Culture War battles right on their heads.  And just to make sure that Democrats understand the opportunity, a number of Republican governors and candidates in swing states have remained conspicuously mute on the Alito bombshell. They know the Court’s intention to outlaw abortion is opposed by 80% of Americans and that includes voters in their state.

The Democrats can and should capitalize on the leak by making abortion rights a central part of a broader front of anti-Republican campaigning.  There has to be very tough comparisons made and it must be made clear what the country is in for – not just on abortion, but on social welfare, education, race relations and democracy itself—if Republicans are given Carte Blanche.

On the other hand, the first time Joe Biden publicly uttered the word “abortion” since becoming nominee and now president was this Tuesday! It’s with this quota of fear that Dems join the fight dropped on them.

It's not just Democrat leaders that have to take this moment seriously. So do those of us who do not feel represented by either major party. 

We have to be honest with ourselves and we must assess where we are at while looking ahead down the road (something usually avoided in politics).  The highwater mark of the Biden administration was reached more than a year ago when the big COVID package hit.

Since then, the administration has quickly folded in on itself and the Trump Right has persevered.  There has been remarkable job growth but the recovery has been hollowed out by inflation and inequality. Buying a house has become a chimera for most. I have no idea how somebody with three kids puts them through college.

The great reforms promised by the Biden election have come to naught. There is no police reform.  No immigration reform.  No labor protection.  No child care tax credit.  No free child care. No expansion of medical care.  No reduction of drug prices. No reform of the Supreme Court (remember?).  BLM has lost any traction it might have had and is now subsumed in self-dealing and corruption.  The great Racial Reckoning has been supplanted by Woke stupidity.  In its stead we have a full force backlash against “CRT” and a wave of increased funding of police.

And now, for the first time in history, the US Supreme Court has initiated a new era of taking back citizen rights instead of expanding them by erasing reproductive rights.

This will not be the last constitutional right or civil liberty that will be expunged in this new era.

I don’t lay all this out to get depressed. Or to say, hey, it’s all over. 

Within the shock of emotions released by this affair, there is also a certain bracing clarity. We can very clearly see our enemies, those who act in the name of the people but against the interests of the people. And we can see political paths that lead to progress and others that are but a disappointing dead end. ++ 

Appeals court reinstates Florida GOP-backed voting law — for now

Appeals court reinstates Florida GOP-backed voting law — for now

In a win for Republicans, a federal appeals court temporarily reinstated provisions on Friday of a Florida voting law that had been blocked in a March ruling, emphasizing that it was too close to the election.

Read the full story here.

Kremlin tries to manage Victory Day parade expectations as Ukraine war continues

Kremlin tries to manage Victory Day parade expectations as Ukraine war continues

Russian officials do not expect to hold a major Victory Day event in Mariupol on May 9, according to a top Kremlin spokesman, as beleaguered Ukrainian defenders continue to stymie Russian battle plans.

Read the full story here.


No comments:

Post a Comment