I just returned from an awesome family vacation in Peru. Although certainly not the highlight of the trip, six plane flights and two lengthy train rides made for a lot of reading. I finished Shattered, the inside look at the Clinton 2016 campaign, then read Locking Up Our Own, an analysis of how black leadership in Washington, DC, helped pave the way to mass incarceration of black Americans, and Toxic Inequality, by Thomas Shapiro, which, of all the books I’ve read on the subject of economic inequality, is one of the very best in terms of insightful analysis.
Each book was excellent, but Toxic Inequality is the most noteworthy. Continue reading
Leading obituary in today’s New York Times: Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame Pitcher Turned Cantankerous Senator, Dies at 85. In the online version, the Times changed “Turned Cantankerous” to “and Blunt-Spoken.” I like the print title better.
Should anyone from the general public be mourning Bunning’s passing?
Not in my opinion. Pissing on anyone’s grave is not an especially endearing act, so I’ll catch a few darts for this one, but I believe there should be a special place in hell for anyone lucky enough to make a fortune playing a sport who sees fit to deny poor people safety net benefits. Continue reading
The refusal of Congressional Republicans to confront Trump is breathtaking.
By all appearances, they’re the last – and most critical – domino that must fall in order for Trump to be removed. Many in the conservative media no longer will defend Trump. Yes, Fox News still is hanging on, as is Rush Limbaugh, but conservative journalists as a group largely have given up. And some, Joe Scarborough for example, are among Trump’s harshest critics. The public has abandoned Trump as well. The latest poll on his approval rating, placing it at 36%, was taken before the Comey firing. And you don’t see many former Republican office holders flocking to Trump’s defense.
Yet, with few exceptions, Ryan, McConnell and the rest of the gang that control both houses of Congress have barely budged.
So, what would it take to move them?
Theoretically, as few as three Republican Senators with a shred of decency could make it happen. And there are possibilities: McCain, Flake, Corker, Collins, Murkowski, maybe even Burr.
Why three? Continue reading
[Cross-posted from Inequality.org]
The Trump tax plan reserves its highest rates for the income people actually labor to earn — and extends lavish preferential treatment to income from wealth.
Four years ago, my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Sam Pizzigati and I observed in the Los Angeles Times that we effectively have two tax systems in America: one that taxes wealth and the income derived from wealth and another that taxes the income from labor. Since 1980, the first of those systems, the “wealth-based system,” has become more forgiving. The “labor-based system,” by contrast, has become increasingly harsh, and a major chunk of the second system’s tax base has migrated into the first.
Those trends obviously place increasing pressure on the labor-based system. Ultimately, we noted, the movement towards complete reliance on the labor-based system would be unsustainable.
But President Trump disagrees. His recently announced tax proposal takes a giant step towards completely eliminating taxes on wealth. Continue reading
In its lead editorial on Tuesday, Donald Trump Embraces Another Despot, the New York Times was unsparing in its criticism of Trump’s invitation to Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, to visit the White House. The Times’ editorial was dead on. There was not a word with which I disagreed. The editorial was well written. In sum, the editorial said what needed to be said, and said it well.
It also was deeply disturbing that the Times ran it.
Because the call was too easy. Consider this passage:
After his election last year, Mr. Duterte took the killing campaign nationwide, effectively giving free license to the police and vigilantes. He has boasted about his tenure in Davao, and admitted to personally killing three kidnappers without trial. The mayhem got so bad that last week a Filipino lawyer formally asked the International Criminal Court to charge Mr. Duterte and 11 officials with mass murder and crimes against humanity over the extrajudicial killings of nearly 10,000 people over the past three decades.
Should Americans need the Times to explain to them why Trump’s invitation to Duterte was dead wrong?
Yet many do. Continue reading
I finally got around to reading Michael Hudson’s Killing the Host. I think it was released over a year ago. Hudson is a professor of economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, which is where some of the most progressive work is being done, particularly in monetary theory.
This book is not especially well written. The editing was downright sloppy, in my opinion.
But it’s written well enough to follow and the content is valuable. Hudson’s central thesis is that economic policy has moved in the exact opposite direction of what economic philosophers of the 19th and early 20th century foresaw. They believed the world would become increasingly egalitarian, as economic and tax policy would favor industrialists and labor. Instead, it has favored rent seekers, particularly those in the finance sector.
Hudson likens the relationship of the finance sector to the economy to that of parasite to host. Eventually, the parasite drains the life out of the host.
For those interested in economic policy, Killing the Host is an important read. There are insights in this book I’ve not seen elsewhere. So, even though it could have been better written, I recommend it.