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07 August 2015

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Timothy Holland

I read this website for the unparalleled expertise in foreign and military policy, particularly as applied to the Middle East. Every once in a while you come up with commentaries in other areas that excel everything Else I have been able to find on the web.

This piece is one the reasons I check out this site five days a week.

Mark Gaughan

Here, here!

BabelFish

I agree as well.

William R. Cumming

Thanks Professor Brenner! THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE? I hope so!

LeaNder

"In America's status society where well-being is measured in life style terms, that counts for a lot. Especially so, when the outlook for your children is a struggle even to keep up with their parents.
...
For the cognoscenti of the political class, this blunt reality is a revelation - ignored for decades and now filed away under the label "inequality." For them and for the candidates they promote, "inequality" is just another abstraction about which nothing practical will be done - like the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process." So long as they themselves are comfortably off, all is more-or-less right with the world. "

A prof, I loved a lot, once told me in a private conversation even the most ardent macho, mind you some of my best friends are, has a second thought once it concerns his own daughter.

this was a joke!!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machismo


I am sure, were I American I would vote Bernie Sanders, but how will he manage to update "inequality" to times where no doubt, maybe not only over here millions of people consider our inequality relatively equal, or at least a better chance to survive. Not only the ones that have a good reason to flee war in their countries?

Concerning Apple, I noticed some of the creatives had a second thought on Apple, considering earlier revelations, but they are also used to it. I doubt the revelation that Apple doesn't even pay taxes in the US won't change a lot.

I didn't recognize a big impact as far as success and shares are concerned. Besides if it had, where will the money go?

Never mind the 1970s, they feel a comparatively safe age looked at in hindsight from the via the Western prism.


Dave Schuler

Per Gallup (http://www.gallup.com/poll/15370/party-affiliation.aspx) ten years ago 35% of Americans considered themselves Democrats. Twenty years ago 44% of Americans identified with the Democrats. It's hardly surprising that Democrats have drifted to the left--it's the left wing of the party that has remained. The Republicans can take no solace in the change in fortunes for the Democratic Party: their own party has done no better. Most of those who remain are the more extreme in their caucus, in the case of Republicans social conservatives and Tea Party Republicans.

The short version of all of this is that Americans are not as satisfied with either party as they used to be and becoming less satisified rapidly. Whether the dissatisfaction takes the form of more than just not showing up to vote is another question.

Tyler

That debate last night proved you just can't chump the Trump.

The biggest loser? Fox News openly announcing that its controlled opposition for the Borg and nothing else.

mbrenner

I recall Will Rogers' advice: "Don't vote, it just encourages them"

jerseycityjoan

Dave Schuler and All:

I don't think things will stay as they are, with so many discontented and unaffiliated voters. It's an unnatural and undesirable state in a democracy.

We have a long history of two parties. Will one or more our two big parties fade or change? Will one or more new parties rise up? I do not not know.

But the current state of affairs has lasted too long as it is. Why would today's kids agree to perpetuate what's going on in 5-10-15 years once they become adults?

Lesly

"It's hardly surprising that Democrats have drifted to the left--it's the left wing of the party that has remained."

I am a leftist/liberal/progressive. Pick a label. I haven't identified as Democratic since the 110th voted to extend provisions of the unPatriot Act. Granting retroactive immunity to telecoms didn't help. They convinced me to vote for them. I made small donations. Only to turn around and act like their morally inferior opponents.

In hindsight I shouldn't have bothered. Welfare reform, Glass-Steagall's repeal, giving Bush the Medicare Modernization Act with little to show for it in terms of savings for healthcare consumers. The party proved my disassociation was the right choice with stellar examples like the bank bailout and its reluctance to oppose Obama on Syria, at least publicly. They are too like Republicans, comfortable with neoliberal economic policies and willing enough to wage war against states better left alone that do not pose a threat to this government. The only thing the party has going for it is its refusal to mirror the GOP on social issues.

HankP

Michael Brenner -

The big problem you identify is economic insecurity, and it seems that problem is not going to get any better. Someone like Bernie Sanders can help dull the sharp edges, but the relentless logic of automation and capital accumulation does not point to a more egalitarian future. If anything, we're likely to see employment continue to shrink as only the brightest and best connected get and keep gainful employment. In the near future we may see areas like driving, food prep, harvesting, distribution, and even police and military automated away. There will always be creative jobs, but they will not provide employment for a majority. Will we see a more socialized society, with something like a guaranteed annual wage, or an even more stratified society with increasing numbers of working poor? Unfortunately, if history is anything to go by the latter seems far more likely.

As to why the media didn't expect Bernie, they're well paid and insulated pretty well from everyday life. I like Bernie, and I'll vote for him if i get a chance. But I don't think I will get the chance.

Fred

Tyler,

Nah, the biggest loser was John Stewarts ratings for his final show. One more notch in the marketing belt for Mr. Ailes. I wonder how much add revenue Fox generated for that show?

readerOfTeaLeaves

Completely agree that people are fed up with careerists.

The tax code has been so obsequious to 'capital' that it has now become an impediment to widespread economic growth. I honestly don't think Hillary or Biden understand how badly the tax code, plus private equity, junk bonds, and financialization have screwed up the American economy. (See also: careerists, careerism)

As for missing emails: Hillary should have observed how many of us utterly loathed Dick Cheney after thousands of White House emails went missing. What's sauce for the gander is also sauce for the goose. (See also: transparency; lack of)

William R. Cumming

IMO if there is some kind of long-term political party realignment going on I have predicted it will be complete on and after the 2028 Presidential Election having started in the 1992 Presidential Election.

My reasoning to long and complicated for the blog but my belief that Ross Perot gave US Bill Clinton now seems to be Republican Party mantra. Thus, worry over Trump defection to third party.

William R. Cumming

The lineup reinforced the ridiculousness of the Republican quest for certainty of election.

confusedponderer

The point about the Washington consensus is that in the US it is a consensus domestically also.

Jay McAnally

Thank you for an excellent discussion.

Jack

Mr. Brenner

I am glad that Bernie Sanders is in the race. However, I doubt even so called Progressives will vote for him in the primaries. In both parties its always voting for the lesser evil which results in The Borg in power.

I agree with you that average Americans continue to fall behind. The chart of median real household income says it all. However, I have to disagree with several of your assertions and of course your prescription of even more government.

First, as far as the sequestration is concerned you claim federal spending was reduced. Is that correct or was it only the growth rate of spending that was temporarily reduced? Second, you assert that federal spending as a percent of GDP is the lowest since the 1920s. This is incorrect according to the chart of federal government spending since the Founding of the US (link below). Throughout the 19th century and early 20th century federal spending was single digit percent of GDP except during periods of big wars. Since the 70s it's been around 20% of GDP. That is a far cry from the single digits of the early 20th century. http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/spending_chart_1792_2020USp_XXs1li111mcn_F0f_US_Federal_Spending_since_the_Founding

Total government spending (local, state & federal) is over 35% of GDP, in the range of many "socialist" western european states. At least they get health care for all that government spending and in many cases government financed education too.

I worked in the CFOs office at a regional bank for over a decade. Believe me, the number of regulatory filings and compliance requirements are rather voluminous. The issue IMO, is not insufficient regulation, it is no skin in the game - it is a lack of capitalism as Schumpeter would say. As we saw with the last financial crisis, both political parties used the power of the state to bailout Wall St financial speculation, privatizing speculative gains and socializing losses. The Fed has been an instrument of large banking interests to financialize the economy, concentrate financial power and incite speculation while making the average American the bagholder for inevitable losses. Despite 6 years of ZIRP, trillions in federal government debt growth, trillions monetized by the Fed, we have one of the weakest economic recoveries with growing tens of millions on food stamps and no growth in productivity. Yet, the stock market is at all time highs.

Both parties as well as the "left" and "right" on the political spectrum want bigger government and they sure have big government. The Federal Register is as big as it has ever been. Yet, the median real household income has gone no where and the wealth disparity grows bigger. But the "progressives" and "conservatives" call for more government intervention. One problem with more and more complex regulation, is regulatory capture. The revolving door. Eric Holder, Henry Paulson, Bob Rubin, Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Mary Jo White being some recent examples. As this article notes Obamacare architect Liz Fowler exemplifies how the revolving door is used by moneyed interests to use the power of the state to feather their nest. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/dec/05/obamacare-fowler-lobbyist-industry1. The other problem with complex regulation are the loopholes that only those with the resources can take advantage. As you noted the biggest corporations hardly pay much federal income tax, just as Warren Buffet pays a smaller percentage of his income relative to his secretary.

What I shake my head about is that both the left and right believe that the problems created by big government should be fixed with more government interventions.

Medicine Man

Nah Fred, I think Tyler's right this time. If the chief consequence of an event intended to chose the leader of the Republican party is Mr. Ailes' ad revenue then you can see the outlines of the problem.

I didn't watch it but I heard the moderators tried pretty hard to sink Trump -- one gotcha question after another -- but gave Walker and Rubio nothing but Vaseline on the camera lens softball questions.

mbrenner

My reference was to the 1920s - not the 1820s, and only to federal spending.

"Total government spending (local, state & federal) is over 35% of GDP, in the range of many "socialist" western european states."
I believe this in incorrect - only Luxembourg and perhaps Switzerland approach that number. The Scandinavians, French, Germans etc are above 40% In Denmark, it is above 45%. Oddly, Denmark had the highest rate of GDP growth from 1990 until 2008.

I agree with you about what we get for our tax money. We would get more if there were More regulation not Less regulation by competent government agencies dedicated to public service rather than cultivating the organizations into which they plan to parachute, and agencies not run by political appointees like the morons at Health & Human Services or at the Personnel agency that couldn't figure out how to safeguard its employee data. The same could be said for the NSA and Pentagon. There was a story this week that the NSA depends on a Microsoft system for administrative matters that is so outdated that they are forced to pay Microsoft a special fee to keep it going. In addition, a government run health care system rather than a for-profit system would save us literally hundreds of billions. In terms of efficiency, Medicare is head and shoulder superior to any of the private insurance or care delivery outfits - by objective measures.

mbrenner

Sorry it is the US Navy not NSA that uses antique Microsoft software.

The NSA has its own obvious problems with data security.

mbrenner

I have discovered the reason for a discrepant conclusions. The US government site you reference uses figures for the consolidated budget, i.e. it includes spending for Social Security and Medicare. This is rank dishonesty on the government's part since both programs draw their monies from dedicated trust funds into which we pay through withholdings separate from IRS withholdings.

I am not qualified to make the adjustments. There are a few obvious conclusions which were discussed on SST a few years back, however.

1. Since the Soc Sec trust fund has been running a big surplus for years, and since that money is budgeted to cover non-Soc Sec spending, the true deficit is - and has been - much larger than reported.

2. Honest accounting would show that both programs are in far better shape than the bipartisan claim of looming insolvency suggests

3. The proposed cutbacks, supported in principle by Obama and the Republicans, in effect will cheat millions of Americans of what is due them since the Treasury will never honor the IOUs in places in the trust funds when it siphons off the current surpluses.

4. The Scandinavians and other 'socialist' European governments do not engage in sort type of plunder

Michael Parks

Bernie will become president if the vote is not stolen again like what happened with Bush and the Supreme Court. We won't get another chance in our lifetimes to elect someone who isn't owed by the wealthy.

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