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US Real Wage Growth – Trends [Policy Tensor blog]


A straightforward visual breakdown of US real wage growth. There are a series of interesting graphs such as the one

UK election exit polls

UPDATE: Conservatives 365, Labour 203. Details from The Guardian.

Exit polls estimate PM Boris Johnson and the Tories re-elected with a fat majority, and Labour decimated. Real results tomorrow probably.

Not good at all, I liked Jeremy Corbyn and what he stood for. Unfortunately, his party was split on Brexit, and there is no reward for refusing to pick a side. (And certain punishment for picking.)

This was also a vivid example of how a first-past-the-post electoral system can take a bad situation and make it worse. (LD getting 3.6 million votes but only 11 seats, essentially none relative to their votes).


Getting to a Carbon-Free Economy [Jeffrey Sachs / American Prospect]


On a more positive note, here is a hefty 6000 word article, from the prominent reformist voice of Jeffrey Sachs. It details out a somewhat specific timeline for de-carbonizing the US economy and also an order-of-magnitude cost estimate, as reckoned by some of his colleaguesWorth Reading.

I especially like that in many cases, he is in favor of direct legal elimination rather than carbon-pricing methods. I think his analysis of the timeline, especially for vehicles and electric generation is legit. That is, it is possible. 2050 and a 30 years plan means starting next year. The cost estimate of 1% of GDP over that time seems optimistic. We’re talking full-court press, unified effort by government and industry, the first decade spent in a crash program to develop the required technologies (esp. hydrogen-cell energy storage). I don’t see either a Trump administration or a Biden administration as willing to even consider this.

But it is good to see the subject taken seriously yet with some realism. It is also good to see the discussion in long form. That is the only way to really do it.

impeachment, and more!

busy week in US politics. Looks like some cards are getting flipped over now.

  • House Judiciary drafts Articles of Impeachment, committee to vote later this week, full House vote next week?
  • FBI Inspector General Horowitz releases report. Repeated subversion of FISA rules by FBI. Makes a liar out of House Intel Cmte. Chairman Schiff (among others). Nothing-criminal-going-on-here conclusion. Horowitz recommends additional follow-up work to correct deficiencies in following rules. Republican defenders of Trump, Barr and Durham, suggest there is more dirt to come via counter-investigations.
  • Giuliani goes to Ukraine and gets a nervous-looking Viktor Shokin on camera. Clips were briefly popping up from a right-wing news outlet, One America News, which I won’t link here. If authentic, this would be troubling for Biden. Shokin was Ukraine’s Prosecutor General (similar to an Attorney General in the US), and was forced out at Biden’s specific request, but “not because of Burisma”. In the clips, Shokin (via a translator) appears to state that he was in the process of investigating Burisma when Ukr. President Poroshenko asked him to resign, that this happened after Poroshenko spoke to Biden who expressed displeasure at the investigations and was witholding $1B of loan guarantees, that Poroshenko said Burisma is the main part of the reason he was asked to resign, and that Shokin thinks there is a telephone record between Poroshenko and Biden that is relevant.

I have a feeling this wasn’t supposed to happen, usually there is a backroom deal to settle these matters out of sight of the public. It may yet disappear, which would be a sign of a deal.

  • Oh, and out of nowhere, the “New NAFTA” is suddenly ready, with House Speaker Pelosi ready to jump on it in an incongruous show of bipartisanship.
  • Also, some report about Afghanistan, but I’m not sure who even considers that news at this point

Chris Hedges interview-talk [Chris Lydon / WBUR / WGBH]

Former NYT journalist and prolific writer, talks about the subjects of his new book America: The Farewell Tour. Hour and a half, picking up a bit as they go.

Hedges and his interviewer take the longer view, going back to their scholarly and spiritual roots to anchor their sanity amidst the difficult outlook, as they touch on many topics relevant to the dysfunctions of the day.

Increasing inequality, disillusionment, and despair feed proto-authoritarian tendencies in our government and economic system. Both political parties are complicit, and Hedges sees few signs that our trajectory can be changed through reforms from within the confines of the the power structure, as it exists. [however, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. -p.]

I am not as convinced as he is that the US is close to another serious financial crisis – but the rest of his message rings true. Perhaps the one thing that I think is likely to save the US from the vicious cycle of crises ending with authoritarianism, is the possibility that the economic conditions of working class Americans actually have potential to improve somewhat compared to 2012-2016. However, any improvement would be happening along with a continually growing list of economic sectors adopting the structure of a McDonald’s kitchen.

Still, mending the current divide, by lulling the working class back to sleep, would relieve the pressure on the political system. The generational nature of the working-class/middle-class divide would imply that one could buy perhaps 15 years time by letting the middle class deplete, thereby shifting balance of political power back to the stereotypical working class. As a way to “stop the bleeding”, so to speak. After that, the societal problems would be unsolved (and likely worse), a financial episode not unlikely on the decade timescale, political crisis would surely return, or we would simply morph into an “illiberal democracy”. Without a vibrant middle class, we’re looking at a diminished standing in the world, and the US would be a far less attractive place to live. So this scenario is not as bad as analogies to the Weimar Republic. But still fairly miserable if you ask me.

In the final question of the Q&A, Hedges calls for a radical restructuring of power in the US, suggesting that non-violent revolution is actually the least unrealistic path to a better future. It’s hard to dismiss this conclusion, as we already have all the resources we need do much, much better for everyone than we currently are – i.e. deliver a middle class life with health, education, work spread around evenly, a clean environment, and a society in which there is a good chance to build secure human relationships. Resources, processes, values – to shift gears, and mix metaphors a bit [from a popular corporate self-help book with a brilliant final chapter]. We have the first in abundance, we are discovering the third, slowly and painfully……


2020 Primary: Bullock, Sestak, Harris drop out

Finally, the field is starting to thin out.

  • Steve Bullock, MT governor
  • Joe Sestak, former PA representative and retired admiral
  • Kamala Harris, CA senator (term ending 2022). Just dropped per cnbc

Bullock and Sestak had negligible impact on the race (below 1% in Morning Consult poll released yesterday [538]).

Harris, on the other hand, was a relatively big name from a big state. I thought she might stay in just to have a shot at VP, which would be an especially sought after position this year, and her profile is ideal to be paired with a conservative white guy like Biden or even Buttigieg. Although unclear to what degree that is still a possibility after she took a shot at Biden in the first debate.

It will be interesting to see where Harris’ support will go, especially in CA. It was as much as 3-5% nationally (e.g. yesterday’s MC poll), and 6-10% in CA (e.g. Nov26th SurveyUSA poll).

Continuing to look at yesterday’s MC poll, Booker, Klobuchar, and Bennet have another 5% national polling between them, and a Senate seat to go back to.

Whistleblower & Politicization of Intelligence [Scott Ritter / Consortium News]

Detailed article by the former Iraq weapons inspector


[via NakedCapitalism (in the comments)]


Before I say anything else, happy thanksgiving to all!  Wherever you are, relax, try to take it easy, and be kind to one another.

The article paints a picture of the difficult situation the originators of the current impeachment effort found themselves in. (the whistleblower was not alone in the views he held.)

As 2016 rolled into 2017, the whistleblower found himself in an administration about to roll back policies that were his. He and colleagues now reported to Flynn, who they were not only suspicious of, but had just been investigating and trying to keep from becoming their boss.

Ritter’s problem with this is that in such a situation, the whistleblower and like minded colleagues weren’t working for the current administration any more. The article doesn’t specifically say so, but essentially they are acting in the interests of the former administration, or if you like the opposite political party – the divisions happen to coincide here. Entering into the arena of politics (i.e. impeachment) is the avenue the whistleblower etc had available to resolve their predicament. This is a big no-no for the “IC”, but they decided that the level of wrongdoing (as they saw it) justified breaking this rule. Without even judging whether they were right in their judgment of the Trump administration, bringing the “IC” into politics opens up a heck of a can of worms right there.

My problem (actually I have several, but I am looking for an angle that can also be broken down without making a judgment about the actual accusations – doing so would be about as useful as arguing over religion) – my problem isn’t so much with the acting contrary to orders or chain of command. After all, there are cases when doing so is justifiable – the very existence of the whistleblower concept is an acknowledgment of this. But even besides this, we now have, in essence, the two sides investigating each other for the crime of having investigated each other. That situation is kindof ridiculous. There can be no resolution besides firing everyone on both sides and starting from scratch. And to be honest, that doesn’t sound so bad, as many of them deserve it for other reasons that are vastly more serious. (like starting wars, killing lots of innocent people, covering it up – that kind of thing).