Failure of Republican Economics
The first item
today is an article by Robert Reich that I first found on Truthdig but
that was first on Reich's site:
This is from the
Few economic theories
have been as thoroughly tested in the real world as supply-side
economics, and so notoriously failed.
Ronald Reagan cut the top
income tax rate from 70 percent to 28 percent and ended up nearly
doubling the national debt. His first budget director, David Stockman,
later confessed he dealt with embarrassing questions about future
deficits with “magic asterisks” in the budgets submitted to Congress.
The Congressional Budget Office didn’t buy them.
George W. Bush inherited
a budget surplus from Bill Clinton but then slashed taxes, mostly on
the rich. The CBO found that the Bush tax cuts reduced
revenues by $3 trillion.
Yet Republicans don’t want
to admit supply-side economics is hokum.
Well... yes, but with
two qualifications: "supply-side economics" never was a serious
economic theory, which indeed also is one important reason Republicans
don't admit it is hokum: it was meant to be hokum from the
start, that is, it was set up to deceive. (And yes, I do know
many Friedmannites among economists, but I doubt their intellectual
acumen and/or their honesty.)
Next, here is the
central part of the article, that seems quite correct to me - except
that one fairly obvious inference is not made:
In this as in other
domains of public policy, Republicans have not shown a particular
affinity for facts.
Climate change? It’s not
happening, they say. And even if it is happening, humans aren’t
responsible. (Almost all scientists studying the issue find it’s
occurring and humans are the major cause.)
Widening inequality? Not
occurring, they say. Even though the data show otherwise, they claim
the measurements are wrong.
Voting fraud? Happening
all over the country, they say, which is why voter IDs and other limits
on voting are necessary. Even though there’s no evidence to back up
their claim (the best evidence
shows no more than 31 credible incidents of fraud out of a billion
ballots cast), they continue to assert it.
Evolution? Just a theory,
they say. Even though all reputable scientists support it, many
Republicans at the state level say it shouldn’t be taught without also
presenting the view found in the Bible.
Weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq? America’s use of torture? The George W. Bush
administration and its allies in Congress weren’t overly interested in
The pattern seems to be:
if you don’t like the facts, make them up.
Yes, that is all
quite true, but the real problem are the facts that lie behind
(1) the majority of
American voters is stupid or ignorant, while (2) the "debate" is mostly
for their benefit, for they decide who gets the vote,
which means that (3) most political debates are about illusions
and (4) are meant to be about illusions (for otherwise they
would be framed
(<- Wikipedia) differently).
And these facts - as
I suppose they are - and especially (3) and (4) are not often stated or
discussed, I must suppose because then somebody might whisper or scream
"Conspiracy theory! Aargh!".
Well, firstly there
clearly are conspiracies, and many more than are found out. Second, I
agree the main problem with conspiracy theories is the proof, and
without proof it must remain mostly imaginary (even if it is true).
But third, I'd say
there is sufficient evidence for (1) - (4) inclusive - and I agree that
makes almost any political or economic debate (possibly apart from
small circles of academics) pretty illusory, simply because it cannot
be rational and informed. 
2. Vowing to End 'Neoliberal Experiment,'
Greek Left Rises as Snap Elections Called
The next item is an article by Jon Queally on Common
This starts as follows:
"The future has already
That's what Alexis Tsipras,
head of the leftwing Syriza Party in Greece, reportedly said on Monday after parliament failed in
its third attempt to elect a new president and the scheduling of a
popular general election was announced for next month.
I say, especially because of the Syriza
Party (<-Wikipedia), which seems to be one of the few genuine
leftist parties (or perhaps: associations - see the last Wkipedia link
- for it is composed from many leftist groups) that is left in Europe.
In fact, here is a quote from a recent op-ed from Tsipras:
In an op-ed
published on Sunday in the leftwing Avgi newspaper,
Tsipras explained his party's thinking in clear terms:
will be the start of a great national effort to save society and
restore Greece – a national effort with international repercussions,
since our historical responsibility is to pave the way for an
alternative policy in Europe, turning a Eurozone country from a
neoliberal experiment to a model of social protection and growth. [...]
[W]e are coming
to unite, not separate [Greece]– to build on the ruins of a looted
society. That is why SYRIZA’s government will not be a single-party
government, it will be the government of the people.
With rhetoric like that
and Syriza's victory in a popular election a very possible outcome, the
financial markets in Europe are reportedly jittering about how an
anti-austerity takeover of the Greek government will impact the
The Guardian is quite
correct that this is rhetoric, but I don't mind that in an op-ed, and
so far as I know the Greeks - the great majority, at least - are among
those hardest hit by the crisis, that can only be tamed by new
rules, new laws and new practices that are mostly
leftist (since the crisis was started by the rightists'
"liberalization" of the economical laws and rules).
There is also this:
As Channel 4's
Paul Mason explains
on his blog on Monday, "people all over Europe who’ve opposed austerity
see [these developments in Greece] as a turning point" in the
years-long fight against regressive cuts to public services, pensions,
and the privatization of national assets across the continent.
Asking readers to
understand the pervasive impact of austerity across Europe, Mason
describes how the economic crisis in Greece—where youth unemployment is
now 60 percent—has become emblematic for economic policies that have
"destroyed the prospects for much of a generation."
don't know that "people
all over Europe who’ve opposed austerity see [these developments in
Greece] as a turning point" (it may be true: I said I don't know)
but it seems quite true that the Greeks - in so far as that they are
not rich - have become the victims of "economic policies that have "destroyed the prospects for
much of a generation.""
fact, here is something that Mason said in the last link that seems
So even as the symbolism
of moderate Marxism is plastered all over Syriza, in reality its
programme for Greece is mainstream Keynesian economics.
If it wins, the question
is: can the European institutions stomach it. The ECB, European
Commission and IMF are all pledged to an economic doctrine that demands
a further decade of austerity, tight finances, and cautious use of
monetary policy and central bank tactics.
(both moderate and less moderate), you'll have to check the Wikipedia
article linked above (supposing that you don't have any Greek), but
Mason seems correct that most of their economic ideas are Keynesian.
my guess is that "the European institutions" cannot stomach it, and not
because it is irrational, but because Keynesian policies are not
pro-rich, while being pro-rich seems to be the real conviction
- that may be hidden under the propaganda most politicians mouth so
very easily - of the vast majority of the current European politicians.
do not know how this will work out, but I agree with Mason that so far
at least it looks all quite positive.
as to the huge debts the Greeks have, Jon Queally ends his article as
strong re-negotiation of its debt would not be unprecedented, Milios
explained. "More than 50% of Greek debt needs to be written off,"
Milios explained. "The solution [of debt forgiveness] that was given to
Germany at the London conference in 1953 is what we must do for Greece."
In fact, that is quite like a plan I had by the end of
Undo the laws that led to the present mess; shut all
the major banks, for good; declare all major economical debts nil; and
start again from there, noting that all that has been lost are money
and banks (instititutions of the non-producing greedy rich), while the
rest is still standing. This certainly would have
destroyed the prospects of many bank managers, but it also would have
elevated the prospects of nearly all who are not rich. And it might
have worked, as indeed none of the austerity packages has
these only helped to move yet more money from the poor to the rich.
Greed Kings of 2014: How They Stole from Us
third item is an article by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams:
starts as follows:
The Merriam-Webster definition
of 'steal' is to take the property of another wrongfully and
especially as a habitual or regular practice. Much of our
country's new wealth has been regularly taken by individuals or
corporations in a wrongful manner, either through nonpayment of taxes
or failure to compensate other contributors to their successes.
quite so, though I do not like Merriam-Webster's definition very much,
and prefer the one my Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gives (and I
give only the main and first part):
To take dishonestly or secretly (...) b. In wider sense: To
take or appropriate dishonestly (anything belonging to another, whether
material or immaterial) (...)
is better because it mentions honesty and does not mention property,
and also does not have the - somewhat odd - addition "especially as a habitual or regular
which is odd, because the frequency does not matter, though it
aggrevates the crime.
either case, the rich have stolen enormous amounts of money
from the poor since 1980, and have done so basically by politics
and by bullshit.
were and are meant to free the rich from the laws that made them behave
reasonable to those who were not rich; the bullshit was and is
directed especially at the 50% of the dumbest, knowing full well that
if these are taken in, the elections are won, and that it is very
easy to take them in: all you need is the wish to do so, which
generally is motivated by the money you will gain; the lack of
morals to mouth profitable lies and deceptions (and the last is a sine
qua non for nearly any modern politician); and the money to make your
lies known while looking popular.
There is this about the corporations (supported by facts you can find
out about by clicking on the last dotted link):
As schools and local
governments are going broke around the country, companies who built
their businesses with American research and education and technology
and infrastructure are paying less in
taxes than ever before. Incredibly, over half of U.S.
corporate foreign profits are now being held in tax
havens, double the share of just twenty years ago.
Corporations are stealing from the nation that made them rich.
Yes, indeed - and
they are doing it mainly by paying less taxes, in terms of percentages of incomes, than any ordinary middle class person,
and by paying small salaries to most of their workers.
There is this about
Defenders of inequality
argue that fortunes are deserved because of innovation and hard work.
But many of the 40 Americans
who own as much
as the poorest half of the country have relied on less
deserving means of accumulating great fortunes (details here).
fact, I do believe in inequalities of many kinds: Some are much
more intelligent, much more energetic, much more beautiful, much more
humorous, much better walkers, much better calculators etc. etc. than
most others - but I don't
believe that any inequality in talents or gifts can
justify that your income, property or fortune should be
larger than of those who lack your talents or gifts.
being quite smart myself, I certainly never believed that "the leaders
of industry", as capitalist entrepreneurs liked to be called, are in
almost any way more gifted than are real intellectuals (who
rarely become a "leader of industry").
only difference I do see between "the leaders of
industry" (and banks, and P.R.-organizations etc. etc.) and the rest is
that the former are considerably more
greedy, more egoistic, and more dishonest than almost anybody else.
there is this about inequality deniers:
After 35 years of wealth
theft there are still inequality deniers—notably the American
Enterprise Institute, which claims that income inequality has been
shrinking since 1989, and
that we should be asking whether or not the bottom 60% are
paying their fair share.
not amazed that the AEI - Cheney's institute, after all - make up
from thin air and imagination, but I should like to point out that one
of the members of the AEI is Ayaan
Hirsi Ali, whom I, and most Dutchmen, only know as an evident
fraud, but who still gets audiences in the U.S. because she is
"an atheist". (The last link is to an article I wrote in 2005. It is
linked because it is, apart from the very beginning, all in English.)
the article under the last dotted link is well worth reading in full.
4. New Snowden Docs Reveal Wider Net of NATO
'Kill List' Targets
The fourth item is an
article by Andrea Germanos, again on Common Dreams:
This starts as
Newly revealed documents
show that NATO's "kill list" for Afghanistan operations included not
just senior Taliban leaders but those suspected of being low- and
mid-level operatives as well as drug traffickers, Der Spiegel
Some of the secret
documents, which are from 2009 to 2011, are from the trove released by
Edward Snowden, the German paper states.
"The documents show that
the deadly missions were not just viewed as a last resort to prevent
attacks, but were in fact part of everyday life in the guerrilla war in
Afghanistan," Der Spiegel reports.
As part of a strategy the
White House called "escalate and exit" that started in 2009, NATO
troops would start with a "cleansing" phase—killing insurgents. The
paper cites Michael T. Flynn, the head of ISAF intelligence in
Afghanistan, as saying during a briefing: "The only good Talib is a
I suppose Flynn
thought he was speaking like a real cowboy ("The only good Indian is a dead Indian") while I draw your attention to the
fact that most of those who were killed probably were killed merely
because they were "suspected".
In fact, Andrea
Germanos seems to have her knowledge from one of the pdf files I
mentioned yesterday and indeed downloaded myself, but this is a quite
good use of these files.
And there is
considerably more under the last dotted link.
civilization would tolerate what America has done”
fifth and last item today is an article by David Mascriota on Alternet:
This is not
a very good article, but it asks a question that is good, at least
But before turning to that, I'll try to explain the title, which is
used in the last paragraph of the article, that goes like this:
The sane minority
might ostensibly protest the racism of the criminal justice system, but
they are actually demanding that America become a civilized society. No
civilization would tolerate what America has recently done, but it is
that very concept —the idea of civilization—that the silent majority so
fiercely seems to hate and reject.
the "sane minority" is the counterpiece to Nixon's "silent majority". I
do not think it is a a happy choice, because once you decide
that the majority is insane, there is very little left to hope for -
though I can understand it. 
Next, while I agree, very broadly speaking, that what most
Americans lack is civilization (and tolerance), I
can't agree to phrases like "No civilization would tolerate what America has recently done" because - unless
you use the term "civilization" in a quite non-standard way -
there are many civilizations whose populations tolerated in vast
majority what the Americans recently
did. (I don't say they are admirable.)
This may not be what you like to think, but it is a fact.
Now to the question Mascriota poses - and I have added a Wikipedia link
to a brief review of the book Chomsky and Herman wrote:
Noam Chomsky and
Edward S. Herman wrote the classic
Consent, about the manipulative and exploitative relationship
corporate media has with the American public. What if the consent is
not manufactured? What if, as historian Morris Berman contends, the
plutocratic theft of American lives and treasure is not actually a
robbery, but a transaction?
with, most of the consent is manufactured (or advertisement
does not work and never did) - and see the section "Editorial bias:
five filters" in the last linked Wikipedia article if you doubt
this - and indeed the whole phrase "the manufacture of consent" goes
back to the early 1920ies.
So the supposition is pretty meaningless, as is indeed Morris Berman's
contention, that seems most like a redefinition that aims to get rid of
the word "robbery" (since any robbery is a transaction, but not all
transactions are robberies) - and see item 3.
But it may be replaced by another supposition:
Suppose the majority of mankind is - e.g. naturally, in part from the
lack of any real talents most are born with - not given to much thought
or practice of human solidarity; is mostly egoistic and limits that
egoism, at best, to parts of his or her family, friends and
acquaintances; may be quite often quite cruel, also with very little
provocation ; and is neither
smart nor learned. Then what?
It does not stop me, in the first place because I know that people's personalities are
to a large extent cultural creations, that also depend on many factors,
and in the second place because it never seemed a good idea to
me to provide 1% with most of the income a society generates, and to
let them propagandize
50% + a little more of the people (who - indeed - are mostly neither
intelligent nor learned) to choose as the 1% wants them to choose.
But that is the system that currently rules the U.S. 
am not saying one should stop
debating. I am saying one should call things as they are,
as the majority wishes to see them.
I do not think the majority is insane, and I am
a psychologist. I do think the majority is stupid, ignorant,
and - among other things - for those reasons quite often cruel, but
none of these characteristics has much to do with (in)sanity.
 To make one point briefly: The Romans
definitely had or were "a civilization", but they had for about four
centuries the highly popular circuses, in which people (and
other kinds of animals) were slaughtered quite painfully in order to
amuse the population, that indeed generally was amused.
 Also, this does not have anything
to do with capitalism-or-not, at least not if it is understood there
are (at least) two kinds of capitalism: Keynesian
capitalism-with-a-human-face, and Friedmannian
capitalism-with-a-pretended- human face.