Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 29 April 2022


Please NOTE the last paragraph (how many times have I made the same point? I'm a broken record?! Absolutely!)

"The Democrats’ largest problem is this: We are living in an age of fear, insecurity and disorder on an array of fronts. The Republicans have traditionally been known as the party of toughness and order. Democrats are going to have to find a posture that is tough on disorder, and tough on the causes of disorder."

The point Brooks makes on "fear and insecurity" applies most of all to one dimension that he doesn't explore. Schumpeter's emphasis in "innovation" as the chief characteristic he also describes in more neutral, less positive terms as "creative destruction".

These days bourgeois economists have chosen the equally term "disruption" to refer to this innovative process of creative destruction or destructive creation.

In reality, this process is the central means by which capital seeks to decompose or undo then political solidarity of workers for better working and living conditions by increasing "productivity", that is, by restoring the margin of command over living labour by reducing the time it takes to secure it's reproduction through the wage relation.

The antagonism between workers and capital boils down then to a dispute over wages and productivity.

But the process of "disruption" or more euphemistically "innovation" is one that also generates often disastrous politically destabilizing waves of..."fear and insecurity" that envelop not just the labour process but social living standards overall!

THIS is the major aspect that wholly eludes Brooks.

And this is the aspect that requires the intervention and the "mediation" of the State to alleviate its catastrophic effects which are visible almost ronthennaked eye!

Seven Lessons Democrats Need to Learn — Fast

Credit...Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

Opinion Columnist

We all make mistakes; the question is, do we learn from them? Over the past couple of years people on the left side of the political and cultural spectrum have made their share. These have contributed to the Democrats’ extremely bleak political prospects going into the midterms. Far worse, it is now quite plausible that Donald Trump could win re-election in 2024.

If we’re going to prevent that kind of catastrophe, it might be a good idea to learn a few relevant lessons:

It is possible to overstimulate the economy. Many progressives persuasively argued that Barack Obama didn’t go big enough to stimulate the economy after the financial crisis. It appears the United States has now gone too big. Inflation is at a 40-year high. Real wages have fallen. Almost 70 percent of Americans think the economy is in poor shape.

Much of the inflation is being driven by global energy and supply chain issues. But, at 8.5 percent, inflation in America is a lot higher than in, say, Europe. Some economists estimate that the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan added between two and four percentage points to the U.S. inflation rate.

Law and order is not just a racist dog whistle. Yes, from George Wallace to Donald Trump that rhetoric has been used as a dog whistle. Yes, every discussion of crime and policing needs to include the outrageous racial disparities that permeate the system. At the same time, it is true that the first job of government is to establish order so people can feel secure. Democrats do not have an effective anti-crime posture at a time when crime is surging. In New York City, for example, while murder rates fell, overall crime was up 37 percent in March compared with a year earlier, driven by a 59 percent increase in grand larceny auto, a 48 percent increase in robbery and a 40 percent increase in burglaries. Shootings went up 16 percent. According to a Gallup poll, 53 percent of Americans now say they worry a “great deal” about crime.


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Don’t politicize everything. Education has traditionally been a Democratic strong point. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in 2006 found that voters trusted Democrats over Republicans to do a better job handling education by over 20 points. When the Post-ABC poll asked about the issue last November, the advantage was down to three points. Part of the drop is probably the teacher unions’ preference to keep schools closed during the pandemic, part may be the attacks by some progressives on magnet schools and gifted programs, part the perception that progressives care more about their cultural agenda than actual education. Republicans have certainly politicized education, too, but for some reason it seems to work for them while it doesn’t for Democrats.

Border security is not just a Republican talking point. During one of the Democratic presidential primary debates in 2019, almost all candidates onstage backed the idea of decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings. That sent the signal that the Democratic Party had shifted significantly to the left on immigration. Today, 59 percent of voters believe that the U.S. has an “effectively” open southern border.

Joe Biden never swooned for decriminalization the way many of his opponents did, but he has not yet found a policy that advances progressive goals while assuaging the concerns of border state voters. Just 38 percent of voters approve of his handling of this issue.

“People of color” is not a thing. It was always odd to create a group identity that covered a vast majority of humanity. In this country the phrase “people of color” sometimes covers over a wide array of different ethnic experiences. It contributes to a simplistic oppressor/oppressed narrative in which white Republicans are supposed to be on one side and P.O.C. are supposed to be on the other.


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That made it harder to anticipate that Trump would make the impressive gains among Hispanics in 2020 that he did. Hispanics still lean Democratic, 48 percent to 23 percent, according to a recent ICR-Miami poll, but their loyalty to the Democrats may be weakening. According to the same poll, more Democratic Hispanics have switched their party affiliation in the past year than Republican Hispanics. More Hispanics agreed than disagreed with the statement “The Democratic Party has been kidnapped by progressives.”

The Democrats’ largest problemDeficits do matter. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates the government will spend an average of $545 billion a year paying interest on the national debt over the next nine years. If interest rates rise two percentage points above the Congressional Budget Office’s projections, average annual interest costs will increase by $375 billion. That burden will crowd out spending on all other programs.

The New Deal happened once. Year after year Democrats imagine that if they can hand people checks and benefits, they will be rewarded with votes, allowing them to build a dominant majority coalition. It’s not that simple. I enthusiastically supported many of these policies, but we live in an age in which culture, values and identity issues drive politics at least as much as polic

The Democrats’ largest problem is this: We are living in an age of fear, insecurity and disorder on an array of fronts. The Republicans have traditionally been known as the party of toughness and order. Democrats are going to have to find a posture that is tough on disorder, and tough on the causes of disorder.

Tuesday 26 April 2022


French Lessons for the Biden Administration

Credit...Samuel Boivin/NurPhoto, via Getty Images

Opinion Columnist

You probably breathed a deep sigh of relief when you heard that Emmanuel Macron trounced Marine Le Pen by a 17-point margin in Sunday’s French presidential election. A Le Pen victory would have been a boon to Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban and Steve Bannon and a disaster for NATO, Europe and France.

The center held, thank God — because Macron governed from the center. He was hated by the far left and the far right and never entirely pleased those closer to the center. But he also became the first president to be re-elected in France in 20 years.

There’s a lesson in that for the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress, especially when it comes to immigration.

It has become an article of progressive faith in recent years that efforts to control immigration are presumptively racist.

A border wall is “a monument to white supremacy,” according to a piece published in Bloomberg. The “remain in Mexico” policy is “racist, cruel and inhumane,” according to the Justice Action Center. An essay published by the Brookings Institution calls U.S. immigration policy “a classic, unappreciated example of structural racism.”

It wasn’t long ago that Bernie Sanders was an avowed restrictionist on the view that immigration depresses working-class wages. Did that position make him a racist? The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, where I once worked, used to make the case for open borders with Mexico. Were we left-wing progressives? People of good will should be able to take different and nuanced views on immigration — and change their minds about it — without being tagged as morally deficient.

But that’s no longer how it works in progressive circles. The results are policy choices that are bad for the country and worse for Democrats and are an unbidden gift to the far right.

The issue is now acute with the Biden administration simultaneously seeking to end the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy in a case before the Supreme Court while accepting a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to let the use of Title 42, which allowed border authorities to expel illegal immigrants as a public health measure, expire on May 23.


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There’s not much doubt as to what will happen if the administration gets its way: An already straining southern border will burst. In fiscal year 2020 there were 646,822 “enforcement actions” at the border. In 2021 the number was a little shy of two million. Without the authority of Title 42, under which 62 percent of expulsions took place in 2021, the number of migrants being released in the United States will increase drastically.

You don’t have to be opposed to immigration as a general matter to have serious doubts about the administration’s course.

Is there a practical and available legal alternative to regulating immigration through Title 42 enforcement? Where is the logic of ending Title 42 even as the administration seeks to extend mask mandates because the pandemic is far from over? Given housing shortages, how much capacity is there to absorb the next wave of migrants? Even if an overwhelming majority of migrants are merely seeking a better life, what system is there to find those with less honorable intentions?

More to the point: What does the administration’s utter failure at effective control of the border say about its commitment to enforcing the rule of law?


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To raise such questions should be an invitation to propose balanced and practical immigration legislation and try to win over moderate Republicans. Instead it tends to invite cheap accusations of racism, along with policy paralysis in the White House. As Politico reported last week, some think the administration’s secret policy is to call for an end to Title 42 to satisfy progressives while crossing fingers that the courts continue it — which a federal judge did on Monday, at least temporarily.

Leading from behind Trump-appointed judges is probably not what Americans elected Joe Biden to do.

Which brings us back to the example of France. When Jean-Marie Le Pen made his first presidential bid on an anti-immigration platform in 1974, he took 0.75 percent of the ballot in the first round — fewer than 200,000 votes. When his daughter Marine ran on a similar platform this year, she took 41.5 percent in the second round, or more than 13 million. The Le Pens are thoroughgoing bigots.

But decades of pretending that only bigots had worries about immigration only made their brand of politics stronger.

As president, Macron tacked right on immigration — not to weaken France’s historic position as an open society, friendly to newcomers, but rather to save it. He has cracked down on some asylum seekers, demanded that immigrants learn French and get jobs and taken a hard line against Islamic separatism. But he’s also tried to make France a more welcoming place for legal immigration. The left thinks of him as Le Pen lite, the right as a feckless impostor. Maybe he’s both. Then again, he also saved France for the free world.

Democrats could stand to brush up on their French.


A Nameless Soldier, a Shameless Politician and a Soulless Leader

Credit...Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Opinion Columnist

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I am thinking about three people today whose behavior could have a significant impact on the world in the coming months and possibly years: a soldier with no name, a politician with no shame and a leader with no soul.

The first I admire, the second we should have nothing but contempt for and the third must forever be known as a war criminal.

The unnamed soldier is the thousands of Ukrainians — those in uniform and those civilian men and women — who are defending their country’s nascent democracy against Vladimir Putin’s barbaric attempt to wipe Ukraine off the map.

Whether they are professionally trained soldiers or “babushkas” using their smartphones to call in coordinates of Russian tanks hiding in the forest behind their farms, their willingness to anonymously fight and die to preserve Ukraine’s freedom and culture is the ultimate refutation of Putin’s claim that Ukraine is not a “real” country but rather an integral part of Russia’s “own history, culture and spiritual space.” We don’t know their names — I can’t name a single Ukrainian general, despite all their success so far — but their deeds have shown Putin that the country they are fighting for is very real, very distinct and willing to ferociously defend itself.

Credit...David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

If Ukraine’s leaders choose to cut a peace deal with Russia, we should help bolster them in negotiations, but as long as they choose to fight, we should help arm them. Because they are not just defending Ukraine, they are defending the possibility of a Europe whole and free — where one country cannot simply devour another. That doesn’t just make for a better Europe, it makes for a better world.

The second person I am thinking about is Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House — a man who, we now know, did not have the courage to stick with his own fleeting manifestation of courage.

We are indebted to the reporting by my Times colleagues Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns to fully appreciate how much McCarthy’s behavior is a profile in cowardice in four acts:

Act 1: Martin and Burns quote McCarthy as having told his G.O.P. colleagues about his feelings about President Donald Trump in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. “I’ve had it with this guy,” McCarthy said, and described Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 as “atrocious and totally wrong.” Trump was likely to be impeached, McCarthy said, so he intended to recommend to him, “you should resign.”


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Act. 2: After these revelations were published last Thursday morning, McCarthy issues a statement declaring that “The New York Times’ reporting on me is totally false and wrong.”

Act. 3. That night, thanks to a leaked audio recording posted by The Times and aired on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show, the whole world got to hear McCarthy telling a Jan. 10 House Republican leadership conference that his plan was to tell Trump that his impeachment “will pass and it would be my recommendation you should resign” — exactly what McCarthy hours earlier had denied saying.

Act. 4. McCarthy — instead of apologizing to his constituents and the American people for lying — calls Trump to explain himself and why he should remain in Trump’s good graces. Trump magnanimously pardons the bootlicking McCarthy for his sin of telling the truth.

The legendary U.C.L.A. basketball coach John Wooden liked to say that “the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”


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Most lawmakers would want the world to believe that when everything was on the line for America, they told the truth and stood with the Constitution against a president trying to subvert it. That’s what McCarthy told his G.O.P. colleagues privately was his stance.

But McCarthy then revealed his true character. When he realized that doing the right thing for the country might cost him Trump’s support and his dream of becoming speaker of the House, McCarthy lied about telling the truth. And even worse, when McCarthy’s lying and bad character were exposed, many in his party backed him up anyway.

This is the new “McCarthyism” — Kevin McCarthyism — where a politician can say anything, even lie about telling the truth and get away with it.

Kevin McCarthy
Credit...Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Kevin McCarthy
Vladimir Putin
Credit...Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
Vladimir Putin

This trend is as much a threat to American democracy as anything Putin is doing. Because if such a shameless and shameful hack like McCarthy is able to sell his soul to enough people to become speaker of the House, he becomes second in line for the presidency, after the vice president.

And it’s a threat because everything McCarthy and his colleagues did erodes the distinction between our system and the one led by the man with no soul — Vladimir Putin, who also will not hesitate to use any means to hold on to power, whether by jailing or allegedly poisoning his critics or by poisoning democracies with disinformation.

Putin, though, is not just obsessed with holding his own power and ready to violate any norm to retain it. He is also obsessed with the loss of Russian power, dignity and respect — which resulted from the fall of the Soviet Union — and the need to restore it.

His reckless decision to invade Ukraine was fueled by a desire to halt NATO’s and the European Union’s expansion closer to Russia’s borders. But he wanted to do it in a way that would show everyone how much the West is weak and divided and how much Ukraine is not a real country, by overrunning the place in a week. Class was in session and Putin was going to teach the West a lesson.


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But Putin’s lesson plan has gone badly awry. Rather than teaching the West — and all of those Ukrainians who want to be part of the West — a lesson and erasing Russia’s humiliations, Putin has been further humiliated.

We need to tread carefully here — there is nothing more dangerous than a twice-humiliated leader with nuclear weapons.

Putin is capable of doing anything: When you look at how this war has ravaged both Russia’s and Ukraine’s economies and armies, Putin’s place in history is already secure: He’s the leader who destroyed two countries to save one face — his own. But he will do anything to keep trying to save his face.

So here’s my bottom line: Several years ago, a Hebrew biography of Ariel Sharon was published with the title “He Doesn’t Stop at Red Lights.” It is a fitting title for our times, too. What is so unnerving to me about the state of the world today are the number of leaders ready to shamelessly, in broad daylight — and with a sense of utter impunity — drive through red lights. That is, to drive through the legal and normative gates that have kept the world relatively peaceful over the last 70 years, during which we had no great power wars, and have enabled more people to emerge from extreme poverty faster than at any other era in history.


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We will miss this if it ends. To maintain it, though, it’s necessary that we help all those unnamed Ukrainians fighting for their freedom to succeed. And it is necessary that we make sure that Putin’s quest to find dignity by crushing that Ukrainian freedom movement fails.

But none of that is sufficient if all those politicians in America who also think that they can run through any red light to gain or hold power succeed. Who will follow our model then?

I can’t think of another time in my life when I felt the future of America’s democracy and the future of democracy globally were more in doubt. And don’t kid yourself; they are intertwined. And don’t kid yourself; they both can still go either way.

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Thomas L. Friedman is the foreign affairs Op-Ed columnist. He joined the paper in 1981, and has won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is the author of seven books, including “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” which won the National Book Award. @tomfriedman  Facebook