Monday Wake Up Call – April 18, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Sunset, Sequoia Lake, CA – April 2022 photo by An Pham

Today is tax day, and Wrongo will get his in on time. But the question of how America deals with its taxing is rightly under scrutiny. Blog reader Ottho H. commented on Wrongo’s Sunday post about the IRS:

“To me it’s an enduring mystery, and a source of anger and disgust, why Congress starves the IRS…. Doubling the IRS budget (by, say, $12B per year) seems like the best and most “sure thing” ROI the gov’t can make….To the extent that the “starve or defund the IRS” movement is due to lobbies and Congressmen out to protect and further enrich the already rich, then at least that should be made more transparent to the public. This is a no-brainer cause that I can get behind.”

The IRS is chronically underfunded. Government data show that millionaires and billionaires are rarely audited, while lower-income families are disproportionately targeted (five times more likely) for enforcement actions. The agency is severely understaffed. It works with outdated technology, meaning that any paper returns must first be transcribed into a computer. It also means hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes go uncollected.

The answer to so many of the IRS’s woes: antiquated tech systems, congested phone lines, threadbare enforcement –  is more funding. It’s one of the few federal agencies that would generate a large and nearly immediate return on investment if it could spend more.

But many Republicans don’t want to fix it. Yesterday’s WaPo article quoted Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL):

“This additional money for the IRS to target all Americans is absolutely wrong…It will target our families, it’s going to target our small businesses, and it’s going to go after them to get them to pay more money.”

And Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) about how new IRS funding would be used:

“We know that most of this $80 billion will be used to enhance the ability of the IRS to target middle Americans…”

The Economist says that the IRS entered this tax season with a backlog of 24 million returns, 20 times worse than normal. At the end of this tax season, it will be nearly two years late in processing many of our returns:

“Spending [at] the agency has declined by nearly 20% since 2010. At the same time, the number of tax returns has increased by 20%. The backbone of the system, a nationwide taxpayer database, is built on top of a 1960s computer language rarely taught in schools.”

The IRS is in the process of hiring 10,000 workers to help clear the backlogs, but the biggest challenge is retaining their senior auditors. About a fifth of agency staff are eligible for retirement. Many have already left as a result of Covid, and they were exactly the kind of people needed to maintain the agency’s enforcement efforts.

The Economist says that the IRS audited 0.3% of corporate tax returns filed in 2018, down from 1.6% in 2010. The number this year may be even lower. They quote Charles Rettig, IRS Commissioner, as estimating that the government loses about $1 trillion in tax revenues annually because of cheating.

Even if new funding is appropriated, it will take time to re-build the agency. Money that is appropriated now for that purpose would be spent over the course of the next fiscal year (which ends on 9/30/2023) and the effects of those reforms probably wouldn’t start to show in the statistics until then.

It’s always been easier to destroy than it is to build. Credit the GOP for understanding this truth.

Time for the Republicans in Congress to wake up! No one likes paying taxes. Even for those who recognize that there’s a societal gain when we all pay them, filing our tax returns is a hassle. It’s time we had a better funded agency that could return the enforcement efforts back toward the richest corporations and wealthy individuals first.

To help our Congress Critters wake up, watch and listen to Mavis Staples perform “Love and Trust” from her album “Live in London”, recorded in 2018 at London’s Union Chapel. She’s joined by Jump Bluesman Rick Holmstrom on his Telecaster:

Sample Lyric:

The simplest things can be the hardest to do
Can’t find what you’re looking for even when it’s looking for you
The judge and criminal, the sinner and the priest
Got something in common, bring em all to their knees

[Chorus]
Do what you can, do what you must
Everybody’s trying to find the love and trust
I walk the line, I walk it for us
See me out here tryin’ to find some love and trust
(Love and trust)
(Love and trust)

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 17, 2022

It’s Easter Sunday for those who celebrate it. For Wrongo, it’s the final push to finish our taxes that are due on Monday. This time of year is always a painful reminder that roughly a quarter of the fruits of our labor go to Washington and Hartford. And if you need help? Well, that ship has sailed. The IRS is currently answering only 1 in 5 phone calls.

As Helene Olen says in the WaPo:

“This isn’t incompetence…It’s the result of a…decades-long and mostly successful campaign by…Republicans…to demean and defund the IRS. As a result, the…agency is severely understaffed and working with outdated technology. Which means hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes are uncollected…”

More from Olen:

“Yet many Republicans don’t want to fix it. They are pushing back against President Biden’s plan — part of his Build Back Better agenda — to give the IRS $80 billion over the next decade to improve its operations.”

Also, an interesting fact from the UK’s Financial Times about the inventiveness of the Ukrainian soldiers:

“The Russian attempt to take Kyiv was defeated by a combination of factors including geography, the attackers’ blundering, Ukrainian ingenuity, and modern arms….Moscow’s forces were thwarted, too, by pieces of foam mat — the Ukrainians call them karemats — costing as little as £1.50. The mats prevent Russian thermal imaging drones from detecting human heat “

Apparently the Ukrainian troops held the karemats over their heads, allowing them to move undetected at night, so soldiers armed with anti-tank weapons could sneak up on the Russians, fire their rockets and then slip away. Karemats are used throughout Ukraine and Russia.

An equivalent Pentagon human body heat cloaking system would cost $100k per. On to cartoons.

Is the tax game rigged? You betcha:

Ukraine also sank Russia’s Black Sea flagship, Moskva:

The NRA was joined by Marjorie Taylor Greene in spouting craziness about NYC:

Jared Kushner gets paid for services rendered, and the elephant wants you to look away:

GOP says Right to Choose isn’t limited:

Bunny is accepted while kids are not:

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Saturday Soother – April 16, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Water Lilies, Balboa Park, San Diego CA – April 2022 photo by Sharyl Edmiston Mitchell. Like Monet but in focus.

Three items for your review this Saturday. First, the watchdog group American Oversight published emails that revealed Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, asked Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to join a weekly coalition meeting of conservatives with ties to a group she founded called Groundswell.

She suggested that DeSantis’ office would be familiar with her because her husband had been in contact with the governor “on various things as of late.” That was in February.

DeSantis has two policy items that are likely to go before the Court: Florida’s Congressional redistricting map (drawn under DeSantis’s supervision) and Florida’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. Could these be among the “various things” that DeSantis and Clarence Thomas discussed?

We may never know because the Supreme Court has no enforceable code of ethics and no mechanism for reporting ex parte communications between justices and politicians or lobbyists. We’re headed backwards in America: Our sadness is that a minority, aided by the Supreme Court will now define what America really is.

Second, A 26-year-old black Grand Rapids, Michigan man was administered the death penalty by a cop for a minor traffic violation after he resisted arrest. Patrick Lyoya was a Congolese refugee who came to the US fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014. Wrongo will not present one or more of the gratuitous violence porn videos of the incident that are all over the internet.

Here’s a chart showing just how many more people are killed by cops in America vs. those killed in other wealthy countries:

Note that cops in other developed countries don’t kill very many people. For a cop to kill somebody in Western Europe or Japan, it is extraordinarily rare. In comparison, three people are killed by cops every day here in the land of the free.

On the other hand, there are 300 million guns out in the wild in the US. That’s surely making police more trigger-happy than cops in the rest of the civilized world. While that’s true, US police work isn’t nearly as dangerous as the police unions want you to believe, since death by Covid was the leading cause of police death for the second year in a row.

The typical take on this will be “You won’t die if you don’t run from the police.” That’s reasonable in the abstract, But should failure to comply with established Best Practices for America’s Docile Citizenry be a death sentence? That’s an authoritarian mindset.

There may be situations where it is legitimate to shoot a fleeing suspect to prevent the actual threat of death or severe bodily injury; but this was not one of those cases. Police now have the mentality that their primary goal is achieving compliance with their orders in every situation, and whatever they need to do to achieve that is ok. They’re wrong, it isn’t ok.

Third, old US Senators have got to retire. We currently have the oldest Senate in US history. From the WaPo:

“Twenty-three members of the Senate are in their 70s; only one is under 40. According to the Congressional Research Service, the average age of senators at the beginning of this year was 64.3 years — the oldest in history.”

And this part of the story is both sad and unnerving at the same time:

“Colleagues worry Dianne Feinstein is now mentally unfit to serve, citing recent interactions.”

The article quotes other Senators on her failing mental acuity. Feinstein’s term runs until January 2025.

With all that’s wrong, it’s time to leave the news of the week behind and focus on centering ourselves so we can try to handle next week’s horrors. It’s time for our Saturday Soother.

Spring has sprung on the fields of Wrong. The forsythia and daffodils are blooming. We’ve mulched all plants and trees; the lawns have been dethatched and seeded. It’s still too early to put out the garden furniture, but our plans to create a pollinator garden are proceeding.

To help you center yourself, start by brewing up a big mug of Dark Matter coffee ($17.00/12 oz.) made by San Diego’s own West Bean coffee roasters.

Now grab a comfy chair by a south-facing window and since this weekend is important to three of our great religions, settle back and listen to Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus”. Mozart composed this motet in D major in 1791 during the last year of his life to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.

Here it is performed by The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge directed by Daniel Hyde. It is from the BBC’s “Easter from King’s 2022” broadcast on BBC Two today:

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Monday Wake Up Call – April 11, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Cactus flowers – April 2022 photo by Renee Phillips

The Right-wing Washington Times quotes Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) saying on CNN’s “State of the Union”, that Congress is mulling whether to issue a criminal referral to the Justice Department against Donald Trump for “unlawfully” seeking to obstruct certification of the 2020 election.

Cheney said that the Jan. 6 House Select Committee has uncovered significant evidence that Trump and aides had acted improperly:

“It’s absolutely clear that what President Trump was dealing with, what the number of people around him were doing, that they knew it was unlawful [and] they did it anyway….I think what we have seen is a massive, well-organized and well-planned effort that used multiple tools to try to overturn an election.”

But talk is cheap. At a dinner last week, Wrongo was asked if he thought anything would come of the work by the committee. He wasn’t encouraging.

We can infer from Rep. Cheney’s comments that the House panel may have sufficient evidence to make a criminal referral of Trump (or some of his advisors) to the Department of Justice (DOJ). But recent reporting seems to indicate that some Committee members may not have the will to pull the trigger. From the NYT:

“The leaders of the House committee investigating the Capitol attack have grown divided over whether to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department of former President Donald J. Trump, even though they have concluded that they have enough evidence to do so…”

The question seems to be whether the Committee’s work would somehow hurt the DOJ’s ongoing investigative work:

“The debate centers on whether making a referral — a largely symbolic act — would backfire by politically tainting the Justice Department’s expanding investigation into the Jan. 6 assault and what led up to it.”

Can anyone imagine Republicans having what they thought to be sufficient evidence of a crime acting conflicted about delivering a criminal referral to the DOJ? Say about Hunter Biden or Hillary Clinton, because it might saddle the DOJ’s criminal case with partisan baggage? That’s unimaginable.

For Democrats, this is another failure of political analysis. Even if there had been no Select Committee, and the DOJ decided to prosecute Trump or some of his enablers for Jan.6, the political firestorm would  be consequential, and unending.

Wrongo believes in following process and in patience, but soon, the politics of the mid-terms and the looming 2024 presidential election must also be considered. If the Republicans take control of the House, the Select Committee will be disbanded. In that event, it must wrap up its work right after the November elections.

If you’re hoping that the Democrats will hold the House, then a referral to the DOJ needs to happen right now, regardless of whether that fact has any impact on the deliberations inside the DOJ.

We already know what is the worst thing that can happen. It’s that Democrats lose both the House and Senate in November. Having the Select Committee stay silent now as an act of political expediency simply shows voters that Democrats do not have what it takes to lead in the 21st Century.

Voters need to see Democrats willing to fight for justice. No one gets excited about voting for the conflicted or the meek.

This is the third time that we’re trying to hold a thoroughly criminal man and his corrupt regime accountable for the harm they have inflicted on America. The DC Dems’ efforts are a combination of Lucy pulls the football out from under Charlie Brown meets “Groundhog Day”. We’ve seen this over and over and over again.

It is now time for Merrick Garland and the DOJ to prevent a seismic collapse of our civil society and our democracy.

It’s also time for Congressional Democrats to wake up! There is nothing to be gained by failing to deliver a tsunami of criminal referrals to the DOJ. To help them wake up, here’s the masterful slide guitar player Roy Rogers (not THAT Roy Rogers) doing his version of “Terraplane Blues”. “Terraplane Blues” was written and recorded in 1936 by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. Back then, the Terraplane was a brand of car built by the Hudson Motor Car Company between 1932 and 1938. They were inexpensive, yet powerful vehicles.

In the Terraplane Blues, Johnson uses the Terraplane Car as a metaphor for sex. His car won’t start, and Johnson suspects that his girlfriend let another man drive it when he was gone. Here’s Roy Rogers playing at the Sierra Nevada Brewery Big Room in 2001:

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 10, 2022

Jonathan V. Last had a thoughtful essay that asked the question, “What if Democrats do everything right and still lose?” He’s speaking about the Dems’ poor mid-term polling. Last describes polls showing that people who benefited from the Child Tax Credit passed by Democrats nonetheless favor Republicans going into 2022:

“Inside the Democrats’ American Rescue Plan was the most substantively pro-family agenda item in a generation: A child tax credit that put real money into the pocket of just about every family….The child tax credit was the ultimate kitchen-table issue. Then Republicans killed it. They own…the act of taking this money away from working families.”

Last feels that the current political moment isn’t actually about kitchen-table issues. He points to the Ohio Senate race between Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican Josh Mandel:

“The Ohio Democrat is running on jobs, healthcare, infrastructure, and national security. The Ohio Republican is running on Trump, abortion, Christian nationalist identity, guns, RINOS, the Bible, and bitcoin.”

If Tim Ryan loses this race, it won’t be because Dems are blowing off working-class voters by refusing to focus on the real, kitchen-table issues that affect their lives. It’s looking like the electorate has become entirely untethered to policy concerns and have reached a point of nihilism.

Despite this environment, let’s not impose arbitrary timelines on achieving success. Just ask newly minted Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. On to cartoons.

Same as it ever was:

Palin runs again:

Ukraine gives Putin a few new stories:

The definition of Red State has changed:

Will the Russian Army really fit in the smaller dolls?

Tiger returns:

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Saturday Soother – April 9, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Perhaps the most important selfie ever? Via POTUS

A few items for today. First, the Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court on Thursday, making her the first-ever Black woman and former public defender to serve on the nation’s highest court. Every Democrat voted for her, plus three Republicans: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK), Susan Collins (ME) and Mitt Romney (UT). When the vote was over, the Senate chamber erupted with applause, but not by most Republicans.

Here’s a video of the many Republican Senators walking out amid applause for the new Associate Justice:

It was a bad moment for the White Nationalists of the GOP. Is it Wrongo, or has the Republican Party turned itself into a fountain of sexual innuendo and legal intrusion into our lives? Robert Reich agrees:

“…it’s part of their culture war, and culture wars sell with voters (and the media) eager for conflict and titillation. A culture war over sex sells even better. It lets Republicans imply that Democrats are somehow on the side of sexual “deviants” who endanger the “natural order…a culture war over sex allows Republicans to sound faux populist without having to talk about the real sources of populist anger — corporate-induced inflation at a time of record corporate profits, profiteering and price gouging….[and] stagnant wages…and by focusing on pedophilia, gender identity, gay people, and abortion, Republicans don’t have to talk about Trump and January 6.

Hate, whether against Justice Jackson or aspects of American culture, is like a hard drug. It’s destructive to the users and to everyone around them. And they will always need bigger hits of it.

Second, Tim Snyder posted about the Russian policy guiding its war in Ukraine: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Russia has just issued a genocide handbook for its war on Ukraine.  The Russian official press agency “RIA Novosti” published last Sunday an explicit program for the complete elimination of the Ukrainian nation as such.  It is still available for viewing, and has now been translated…into English.”

Snyder says that since the war began, “denazification” in Russian usage simply means the destruction of the Ukrainian state and nation.  A “Nazi,” as the genocide manual explains, is simply a human being who self-identifies as Ukrainian. According to the handbook, the establishment of a Ukrainian state thirty years ago was the “Nazification of Ukraine”.

The genocide handbook explains that the Russian policy of “denazification” is not directed against Nazis in the sense that the word is normally used. The handbook grants, with no hesitation, that there is no evidence that Nazism, as generally understood, is important in Ukraine. It operates within the special Russian definition of “Nazi”: A Nazi is a Ukrainian who refuses to admit to being a Russian.

The money quote from Snyder:

“As a historian of mass killing, I am hard pressed to think of many examples where states explicitly advertise the genocidal character of their own actions right at the moment those actions become public knowledge….Legally, genocide means both actions that destroy a group in whole or in part, combined with some intention to do so.  Russia has done the deed and confessed to the intention.”

Perhaps then it isn’t a surprise that Russia quit the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday shortly after it was suspended for atrocities in Ukraine. The UN General Assembly voted 93 to 24 to suspend Russia on Thursday, with 58 abstentions. What Snyder has reported deserves a global audience. It seems that throwing Russia out of the UN should be the next step.

Enough of this week’s news. It’s time for our Saturday Soother, a precious few moments when we avoid the political yelling and focus on gathering ourselves for the coming week.

We’ve finally heard the peepers on the Fields of Wrong. The lawns are greening up, buds are on most trees and bushes, and it’s turkey romance season. We have a resident group of seven female and two male turkeys. This week, the males are preening around and spreading their tail feathers while the females run in the opposite direction. We expect that will turn into fraternization next week.

To kick off your Saturday, take a few minutes and brew up a mug of Two Dog coffee ($17.50/lb.) from Clearwater, FL’s Blazing Bean Roasters. Now grab a seat by a window and watch and listen to another arrangement of classical music by the Korean group LAYERS who we have featured before. This time, listen to their take on Bizet’s “Fantasy” from his opera “Carmen”. Here it is arranged for two cellos, violin, and piano:

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Eric Boehlert, RIP

The Daily Escape:

Woodenshoe Tulip Festival, near Salem, OR, with Mt. Hood in background – April 2022 photo by Mitch Schreiber Photography

Eric Boehlert, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, who wrote commentary and media criticism in his “PRESS RUN” newsletter, was killed on Monday while riding his bike in Morristown, NJ.

Boehlert skewered today’s journalism and its practitioners. He hated journalistic laziness and took great pains to call out the mainstream media’s daily obsession with Both Siderism. We have often quoted him at the Wrongologist. He did a great job of researching his material and his arguments were ferocious.

Whenever Wrongo saw something with Boehlert’s byline, it was sure to be interesting, important, and reliable. He usually posted on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Wrongo was surprised when he didn’t post this past Wednesday. But as someone who doesn’t always post on a reliable schedule, I thought that something just came up.

This is a particularly terrible time to lose such an important voice, but it’s always a terrible time to lose a good person. James Fallows paid tribute to Boehlert in his “Breaking the News” newsletter, Framing: In Honor of Eric Boehlert:

“We have lost a crucially incisive voice, and a kind and generous person….Here is an attempt to continue in his spirit.”

Fallows continued about the unspoken assumptions that the media bring to its political coverage:

“This means, for example: the press’s assumption that the most interesting aspect of any development is the politics of it—“What does this mean for the midterms?” “Are the Democrats in disarray?” “Who can out-Trump Trump?”

Or that you should get to the truth of an issue by quoting both a Republican and then a Democrat, or better yet having them argue on screen.

Wrongo didn’t know Boehlert but read his newsletters each week. That somehow, makes the news of his death more painful. It’s interesting how when someone that you have never met dies, it can still feel like a huge loss. In some ways, the loss is very much like losing someone you knew in real life.

And yet, Dick Cheney and Mitch McConnell still walk the earth. Why not Cruz? Hawley? Clarence Thomas? Or any of the other assholes who pollute and poison our politics?

America has far too few voices speaking truth about the corrosive behavior of the US political media. Now, it’s lost one of our most important critics of that industry. Hopefully, others who do this important work will redouble their efforts in homage to Eric’s efforts. Wrongo will try harder.

As Boehlert would say in his sign-offs, “Stay healthy. Be kind.” He was a good man that fought the good fight.

Boehlert concluded each of his columns with music. Let’s try to honor him by watching and listening to the Celtic Woman perform “The Parting Glass” live in 2018 in Ireland’s Johnstown Castle. The parting glass was the final hospitality offered to a departing guest in Scotland and Ireland. It has become a tune used to celebrate the lives of the dearly departed:

Lyrics:

Oh all the money that e’er I spent
I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done
Alas, it was to none but me

And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all

Oh all the comrades that e’er I’ve had
Are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e’er I’ve had
Would wish me one more day to stay

But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise, and you should not,
I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call
Good night and joy be with you all
Good night and joy be with you all

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MLK’s Assassination

The Daily Escape:

Vermontville, NY with Whiteface Mountain in the background – April 2022 photo by William Adamczak Photography

Just a short note today to say that we shouldn’t forget that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis 54 years ago yesterday. On April 4, 1968, Dr. King was fatally shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, a site that’s now a museum dedicated to the civil rights champion’s life.

We should also remember that at the time, he was pursuing economic justice, building the Poor People’s Campaign and supporting the striking sanitation workers of Memphis, TN.

When you look at 1968 versus 2022, in a lot of ways we’ve become more like the country we were back in the 1960s. We’ve seen the near-gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court. We also see efforts to end any teaching in schools of the truth about race in America, and about King’s legacy.

We’re being told by Republicans that a highly qualified Black woman isn’t Supreme Court material.

We spend more time celebrating Dr. King’s birth than acknowledging where he was politically when he was killed. Beyond economic justice, perhaps more than any other social-movement leader in American history, King proved capable of looking at different strands of political and social injustice, then tying them together to form a coherent narrative capable of leveraging dissent into concrete policy change.

That’s what we should remember: There’s less than three months between the observance of King’s birthday and his martyrdom. The way each is recognized by politicians reveals the contradictions in his legacy. Politicians of all ideological stripes extol the virtues of racial equality, while most ignore his criticisms of war and poverty.

King’s last book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” posed a question that resonates more today than it did at the time of its release in 1967: Where do we go from here?

Here’s an idea: Develop a narrative that unites people to win back the country from the MAGAs and their fellow travelers. Take that narrative to your neighbors. Work to get out the vote.

Our democracy is in an existential crisis, and only you (and your narrative) can save it.

That was the lesson of Dr. King’s life.

Let’s close with a musical statement that echoes MLK’s message. Watch and listen to “Keep Your Eyes On The Prize“, a folk song from the American civil rights movement. Although the song was composed as a hymn well before World War I, the lyrics in this version were written by civil rights activist Alice Wine in 1956. It is based on the traditional song, “Gospel Plow”, which is also known as “Hold On”, and “Keep Your Hand On The Plow”.

In this version from 2006, Bruce Springsteen starts on vocals, but when Marc Anthony Thompson (with hat) joins him, it becomes a great soul-stirring anthem:

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Monday Wake Up Call – April 3, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Makapu’u Lookout, Oahu, HI – January 2022 photo by TwoBongs on Tour

Let’s talk about the “Wealth Effect”. It’s the notion that when households become richer as a result of a rise in asset values, such as stock prices or home values, they spend more and stimulate the broader economy. The idea is that consumers feel more financially secure and confident about their wealth, even if their income and costs are the same as before.

This concept has been endorsed by two recent former Fed Chairs, Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke. It’s simply another term for trickle-down economics.

In 2019, after nearly 11 years of the Fed’s policy of adding money to the economy, by “Quantitative Easing” (QE), the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) did a study on the Wealth Effect, to quantify how much richer the rich would have had to become to have x% impact on the overall economy, and how long this boost lasts before it fades.

They found that QE makes 10% of the population a lot richer, producing immense concentration of wealth at the top 1%, and mind-boggling concentrations of wealth at the billionaire level. After which, there were some very muted trickle-down effects on the economy.

Wolf Richter used the Fed’s wealth distribution data to create a chart he calls the Wealth Effect Monitor. The Fed divides the US population into four groups by wealth: The “Top 1%,” the “2% to 9%,” the “next 40%,” and the “bottom 50%” to report on wealth.

Richter divides this data by the number of households in each category, to obtain the average wealth per household in each category. Here’s his chart for the past 21 years:

Note the immense increase in the wealth for the 1% households after the Fed’s latest QE effort that began in March 2020. They have been the primary beneficiaries of the Fed’s policies since 2020.

True to the Wealth Effect’s concepts, the Fed’s policies helped to inflate asset prices, and thus only asset owners benefited: The more assets held, the stronger the benefit. Here’s Richter’s analysis of average wealth (assets minus debts) per household, by category in the 4th quarter, 2021:

  • “Top “1%” household (red): $36.2 million
  • The “2% to 9%” household (yellow): $4.68 million
  • The “next 40%” household (purple): $775,000
  • The “bottom 50%” household (green): $59,000

The Fed doesn’t provide separate data on the 0.01% and the Billionaire class, but they were the biggest beneficiaries of the Fed’s monetary policies. The top 30 US billionaires have a total wealth of $2.12 trillion, sliced into 30 slices for a wealth of $70.8 billion per billionaire, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Compare that to the bottom half of the US population (the “bottom 50%”) who have a combined wealth of just $3.7 trillion, divided into 165 million slices for each individual. The way percentages work, you would think that households in the bottom 50% would have the largest percentage gains since they start from a lower base. But because they own fewer assets, when adjusted by population, they stay mired in last place. From Richter:

“When the wealth of the bottom 50% increases by 5%, they gain about $3,000. And when the average wealth of the top 30 billionaires increases by 5%, they on average gain $3,500,000,000.”

More from Richter:

“In 1990, the wealth disparity between the average top 1% household and the average “bottom 50%” household was $5 million.”

Since March 2020, the wealth disparity between the average top 1% household and the average bottom 50% household has grown by $11.2 million per household.

The bottom 50% of Americans spend all or nearly all their income on housing, transportation, food, healthcare, etc. They hold few stocks and very little real estate. Add that to our current round of inflation, and in order to get by, the bottom 50% are spending nearly all of their income.

They’re the ones paying for the Fed’s policy of enriching asset holders.

We know that average wages and salaries have gone up a lot. Ben Casselman of the NYT says that the wages of low-wage workers have gone up by nearly 12% in the last year; but remember, that’s on a low base. So the worker bees in our economy have a long way to go, while the richest asset holders got vastly wealthier, thanks to the Fed’s policies.

Time to wake up America! The phony trickle-down theory has amazing persistence among US policy makers, despite being amazingly damaging to most of us.

To help you wake up watch an American icon, Taj Mahal perform “Good Morning Ms. Brown” in 2014 while riding in a mule-drawn carriage in the French Quarter in New Orleans:

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 3, 2022

The latest monthly jobs report shows 431,000 jobs were added. The report marked the 11th straight month of job gains above 400,000, the longest such stretch of growth in records dating back to 1939. So far in 2022, the economy has created 1.69 million jobs. That’s in just three months. By any fair measure, it’s an extraordinary total.

We are still about 1.6 million jobs below the number of employees in the workforce in February 2020 just before the pandemic hit. At the current average rate for the past six months, it will take three more months to get back to that level.

Leisure and hospitality jobs, which were the hardest-hit during the pandemic, rose by 112,000, but are still 1.5 million below their pre-pandemic peak. They comprise most of the jobs that are still missing in the economy.

Wage growth, which averaged 5.9% in the 2nd half of 2021, was up again, now showing a 6.7% year over year gain. Aside from April 2020, this is the highest wage growth in 40 years. And aside from three months in 2019 and 2020, the unemployment rate was the lowest (or equal to the lowest) in over 50 years.

The blemish is inflation. Most likely, inflation-adjusted wages have risen by 1% or less in the last year. On to cartoons.

A brief history of recent misspeaks:

Biden tries a different way to get Putin:

Florida’s Governor DeSantis says the mouse is the real enemy of kids:

This Thomas’s dinner conversation is straight-up ok:

Fox hires Caitlyn Jenner, but there were unforeseen issues:

Free Brittney:

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