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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 29, 2016

Californians will be pleased to know that when Donald Trump becomes president, he can stop their drought overnight. California just went through the driest four-year period on record.

But Trump isn’t sold. He told supporters in Fresno, CA that the dry spell is bogus. Trump said the state was denying water to Central Valley farmers to prioritize the Delta smelt, a native California fish nearing extinction — or as Trump called it: “a certain kind of three-inch fish.” He told the crowd:

We’re going to solve your water problem. You have a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea…

At least we know where Trump stands on the issue:

If I win, believe me, we’re going to start opening up the water so that you can have your farmers survive.

Never mind that this is a state, not a federal issue, because Trump will win on the environment too.

In other news, Hill’s email problem gives her a few hurdles:

COW Hillarys Hurdles

So far, we’ve heard what we already knew, she broke a rule that others had broken before her. Of course, to Republicans, breaking an agency rule is proof she’s broken the law. Maybe, but rules ain’t the same as the law. She needs to put this behind her, or face death by a thousand cuts.

We got our first look at Hill’s emails:

COW Hills Emoticon

Bill & Hill feel the Bern in CA:

COW kids in car

Trump and Bernie wanted to debate. You know who the target was:

COW Trump Bernie

Apparently, we have no antibiotic for the Superbug:

COW Superbug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GOP plans to make the transgender toilet rule a centerpiece in the campaign:

COW Toilet

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 8, 2016

Wrongo came back from Europe with the flu, and he is still playing hurt. Maybe this week will bring a cure. There were good cartoons this week, however.

The GOP spent millions over the past 30 years building their Get Conservatives Elected machine, only to have a gifted amateur seize the controls and eviscerate their strategy. Take a look at the GOP’s monster love child:

COW Merger

This week, Trump had his way with the GOP:

COW Morning After

Trump repeats story about Ted Cruz’s father from the “National Enquirer”:

COW Gassy Troll

Bernie plans to wait till the, well you know. Hillary’s dismaying weakness with Democrats is something to worry about. Bernie is likely to win at least 20 state primaries:

COW Bernie Math

State of the art in today’s electronic voting:

COW Voting Machines

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“Hey GOP: Stop Being So Mean”

Trump thinks the GOP is trying to keep him from scoring The Deal of the Decade, or as the rest of us know it, the GOP nomination. Here is the predictable reaction in TrumpWorld from today’s New Yorker:

COW So Mean (2)

Wrongo got to spend time with the owner of his local PC repair company today. During the work on the PC, the talk turned to politics. The owner said quite a few things that everyone in America seems to feel, that politicians can’t be trusted, that they do nothing to solve America’s problems, and are just there to line their pockets.

He is a two-time voter for Obama, but is leaning this year towards Donald Trump. Two issues are fueling his thinking: First, that illegal immigration is a real issue, and that our economy, and to some extent our society, are being harmed by a large flow of immigrants. We live in Connecticut. Our county has the lowest population density of any county in Connecticut and is geographically, the state’s largest county. We are the whitest county: The 2010 census shows our county to be 94% white, and 1.3% black or African American. People of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 4.5% of the population. So, we enjoy little diversity, although many of our lawn and construction workers are Hispanic.

My computer guy points to a neighboring city in another county which has had large increases in black and Hispanic populations since 2000, now with 25% of its population Hispanic, and 8% black, both up dramatically.

Second, he thinks that Obamacare hurts his business. Never mind that his healthcare comes through his wife’s job, and that he has less than 5 employees, so his business isn’t paying for health insurance.

He also gives Obama no credit for America’s recovery from the Great Recession, saying that it took a really long time to recover, and the economy probably would have recovered on its own.

He is concerned that Trump would be an inappropriate president, a guy who can’t speak civilly to foreign leaders. He isn’t sold on Trump’s foreign policy either.

It is a sample of one. A two-time Obama voter who doesn’t think he has anywhere to go in November. He doesn’t think Hillary is the one; he thinks Sanders is a fringe player, right along with Trump.

He’s looking for a leader, and wonders why nobody who is truly great wants the job.

But that’s easy to understand. Too many people pin their hopes on getting “the right person” in the presidency, not realizing that it takes much more than just the leader to get the wheels of change moving.

Without courage and support from both houses of Congress, government won’t move an inch. Trump or Sanders could win, and be completely unable to steer the ship of state anywhere but where the oligarchs choose for to go.

Connecticut will be a reliable state for the Democrats in the fall, but they need to think again if they plan to use the same old interest group song and dance that worked to elect Obama in 2008 and 2012.

My PC guy isn’t gonna buy it.

It’s doubtful that he’s alone.

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 10, 2016

This week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tore her Republican colleagues a new one in the pages of the Boston Globe:

For seven years, through artificial debt ceiling crises, deliberate government shutdowns, and intentional confirmation blockades, Senate Republicans have acted as though the election and reelection of Obama relieved them of any responsibility to do their jobs. Senate Republicans embraced the idea that government shouldn’t work at all unless it works only for themselves and their friends. The campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the next logical outgrowth of the same attitude — if you can’t get what you want, just ignore the obligations of governing, then divert attention and responsibility by wallowing in a toxic stew of attacks on Muslims, women, Latinos, and each other.

If Senate Republicans don’t like being forced to pick between a bullet and poison, then here’s some advice: Stand up to extremists in the Senate bent on sabotaging our government whenever things don’t go their way.

Warren’s anger is righteous anger, it is well directed and well-spoken. But, politicians who make it in our political system are those who hide most of their anger (righteous or not) under a veneer of unctuous civility. She chooses to give as good as she gets from the frat boys in the GOP. Maybe, after another 4 or 8 years of federal failure, that kind of anger will resonate with the American electorate.

Cartoons this week reflected the general coarsening of our society and politics. The bathroom habits of certain minorities made news in North Carolina. Apparently, they should pee in Virginia:

COW NC Bathrooms

Mississippi made similar news:

COW Miss Church

The NY Dem primary will be fought out on the sidewalks of NY:

 

COW Sidewalks of NY

The NY primaries have both parties looking for some room:

COW NY Primary

The Panama Papers tell us once again that we live in two Americas:

COW Panama Papers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, Tax Day this week is mostly for the little people:

COW Tax Day2

 

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The Revolution WILL Be Televised

There is a lot of talk that the 2016 election is the start of a political rebellion in the US. We see the large, enthusiastic Sanders/Trump crowds, and the candidates’ relative success with winning primary elections, and have to ask:

  • Will it remain a political rebellion, one that expresses itself through the electoral process?
  • Will it continue beyond the 2016 election, assuming an Establishment candidate wins?

It began with the failure of the US economy to add permanent jobs for the middle class, and the lower classes after the Great Recession. Our column outlining that all jobs created since 2005 were temporary or contractor jobs showed that people are living paycheck to paycheck, but fewer have benefits, and all are afraid that they could be out of work with any personal or economic hiccup.

And wages are not rising the way corporate profits are, as this chart shows:

Corp Profits to HH income

So, fewer jobs as an employee, and no change in household income. More risk, no more money. Life for the average person in the US is harder and more frightening for a large group of people. Maybe they are not yet a critical mass of voters, but there are enough angry people that the Establishment political machines may be disrupted.

Since many see the worsening of the life of the middle class to be permanent, there is little reason for hope if you are on the fringe of our society. So, we’re watching that play out in the 2016 electoral race.  People are finally getting tired of one or the other of these two campaign pitches:

  • We are the greatest nation on earth, but only if we elect candidate X, because candidate Y will ruin us
  • Or, you can’t have a good job with dignity, or good schools, or ask us to address any other of our serious problems, because we can’t afford it and people won’t pay more taxes

And as Gaius Publius says, there’s no other way to see the Sanders and Trump insurgencies except as a popular rebellion, a rebellion of the people against their “leaders.” On the Sanders side, the rebellion is clearer. Sanders has energized voters across the Democratic-Independent spectrum with his call for a “political revolution,” and that message is especially resonant with the young. From The Guardian:

Analyzing social survey data spanning 34 years reveals that only about a third of adults aged 18-35 think they are part of the US middle class. Meanwhile 56.5% of this age group describe themselves as working class.

Fewer Millennials (who number about 80 million in the US) are describing themselves as middle class. The number has fallen from 45.6% in 2002 to a record low of 34.8% in 2014. Ms. Clinton will need to rely on Sanders supporters falling in behind her – and faced with the prospect of a Trump presidency, many may do so. She also intends to try to win over “moderate” Republicans, assuming that the Bernie voters have nowhere to go.

That might work, since as Benjamin Studebaker says, Clinton is arguably closer to the Republican establishment than are Trump or Cruz. In fact, the Democratic and Republican establishments are both closer to each other than either is to its own anti-establishment wing.  Consider that Clinton and the Republican Establishment both:

  • Support the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP)
  • Support immigration reform
  • Support foreign aid
  • Oppose Medicare for all
  • Oppose tuition free college
  • Oppose a $15 minimum wage

It would not be unreasonable for moderate Republicans to conclude that Clinton is closer to their ideological needs than are Trump or Cruz. Clinton may play for the other team, but at least she’s in their league.

The Establishments of both parties have no vision when it comes to solving income stagnation for the 99%, or solving our crippling health care cost increases, the trade treaty fiasco, and the military establishment’s continued sucking of more and more money from our budget.

These cumulative burdens will break people’s belief in a better, more secure future. Either policy changes are enacted by the next Establishment president and Congress, or things could start to come unglued.

Which means that for almost every one of us, this could be the most consequential electoral year of our lives.

So, the Establishment wings of both parties need a Monday wake-up call. Here to rouse them from slumber is Iris DeMent with “Livin’ in the Waste Land of the Free”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – April 3, 2016

Something you may have missed this week was that an increasing number of hospitals were held hostage by attacks on their IT departments. The attackers were looking for ransom. It started last month with Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center.

Last week there were three more, and this week, a whole hospital chain was attacked by ransomware, this time affecting the servers of 10 related MedStar facilities in Maryland and Washington DC.

Apparently most hospitals have paid the ransom.

Is this extortion or terrorism? Patients probably don’t care which. Let’s hope no patients were harmed by the IT outages. The biggest question these attacks on hospitals raises is: Why aren’t hospitals better prepared against ransomware? Hospitals are considered critical infrastructure, but unless patient data is impacted, there is no requirement to even disclose that a hacking occurred, even if operations are disrupted.

Computer security in the hospital industry is generally regarded as poor, and the federal Department of Health and Human Services regularly publishes a list of health care providers that have been hacked with patient information stolen.

Onward to the rest of our silly season. Donald Trump had a bad week on the abortion issue:

COW Trumps an Asshole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, Trump said out loud what the GOP really thinks:

COW What We ThinkTed and Don enter the Rut:

COW SeductionThe GOPs self-fulfilling prophecy:

COW Prophecy

The Democrats have their own dilemma:

COW Dems Dilemma

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“The Oven is Preheating, But Your Goose is Not Yet Cooked.”

The quote above is from “City on Fire” (Knopf, 2015) a novel by Garth Risk Hallberg that describes NYC in the 1970s when it was both dangerous and in decay. And it aptly describes the current phase of American politics. What we are seeing with Trump, and to a lesser extent with Sanders, is that angry white working class people have decided to overturn our election process.

Maybe not in 2016, but certainly by 2020.

It shouldn’t be difficult to understand, since wages for working class white males peaked in 1968, 48 years ago. For their entire working lives, conditions for working class males have been getting worse. Here is a chart from the WSJ:

White Men in Labor Force

For white working-class men in their 30s and 40s, in what should be the prime decades for working and raising a family, participation in the labor force dropped from 96% in 1968 to 79% in 2015. Over that same period, the portion of these men who were married dropped from 86% to 52%. (The numbers for nonwhite working-class males show declines as well, though not as steep, and not as continuous.)

More from the WSJ:

In today’s average white working-class neighborhood, about one out of five men in the prime of life isn’t even looking for work; they are living off girlfriends, siblings or parents, on disability, or else subsisting on off-the-books or criminal income. Almost half aren’t married, with all the collateral social problems that go with large numbers of unattached males.

In these communities, about half the children are born to unmarried women, with all the problems that go with growing up without fathers. Drugs also have become a major problem outside of urban areas, in small towns and in the suburbs.

During the same half-century, American corporations exported millions of manufacturing jobs, which were among the best-paying working-class jobs. They were (and are today) predominantly men’s jobs.

The share of the total income of the bottom 80% of US households vs the top 20% of households also peaked in 1968: 57.4% vs 42.6%. As of 2014, the share of total household income of the top 20% has increased from 42.6% to 51.2%, while that of the bottom 80% has declined to 48.8%.

So in 1968, the combined share of the bottom 80% of household income was 14.8% greater than that of the top 20%. In 2014, it was only 2.4% less. That is a 17.2% negative swing. So, the quality of life for the average white male peaked in 1968.

And it’s not just men. Poor women are angry too. One thing everyone in the lower rungs of the ladder (the bottom 50% of the household income scale) have in common is that most of them now realize they are getting screwed. The numbers of white working-class voters will dip to just 30% of all voters by 2020. This is a dramatic decline from 1988, when white working-class voters were 54% of all voters.

Trump supporters want to use political power to restore their economic position. As any aware citizen knows, you never get power exactly the way you want it. Therefore, Trump’s supporters think they need to overturn our established politics to make change, and that can only happen if they follow an authoritarian like The Donald. A good current example of this is the Congress’s Freedom Caucus, who with just 40 members, have thrown out a Speaker of the House, and plan to drive the federal legislative process.

Contrast this with the American Civil Rights movement, which was ideologically diverse, incompletely successful, but mainstreamed in our politics. It negotiated a better life for African-Americans. But today’s white underclass are through playing the long game. They do not plan to struggle for as long as the black underclass did, and they are believe that working within the system is futile.

Remember, most of them are armed. Our concern meter should be dialed up to 11.

America is starting to look like a pre-revolutionary society. Life today shouldn’t be “black ties matter.” Unregulated capitalism makes for a mean culture, and today, it is dominating us.

So, the oven is preheating. There is still time to avoid cooking our goose, but we have had a president who called himself a “uniter, not a divider” and failed. We then had a president who promised to be post-partisan, but deepened our political divisions.

And there is no political leader on the horizon who possesses the skills and message to unite us.

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Free Trade’s Double-Edged Sword

The Bernie Sanders win in Michigan is chalked up to his attacks on trade agreements, in particular, the Trans Pacific Partnership that resonated with a broader audience than his attacks on Wall Street. Along the way, Donald Trump has been plowing the same ground, talking about how America is losing jobs to Mexico and Asia.

So the question is, are we seeing a political backlash against trade? Can Sanders or Trump gain sufficient political traction to win with this issue? And can we blame trade for losing jobs to China and elsewhere?

Jared Bernstein in Monday’s New York Times made an excellent point: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

The economic populism of the presidential campaign has forced the recognition that expanded trade is a double-edged sword. The defense of globalization rests on viewing Americans primarily as consumers, not workers, based on the assumption that we care more about low prices than about low wages.

When you hear politicians speak about free trade, they talk about cheaper products. They sidestep the terrible impact on American jobs, they sidestep the concern that many, many jobs have been lost through free trade agreements. The free trade deals have also exacerbated the loss of union power, which means fewer (and lower paying) jobs, fewer hours, and poorer benefits, including pensions.

The trade topic is obviously a huge driver of Trump’s and Sanders’s appeal. It is a problem for Hillary, since she was for the Trans-Pacific Partnership before she was against it.

Despite being on opposite ends of the political spectrum, the two populists are using the same message: The government, both political parties, and business are working at cross-purposes with the needs of the American people. In a democracy, populism is a warning sign that government has been disconnected from its citizens. Consider that while Americans lost at least 4 million jobs, corporate profits are up, and the 1% has gotten much wealthier.

It’s true that off-shoring is good for the global economy. Chinese people working to make iPads are richer than they were, but it’s not a win-win situation. It’s more of a win-lose, where Chinese workers win relatively big, while American workers lose medium.

Another problem is that workers directly impacted by trade have little power or influence in their firms or the country as a whole. In the US, exports only make up about 13.5% of GDP. But in Sweden, Denmark or Germany, exports are north of 40% percent of GDP. And these countries, with far fewer natural resources, have robust social safety nets in addition to high wages. And as Bernstein says:

The real wage for blue-collar manufacturing workers in the United States is essentially unchanged over the past 35 years, while productivity in the sector is up more than 200%.

Why? Because governments in these other countries stress building high-skill industries that compete based on producing high value-added products, while low-skill industries that compete based on exploiting their employees are discouraged. This is called having an industrial policy, which encourages business to meet government priorities. In America, we are against having industrial policies, because it sounds like socialism.

Bernstein points out that the free trade negotiation process has been captured by investors and corporate interests:

According to the Washington Post, 85% of the members of the outside committees advising the administration on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership were from private businesses and trade associations (the rest were from labor unions, NGOs, academics and other levels of government).

And that’s the world we live in. Business is driving most of the decisions that our politicians make, ensuring that whatever is enacted is primarily good for business, and secondarily, if at all, for We, the People.

And in the world we live in, free trade has significantly boosted wages and quality of life for overseas workers and has helped lift millions of Chinese and other Asian citizens out of poverty, while our middle class, a prerequisite for our stable society, has been hollowed out.

Yet, America’s plutocrats and politicians push for even MORE free trade.

The current election cycle may horrify the “political establishment,” of both parties, but it was preordained by their bought-and-paid-for politics.

Americans have a real gripe. They don’t see, or care about the benefits to Chinese and other third world workers that lower or stagnant wages at home help to provide. The Bernie win in Michigan and Trump’s success in the GOP primaries show people are super pissed off.

Our political parties better start coming up with ways to mitigate the trade and wage problem before someone like DonDon actually succeeds in becoming president.

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Hillary’s Under-reported Uphill Slough

Wrongo didn’t watch the Democratic debate because it was up against the series finale of “Downton Abbey”. Some think that the effort to bury the Dem debates in popular TV time slots is a conscious decision by DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, designed to make Bernie Sanders less competitive with Hillary Clinton.

Conscious or not, few people are watching these debates.

One thing that is overstated in the Democratic primary process is Bernie’s uphill slough with African Americans. The accepted pundit logic is that he does so badly with AA’s that he has no chance to win.

What is overlooked in that analysis is that the 20 primaries held so far have split 12-8 in favor of Clinton (based on who won the majority of committed state delegates). Clinton does have a big lead in delegates, 1130 to Sanders’s 499.

So, consider what Bernie has been able to accomplish. In winning 8 states, he’s exposed a Clinton weakness: She doesn’t do well among the most committed white Democrats – the kind of folks who turn out for caucuses in states like Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado.

And then there is the under-reported uphill slough by Hillary Clinton: That the Sanders campaign is out raising Clinton’s funds. He’s raising his money from ordinary citizens (five million individual donations at this point). And, unlike Clinton, WaPo reports that he does it easily:

Sanders outraised Clinton again in February for the second month in a row, bringing in $42.7 million to her $30 million. On the last day of the month alone, he brought in $6 million online as the campaign used social media to egg on his backers to give, give and give again.

The WaPo also reported that Clinton has had to take two days off the campaign trail to raise money in California for use against Sanders in the primaries. And in a one-week stretch later this month, she is scheduled to make seven fundraising stops in six states — Georgia, Tennessee, Connecticut, Virginia, Washington and California.

Bernie’s funds-raising power has triggered concern among some Clinton allies that it will weaken her — not only because she must spend so much money competing against him, but also because he is criticizing her in ways that could dampen enthusiasm for her in the fall. She may risk donor fatigue when the general election gets under way.

Perhaps one reason why Clinton may risk donor fatigue in the late stages of the election is that she has already tapped many large potential investors. From 2013-15, she earned $21.4 million in speaking fees from 91 organizations. Those funds did not go into her campaign, or into one of her Super PACs. The funds went into her own accounts, making her a member of the 1%.

You can see the listing of the organizations that paid her an average of $235k per speech here.

As Scott Lemieux of LGM said, paying people six figures (plus luxury perks) to deliver rote speeches is one of the more egregious mechanisms by which America’s overcompensated elites reward each other.

More from Scott:

The speaking fees do not constitute quid pro quo bribes, and they will not turn Hillary Clinton into a right-winger. But they’re nonetheless one of the many ways in which the wealthy exert disproportionate influence on the political process.

So, Clinton’s uphill sloughs come first, from needing money to blunt the Sanders insurgency. She needs to take days out of campaigning to pin down more funding by the wealthy to match the funding of everyday people for Sanders. Second, she needs to explain her awesome ability to get paid by US corporations.

This hurts in a few ways: When she talks about inequality and opportunity, she often starts with canned stories of her middle class upbringing – stories which she says prove that she has more in common with the cashier than the CEO. That can’t seem genuine to many low income people.

And when Clinton’s speaking fees come up, she knows that it also rubs lots of people the wrong way. She should say something along the lines of:

This is exactly why I think people like me should pay much higher taxes in this economy, so middle-class people could pay less.

Her tax plans seem to say she believes that, but she has not used her own plan as a direct response to the speaking fees question.

Hill has two different uphill sloughs, both occurring at the same time.

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Bonus Cartoon Thursday – March 3, 2016

How about an extra helping of political cartoons in honor of the silly season? After Super Tuesday, you might need some Bernie Crème:

COW Bernie Creme

Instead of “Yes we can,” Democrats have adopted a new slogan this election year: “Why try?” In spite of Hillary’s Miami victory speech, which sounded like it was written by Bernie, Clinton supporters believe we shouldn’t aim high, that we shouldn’t try for broad fundamental change, because we might fall short. Why is it better to proceed incrementally, to settle for less than we deserve because we might not get everything we want? Why do the establishment Dems proceed from the presumption that settling for incremental change is the only way to real change? Didn’t they learn anything from the 2014 mid-term elections?

Justice Scalia non-nomination creates GOP euphemisms:

COW GOP euphamisms.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Parties have selective views of what is realistic when choosing a candidate:

COW Trump Bern

Why is a huge corporation protecting us from our government? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

COW Hal Phone

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