Wages, Productivity, and Inequality

“Inequality is a euphemism, a kind of shorthand, for all of the things that have gone to make the lives of the rich so much more delicious, year on year, for the last three decades. And also for the things that have made the lives of working people so wretched and so precarious in that same time.
This word inequality. It’s visible in the ever rising costs of healthcare and college, in the coronation of Wall Street, and the slow blighting of wherever it is that you happen to live. And you catch a glimpse of inequality every time you hear about someone that had to declare bankruptcy because a child got sick, or you read about the lobbying industry that drives Washington DC, or the new political requirement, the new constitutional requirement that every presidential candidate has to be a billionaire’s favorite, or a billionaire themselves.
Inequality is about the way in which speculators, and even criminals, get a helping hand from Uncle Sam, while the Vietnam Vet down the street from you loses his house. Inequality is the reason that some people find such incredible significance in the ceiling height of an entrance foyer, or the hop content of a beer, while other people will never believe in anything again.”
Thomas Frank
“People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage. Intellectual myopia, often called stupidity, is no doubt a reason. But the privileged also feel that their privileges, however egregious they may seem to others, are a solemn, basic, God-given right. The sensitivity of the poor to injustice is a trivial thing compared with that of the rich.”
John Kenneth Galbraith

This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 24 APRIL 2017.

Trump Sued For Not Releasing White House Visitor Logs

Three organizations have filed lawsuits against President Trump’s administration for not publicly disclosing White House visitor logs.
According to The Hill, the lawsuits were filed against the Department of Homeland Security by The National Security Archive, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University after the administration failed to release the records pursuant to several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
‘We hoped that the Trump administration would follow the precedent of the Obama administration and continue to release visitor logs, but unfortunately they have not.’ CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.
‘Given the many issues we have already seen in this White House with conflicts of interest, outside influence, and potential ethics violations, transparency is more important than ever, so we had no choice but to sue.’
‘President Obama routinely released the data we’re seeking with no damage to presidential privilege, and this information is central to the Secret Service mission and thus clearly agency records subject to FOIA,’ Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive, said in a statement.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 10, 2017.

Correcting a Few ThingsTaken from the Mainstream Media…

There is a certain nagging annoyance that one gets when they see something in print that they know is just wrong, and write response to it, with documentation, in order to correct it.
And then for whatever cause including fat-fingered error, the comment is moderated into oblivion. If it was an opinion piece then fine. Opinions are not worth all that much. But if it is a straight up factual correction, that is a bit annoying when the original in the media was designated to reinforce some point that one feels is a bit unjust.
So here are two recent example of things that were just wrong that appeared without correction in the mainstream media.
From Jeri-Lynn Scofield over at Naked Capitalism who picked up this piece in the NY post:
Snooki inspires legislation to limit state university speaker fees NY Post. Moi: Speaking as a born and bred Jersey girl, I applaud the state legislature’s action. Nice to see the state of my birth lead the way in something other than corruption or toxic waste. And about time – $32K to hear Snooki speak at the Rutgers commencement? Are the administrators nuts? And the proposed $10k cap is too high. Why should any speaker receive more than expenses and a modest honorarium, e.g., $1K – which incidentally, anyone with any class would immediately donate back to the university.
I don’t normally read the Post, except perhaps for financial pieces by John Crudele, so I was glad to see this at a site where I do read on occasion.
This is no knock on Jeri=Lynn whose major point remains intact, that commencement fees may be far too generous.
And as an old fogey, it seems to me to be a correct sentiment about paying far too much money and attention to these reality tv stars, our current President notwithstanding.

This post was published at Jesses Crossroads Cafe on 26 MARCH 2017.

Dear Self-Proclaimed “Progressives”: as Apologists for the Neocon-Neoliberal Empire, You Are as Evil as the Empire You’ve Enabled

Sorry, pal, you’re evil. Self-righteous indignation counts for nothing in the strict accounting of real progressivism. Dear Self-Proclaimed “Progressive”: I love you, man, but it has become necessary to intervene in your self-destruction. Your ideological blinders and apologies for the Establishment’s Neocon-Neoliberal Empire are not just destroying your credibility, they’re destroying the nation and everywhere the Empire intervenes. While you squandered your political capital defending zero-cost causes like “safe spaces on college campuses,” the Empire was busy killing, maiming and making refugees of women and children in Syria. President Obama and his Neocon crew (former Secretary Hillary Clinton included) aren’t fools; they rely on drones and proxy armies to do their dirty work. Neoliberalism is the Establishment’s core ideology, and by supporting Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, you furthered, defended and rationalized the Empire’s neoliberal expansion and exploitation. Neoliberalism’s Big Lie is transforming everything into a market makes everyone richer. The dirty little secret of Neoliberalism is that the markets it creates are rigged in favor of Elitist cronies. If you can set aside your “progressive” blinders for a moment (Bill and Barack could do no wrong for 16 long years of neoliberal exploitation), you might learn that the Presidents and party you supported ushered in the era of neoliberal pillage as public-private partnerships, Philanthro-Capitalism, and rigged markets that enriched the elitist Establishment you defend at the expense of the bottom 95% non-elites.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on MONDAY, JANUARY 09, 2017.

James Clapper Refuses to Brief Congress on the Proof That Russia Hacked the DNC

I am sorry, but he has not basis to refuse to show his evidence. He is clearly trying to instigate a revolution in the Electoral College. He should be held in CONTEMPT of Congress and he is clearly playing politics now with the intelligence community. This is just showing how far we have gone already from our model’s forecast that 2015.75 was the PEAK IN GOVERNMENT. This is becoming blatantly obvious. Congress should hold Clapper in prison on Contempt until he agrees to brief the nation showing the EVIDENCE that the DNC was hacked by Russia. Even if it was, the emails released have exposed unbelievable corruption and collusion between the Democrats and the media, who obviously will not really push this issue for their own conflict of interest issues.

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Dec 18, 2016.

Ten Electoral College Electors Want Briefing On “Russian Interference” Before Presidential Vote

In our initial take on the Washington Post’s story about the “secret” CIA assessment that Russia helped Trump win the election (since contested by the FBI), we said that this may amount to nothing short of a “soft coup” attempt by leaders in the US Intel community and the Obama administration, and warned to expect of a push by prominent democrats to pressure the electoral college to “take into consideration” these findings next Monday, on December 19, when the formal vote for president is set to take place.
This is how we summarized the newly-formed narrative:
Announce “consensus” (not unanimous) “conclusion” based in circumstantial evidence now, before the Electoral College vote, then write a report with actual details due by Jan 20. Put a proven liar – James Clapper – in charge of writing the report on Russian hacking. Fail to mention that not one of the leaked DNC or Podesta emails has been shown to be inauthentic. So the supposed Russian hacking simply revealed truth about Hillary, DNC, and MSM collusion and corruption. Fail to mention that if hacking was done by or for US government to stop Hillary, blaming the Russians would be the most likely disinformation used by US agencies. Expect every pro-Hillary lapdog journalist – which is virtually all of them – in America will hyperventilate (Twitter is currently on fire) about this latest fact-free, anti-Trump political stunt for the next nine days.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 12, 2016.

Krugman’s Latest Twitter Meltdown Lays Out Democrats’ Next Steps

So we'll have a president who lost the pop vote by 2.1%, got in thanks to FBI and Putin. And supporters will demand respect. Um, no.
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) December 10, 2016

In our initial take on the WaPo report of a “secret” CIA assessment, according to which Russia, without a shred of evidence, helped Trump win the election (it remains unclear just how Putin “hacked” several hundred thousands Rust Belt workers into believing Hillary Clinton would offshore their jobs), we summarized in five point how this was nothing short of a “soft coup” attempt by leaders of the US Intel community and Obama administration to influence the Electoral College vote. To wit:
Announce “consensus” (not unanimous) “conclusion” based in circumstantial evidence now, before the Electoral College vote, then write a report with actual details due by Jan 20. Put a proven liar in charge of writing the report on Russian hacking. Fail to mention that not one of the leaked DNC or Podesta emails has been shown to be inauthentic. So the supposed Russian hacking simply revealed truth about Hillary, DNC, and MSM collusion and corruption.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 10, 2016.

Rogue Republican Elector Warns Trump: “I Am Not The Only One Who Will Not Vote For You”

Last week a Republican member of the Electoral College, Christopher Suprun, published an op-ed in the NYT explaining why he would not be casting his vote for Donald Trump. Suprun is the same elector who the NY Post reported one month ago that he’s on track to vote as assigned for Donald Trump next month, despite reports saying he’d consider going rogue and voting for Hillary Clinton. Previously, Politico had quoted Suprun in August saying he found Trump so unpalatable, he’d consider going ‘rogue’ and voting for Clinton. He then told the Post that he ‘always planned to vote for his party’s nominee’ when Electoral College electors gather in their respective state capitals to finalize Trump’s presidency on Dec. 19.
He lied, as his NYT op-ed made very clear: “The election of the next president is not yet a done deal,’ Suprun wrote. ‘Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience.’
“Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief”, Suprun also wrote, adding that Trump’s business dealings might pose unacceptable conflicts of interest, Suprun adds – a problem that could seem him ‘impeached in his first year given his dismissive responses.”
Yesterday, Suprun spoke to Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein on the Powerhouse Politics Podcast, and suggested that there are other Republican electors who will follow Suprun in not voting for Trump. “At this point there are people who have reached out to me. Again it wouldn’t be my place to name who they are,” he said, though he indicated he was talking about Republican electors.
“I am confident in saying, at this point,” he continued,”I don’t think I will be the only one voting for someone other than Donald Trump who is carrying a Republican elector seat.” It was not clear which former candidate would earn Suprun’s vote since his choice, Ohio Governor John Kasich, has said he is not interested.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 9, 2016.

The First Defection: Republican Elector Writes In NYT Op-Ed Why He Won’t Be Voting For Trump

A Republican member of the Electoral College, Christopher Suprun, has published an op-ed in the NYT explaining on Monday explaining why he will not be casting his vote for Donald Trump.
‘The election of the next president is not yet a done deal,’ Texas elector Suprun writes the New York Times article. ‘Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience.’
If Suprun follows through on his promise next month, he would become the first ‘faithless elector’ since 2004.
“Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief”, writes Suprun, taking particular issue with the president-elect’s pick of retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn as his national security adviser. Trump’s business dealings might pose unacceptable conflicts of interest, Suprun adds — a problem that could seem him ‘impeached in his first year given his dismissive responses.”
The Electoral College is constitutionally required to convene before the results of the Nov. 8 presidential election are official. Usually these gatherings amount to nothing more than a rubber stamp, but this year electors have threatened to flee in record numbers. Twenty-six states, a group that does not include Texas, bind their electors to select the winner of the popular vote.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 5, 2016.

U.S. Journalists and Professors Appearing on RT America Get Blacklisted

Some independent journalists and university professors in the United States who have appeared on RT television to criticize either runaway corruption on Wall Street or in Washington, have landed on two newly created blacklists. RT is a Russian state-financed news network formerly known as Russia Today. Its English-language RT America unit broadcasts from Washington, D. C.
A shadowy group called PropOrNot, that has not disclosed either its funders or its principals, has created a blacklist of 200 independent media web sites that it is calling tools of Russia. On the list are some of the most popular and widely read alternative media outlets like Naked Capitalism, Truthout and Truthdig, which regularly carry articles by some of the most knowledgeable and informed voices in America. Another popular site, CounterPunch, was originally on the list but has now been removed following what PropOrNot calls a ‘constructive conversation.’ Reporter Craig Timberg of the Washington Post has come under withering criticism for amplifying the McCarthyite blacklist in a Thanksgiving Day article.
Equally disturbing, 200 university and college professors have been placed on a new Professor Watchlist being operated by Turning Point USA, a right-wing nonprofit run by 23-year old Charlie Kirk who spoke this year at the Republican National Convention. Kirk has raised well over $1 million from conservatives to spread the ‘free markets/small government’ mantra at high school and university campuses (never mind that Wall Street’s ‘free markets’ are just as corrupt today as they were heading into the 2008 epic financial crash).

This post was published at Wall Street On Parade By Pam Martens and Russ Marte.

Seven Suggestions for President-Elect Trump

President-Elect Trump, more policy tweaks, more promises of more government free money and more symbolic gestures won’t fix anything. Though I am just another powerless peon, I’d like to offer seven suggestions to President-Elect Trump and his transition team: 1. Make sure your administration is as diverse as America. No single act will give your enemies more ammo than populating your cabinet and administration with the Usual Suspects: Caucasian elites from Ivy League universities. These privileged “experts” have bankrupted the nation financially, morally and spiritually while enriching themselves and their privileged cronies. Populate your cabinet and administration with entrepreneurially minded, honest, hard working, forward-looking people who just happen to be African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, female, gay, mixed-race, etc. Having a cabinet that reflects the diversity of America (or just the diversity of New York City or Los Angeles County, for goodness sakes) will send a powerful message not just to the nation but to the world: America’s diversity is America’s strength. If you want an example of how to do this, follow in the footsteps of the U. S. military. Yes, it’s imperfect, but for a large-scale voluntary institution, it’s done a lot better than most to promote a diverse spectrum of Americans.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2016.

Over 60% Of Americans Fear “Corruption Of Government Officials” Above Anything Else

“Global warming”? “Obamacare”? “Terrorism”? all rank in the Top 10 fears for Americans. While ‘creepy clowns’ are all the rage, according to the Chapman University Survey of American Fears, corruption of government officials is the top fear among U. S. adults this year.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Oct 21, 2016.

18-Wheeler Alert – -Heavy Truck Sales Down 29% Y/Y

For most people, the economy’s ups and downs are best measured by famous indicators like monthly job reports and quarterly releases of gross domestic product. But students of the arcane took special notice earlier this month when the Bureau of Economic Analysis released some disturbing data that didn’t make anybody’s front page. In August, domestic heavy-truck sales fell 29 percent from the same period of 2015, the weakest month in well over three years.
Any drop that dramatic could always be an anomaly, but heavy-truck sales have been slipping for two years. Broad weakness in this category has historically been a reliable hint that a recession is on its way.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner By David Ader, Bloomberg Business ‘ September 30, 2016.

Mind The Dangers Lurking In China’s Red-Hot Property Markets – – Lessons From Japan’s Crash

China is turning Japanese.
That’s the increasingly held view of observers comparing China’s frenzied real-estate market with the epic bust that more than two decades ago hobbled one of its biggest economic rivals.
While the two scenarios aren’t a carbon copy, similarities between China’s record credit boom in recent years and Japan’s bubble era have been made at various times by a number of economists and investors. Now, those voices are being heard more often – even within China. Huang Yiping, a Peking University professor who advises China’s central bank, warned Saturday about leverage that continues to climb, saying that the top risk is more and more investment generates less growth. ‘That’s exactly the story that unfolded in Japan.’
The worry is that China repeats Japan’s mistake of not reining in excess credit and shutting down insolvent borrowers quickly enough, exacting longer-term damage to growth in the world’s No. 2 economy. With potential expansion rates coming down across developed nations, the global pain would be magnified.
‘What really troubles me is that this extended real-estate bull market has gone hand-in-hand with an extended period of rapid credit growth, debt accumulation, and some questionable practices on the part of both lenders and borrowers,’ said Russell Jones, who had a front-row seat working as an analyst in 1990s Japan during that country’s demise.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on September 29, 2016.

At Last – – Even The FT Says Fed on Ropes as Yellen Seeks to Fend off Trump Blows

After a fusillade of excoriating and in many ways unprecedented attacks on the Federal Reserve by the Republican presidential candidate, Janet Yellen, the US central bank’s chair, finally hit back.
Ms Yellen last Wednesday dismissed as emphatically wrong Donald Trump’s claims that she and her institution were keeping short-term interest rates low at the behest of the Obama administration. ‘Partisan politics play no role in our decisions,’ she declared.
Mr Trump is throwing punches at a time when the US central bank is under assault from both sides of the partisan divide, and at a time when polling suggests public confidence in its leadership has declined during a subpar economic recovery.
Some experts say the Fed is vulnerable and that the populist attacks could fuel demands by politicians for tighter constraints on its policy freedoms. Mr Trump ‘is tossing a lot of fuel on the fire’, says Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University. ‘It intensifies the partisan criticism of the Fed and keeps the Fed in the politicians’ crosshairs.’ Mr Trump’s interventions by no means mark the first time the Fed has been turned into a political punching bag. Previous Fed chairs have been the subject of barbs during presidential campaigns – including in 2011 when Republican candidate Rick Perry accused former Fed chair Ben Bernanke of ‘treasonous’ behaviour by conducting quantitative easing. Past administrations have seen outbreaks of tension with Fed chiefs, including under presidents George HW Bush and Richard Nixon.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner By Sam Fleming, Financial Times ‘ September 28, 2016.

At Last – – FT Says Fed on Ropes as Yellen Seeks to Fend off Trump Blows

After a fusillade of excoriating and in many ways unprecedented attacks on the Federal Reserve by the Republican presidential candidate, Janet Yellen, the US central bank’s chair, finally hit back.
Ms Yellen last Wednesday dismissed as emphatically wrong Donald Trump’s claims that she and her institution were keeping short-term interest rates low at the behest of the Obama administration. ‘Partisan politics play no role in our decisions,’ she declared.
Mr Trump is throwing punches at a time when the US central bank is under assault from both sides of the partisan divide, and at a time when polling suggests public confidence in its leadership has declined during a subpar economic recovery.
Some experts say the Fed is vulnerable and that the populist attacks could fuel demands by politicians for tighter constraints on its policy freedoms. Mr Trump ‘is tossing a lot of fuel on the fire’, says Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University. ‘It intensifies the partisan criticism of the Fed and keeps the Fed in the politicians’ crosshairs.’ Mr Trump’s interventions by no means mark the first time the Fed has been turned into a political punching bag. Previous Fed chairs have been the subject of barbs during presidential campaigns – including in 2011 when Republican candidate Rick Perry accused former Fed chair Ben Bernanke of ‘treasonous’ behaviour by conducting quantitative easing. Past administrations have seen outbreaks of tension with Fed chiefs, including under presidents George HW Bush and Richard Nixon.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on September 28, 2016.

The House Intelligence Committee’s Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Snowden Report

Late yesterday afternoon the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a three-page executive summary (four, if we count the splendid cover photo) of its two-year inquiry into Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency (NSA) disclosures. On first reading, I described it as an ‘aggressively dishonest’ piece of work.
With a day or so to reflect on it, I believe it’s worse than that. The report is not only one-sided, not only incurious, not only contemptuous of fact.
It is trifling.
After twenty-five months of labor, the committee’s ‘comprehensive review’ of an immensely complex subject weighs in at thirty-six pages. (None of which we may read, because it ‘must remain classified.’) I have graded college term papers that long. It is one more dispiriting commentary on the state of legislative oversight that the committee’s twenty-two members, Republican and Democratic, were unanimous in signing their names.
A reminder at the outset. I am one of four journalists (with Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and Ewen MacAskill) who received classified archives of NSA documents from Snowden. I am writing a book on the subject for Penguin Press. Feel free to consider, as you read this, that my stories in The Washington Post played a role in the disclosures that the committee is at pains to denounce.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on September 20, 2016.

The Folly Of Economists: Negative Interest Rates

Bernanke, the person nicknamed ‘Helicopter Ben’ because he said it would be easy to fight deflation even if it had to be done by throwing money out of helicopters, gave us ‘ZIRP,’ which means ‘zero interest rate policy.’ Now he seems to be leaning toward ‘NIRP,’ ‘negative interest rate policy.’ He is an economics professor now. We can only hope that his students do some outside reading, like Ludwig von Mises.
Jeff Cox and Katie Kramer of CNBC wrote this:
Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke thinks policymakers should give serious thought to implementing negative rates.
‘Since that can’t be assured, and since the current low-interest-rate environment may persist, there are good reasons for the Fed and other central bankers to consider changes in their policy frameworks,’ he added. ‘The option of raising the inflation target should be part of that discussion. But … it is premature to rule out alternative or potentially complementary approaches, including the possibility of using negative interest rates.’

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner By Bert Dohmen, Forbes ‘ September 19, 2016.

More Data For The ‘Data Dependent’ Fed To Ignore

The University of Michigan released its September update for their surveys of consumers. The overall index of consumer ‘sentiment’ was unchanged from August at 89.8, and up just 3% from last September. This ‘confidence’ index peaked in January 2015 at 98.1 and has been sideways to lower ever since. Most of the internals were practically unchanged throughout, leading Chief Economist Richard Curtin to note:
…modest gains in the outlook for the national economy have been offset by small declines in income prospects as well as buying plans
Not everything in the surveys was so uninteresting. Inflation expectations dropped yet again, as both short-term and intermediate consumer projections for the rate of prices changes continue to sink. The surveyed result for the inflation rate next year fell to 2.3%, the lowest since September 2010 just prior to the start of QE2. Straight away, it would appear that consumers are no longer so convinced that ‘money printing’ actually accomplishes what money printing is supposed to.
Since the data is made up of surveys of American consumers we are really talking about perceptions, and thus this reduction in expected inflation has been shaped by recent (money, not monetary policy) events. The peak outlook, the one most faithful to the myth of ‘money printing’, was reached not surprisingly in early 2011. Since then, shorter-term expectations were as inflation breakevens in the TIPS part of UST trading; seemingly stable but only as a matter of being unconvinced about policy efficacy, primarily QE.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on September 16, 2016.

Tuesday Was A Warm-Up – – The Real Brainard Bloodbath Beckons

The robo-machines and reflexive dip-buyers who took Fed governor Lael Brainard’s word for it on Monday got kicked in the teeth pretty hard on Tuesday. But then again, why would even a silicon-based trader take her word for anything?
Brainard is absolutely clueless about the manner in which the Fed and other central banks have booby-trapped the world’s financial markets with incendiary bubbles and FEDs (financial explosive devices).
After all, she has never set foot in any precinct of the capitalist economy since moving out of her dorm room at Wesleyan University in 1983. Instead, she’s been traveling the beltway apparatchik route every step of the way – – including stints at the White House, Brookings and the US Treasury before her arrival at the Eccles Building.
That was surely reflected in the fatuous speech she gave Monday afternoon explaining the five ‘key features’ of the ‘New Normal’ that are ‘the major reasons for caution’ in raising rates off the zero bound.
Not surprisingly, the first of these was that ‘Inflation has been undershooting’, and presumably that means falling below the Fed’s vaunted 2.00% target.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on September 14, 2016.