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about 4 hours ago

Charles Murray
Updated Feb. 12, 2016

Trumpism is an expression of the legitimate anger that many Americans feel about the course that the country has taken, . . . .It is the endgame of a process that has been going on for a half-century: America’s divestment of its historic national identity.

What does this ideology—Huntington called it the “American creed”—consist of? Its three core values may be summarized as egalitarianism, liberty and individualism. From these flow other familiar aspects of the national creed that observers have long identified: equality before the law, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and association, self-reliance, limited government, free-market economics, decentralized and devolved political authority.

As recently as 1960, the creed was our national consensus. Running that year for the Democratic nomination, candidates like John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey genuinely embraced the creed, differing from Republicans only in how its elements should be realized.

Today, the creed has lost its authority and its substance. . . . In the years since, the new upper class has evolved a distinctive culture. For a half-century, America’s elite universities have drawn the most talented people from all over the country, socialized them and often married them off to each other. Brains have become radically more valuable in the marketplace. In 2016, a dinner party in those same elite neighborhoods consists almost wholly of people with college degrees, even advanced degrees. . . . . Another characteristic of the new upper class—and something new under the American sun—is their easy acceptance of being members of an upper class and their condescension toward ordinary Americans. Try using “redneck” in a conversation with your highly educated friends and see if it triggers any of the nervousness that accompanies other ethnic slurs. . . . .
While the new upper class was seceding from the mainstream, a new lower class was emerging from within the white working class, and it has played a key role in creating the environment in which Trumpism has flourished.

. . . .These major changes in American class structure were taking place alongside another sea change: large-scale ideological defection from the principles of liberty and individualism, two of the pillars of the American creed. This came about in large measure because of the civil rights and feminist movements, both of which began as classic invocations of the creed, rightly demanding that America make good on its ideals for blacks and women.

. . . . .
But the central truth of Trumpism as a phenomenon is that the entire American working class has legitimate reasons to be angry at the ruling class. During the past half-century of economic growth, virtually none of the rewards have gone to the working class. The economists can supply caveats and refinements to that statement, but the bottom line is stark: The real family income of people in the bottom half of the income distribution hasn’t increased since the late 1960s.

. . . . .for someone living in a town where the big company has shut the factory and moved the jobs to China, or for a roofer who has watched a contractor hire illegal immigrants because they are cheaper, anger and frustration are rational.

Add to this the fact that white working-class men are looked down upon by the elites and get little validation in their own communities for being good providers, fathers and spouses—and that life in their communities is falling apart. To top it off, the party they have voted for in recent decades, the Republicans, hasn’t done a damn thing to help them. Who wouldn’t be angry?

There is nothing conservative about how they want to fix things. They want a now indifferent government to act on their behalf, big time. If Bernie Sanders were passionate about immigration, the rest of his ideology would have a lot more in common with Trumpism than conservatism does.

about 5 hours ago

Was the second half of the 20th century — when capitalism became entwined with democracy, the welfare state and liberalism — just an unusual interlude?
By Branko Milanovic, March 15, 2013

TAKEAWAYS:

The middle class in Western democracies has an interest in limiting the power of the rich — so that they would not rule over them.

Globalization undercuts the funding sources on which the modern European welfare state was built.

The pressures on the welfare state are an attack on the middle class because the middle class is the largest supporter and beneficiary of the welfare state.

Since de Tocqueville's times, the middle class was seen as the bulwark against nondemocratic forms of government.

The United States has morphed into "the dictatorship of the propertied class" — even if it seems, superficially, to be a democracy.


When the question “Does inequality threaten the sustainability of Western democratic capitalism?” is asked, we need to break the question into three constituent parts in order to come up with a solid answer:

Does inequality threaten capitalism? (Yes)

Is democratic capitalism sustainable? (Maybe not)

Is inequality undermining European democratic capitalism? (Yes)


For the first time in human history, a system that can be called capitalist is dominant over the entire globe. Such a system is conventionally defined as consisting of legally free labor, private ownership of capital, decentralized coordination and pursuit of profit.

One does not need to go far back into the past, or to have a great knowledge of history, to realize how unique and novel this is. Centrally planned socialism was only recently eliminated as a competitor. And nowhere in the world do we now find unfree labor playing an important economic role, as it did until some 150 years ago.

Such is the hegemony of capitalism as a worldwide system that even those who are unhappy with it and with rising inequality — whether locally, nationally or globally — have no realistic alternatives to propose.

“De-globalization” and a focus on the “local” (CANNOT WORK) because it would do away with the division of labor, a key factor of economic growth. Surely, those who argue for “localism” do not wish to propose a major drop in living standards. (The question of LOCALLY focused forms built for complex cooperatoin is not treated. )

Increasing inequality of income, however, undercuts some of capitalism’s mainstream ideological dominance by showing its unpleasant sides: the exclusive focus on materialism, a winner-take-all ideology, and disregard of nonpecuniary motives. (But no ideological alternatives currently exists)

! ! ! democracy and capitalism — were not often combined in history.

Capitalism in the absence of democracy has been a common feature throughout history. This was the case not only in Spain under Franco, Chile under Pinochet, or the Congo under Mobutu, but also in Germany, France and Japan. . . . capitalism and democracy can be decoupled. And inequality can play an important role in that. It already does so by politically empowering the rich to a much greater extent than the middle class and the poor.

The rich dictate the political agenda, finance the candidates who protect their interests, and make sure that the laws that are in their interest are voted in. The American political scientist Larry Bartels finds that U.S. senators are five to six times more likely to listen to the interests of the rich than to the interests of the middle class.

For the poor, “there is no discernible evidence that the views of low-income constituents had any effect on their senators’ voting behavior.” Both democracy and the middle class are being hollowed out. [A PDF of Bartel’s study is here. ]

. . . . .the middle class had an interest in limiting the power of the rich (so that they would not rule over them) and of the poor (so that they would not expropriate them).

. . . . . The middle class in Western democracies is today both less numerous and economically weaker relative to the rich than it was 20 years ago.

. . . . The political and economic importance of the middle class has . . dwindled. It is not difficult to project into the future the current trends, most vividly seen in the United States.

There, financial support from rich individuals and companies ensures political success. While the U.S. system remains democratic in form because freedom of speech and association is preserved and elections are free, in essence it is becoming a plutocracy.

In Marxist terms, it is “the dictatorship of the propertied class” — even if it seems, superficially, to be a democracy. The government is nothing else but in Marx’s famous words, “the committee for managing the common affairs of the bourgeoisie.”

. . . . More recently, a bureaucratic class ruled Eastern Europe, while claiming that both economic and political power was in the hands of the people. Every dictator today argues that he embodies the will of the people — that is, believes himself to be a democrat.

The slide away from democracy can take two forms. One is American and resembles plutocracy. The other may be called Italian. In the latter case, power is extraordinarily transferred to a technocratic government, albeit in an ostensibly legal fashion and within the democratic system.

Technocracy may appear benign, led by people of unimpeachable integrity, but it nevertheless arises as a counterpoint to democracy.. . . Indeed, countries like Singapore are perfect examples of technocratic efficiency. However pleasant it might be to live under such governments, they are nonetheless not democratic. If democracy is a value in itself, they do not provide it.

. . . . both the unelected rule by technocrats and the occult rule by the rich are deeply undemocratic.

Western workers and parts of the middle class are exposed to severe competition from workers in emerging economies, by virtue of increased trade, outsourcing or the attractiveness of foreign (as opposed to domestic) investments.

Both the property-rich and the highly skilled gain because their financial and human capital is more mobile and cannot be easily taxed unless one wants them to flee the country. Low taxation in turn increases inequality between the rich and the poor because it undercuts the funding sources on which the modern European welfare state was built.
. . . .
The pressures that have come to bear on the welfare state, both directly from globalization and from migration, are in reality an attack on the middle class. . . Because the middle class is the largest supporter and beneficiary of the welfare state.

. . . .

Was the period between the end of World War II and the end of the Cold War an unusual interlude, in which capitalism became entwined with democracy, the welfare state and liberalism — features that historically it often lacked? There are arguments to see it that way, and to argue that capitalism is now simply reverting to its “natural” features.

What many of us have lived through might just have been capitalism under “exceptional conditions.” It was a capitalism that responded creatively to the Great Depression (by reinventing government), to war (by marshaling resources to win it) and to Communism (by emphasizing social solidarity through the welfare state).

Neither of these threats is present any more. So why would capitalism not go back to what it once was?

about 9 hours ago

Figure:
Percentage change in real income between 1988 and 2008 at various percentiles of global income distribution (in 2005 PPP dollars). Data source: World Bank.

cited in Washington Post article (below) The Great Working Class Stagnation and the Rise of Trumpism Around the World

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/11/the-great-working-class-stagnation-and-the-rise-of-trumpism-around-the-world

TAKEAWAYS

In 1988, a person with a median income in China was richer than only 10% of world population. Twenty years later, he was richer than half the world's population.

We live in a world with a bulge around the median, with significantly rising incomes for the "aspiring" global middle class.

In 1988, the median African income was equal to two-thirds of the global median. By 2008, it had declined to less than one-half.

The relative declines of Africa and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union confirm the failure of these two parts of the world to adjust well to globalization.

The top 1% in the United States consists of just three million people. The global top 1% has more than 60 million people.

about 10 hours ago

Milanovik

while Kirchner is protectionist when it comes to capital, Romney is protectionist when it comes to labor. Both are understandable political or ideological positions, so long as one does not simultaneously claim to be in favor of fully free markets.

In that sense, Kirchner is more honest, Romney (perhaps even without realizing it) more hypocritical. Likewise, free-market economists such as Mankiw often assume, perhaps also without realizing it, the mantle of national protectionists. They are Adam Smiths of capital and Friedrich Lists of labor.

The differential treatment of cross-border movement of labor and capital among free-market economists exposes the flaw of an incomplete, or not fully consistent, argument. If free movement of one factor of production (labor) can be limited when it is in the interests of a certain political community, there is no reason why a different political community may not limit the free movement of another factor (capital) if it judges that to be in its interest.

All of economics is then seen as a subject of negotiation and bargaining between different groups of people: Imposing price controls is not fundamentally different from limiting the free flow of capital or labor. But if we care about global welfare and take economic theory seriousl (AS A DOMINANT THEORY RANKING ALL OTHER CONSIDERATOINS, SUCH AS COMMON PROVISOIN OF A COMMUNITY), they should all be free.

about 10 hours ago

When Crassus lived and commanded the labor incomes of 32,000 people, this represented one out of each 1,500 people living in the Roman Empire at the time. Rockefeller’s 116,000 Americans were a higher proportion of the U.S. population: one person out of each 1,100 people. Thus, in both respects Rockefeller beats Crassus.
. . . . .
it was probably Rockefeller who was the richest of all because he was able to command the highest number of labor units in the then-richest country in the world.
. . . .
But when the richissime decide to play a political role in their own countries (which may not be the richest countries in the world, such as, for example, Russia and Mexico), then their power there may exceed even the power of the most globally rich.

about 10 hours ago

Graph of few winners - some losers - and mostly disappointing results of incomes for former communist countries

Takeaway: The high hopes of 1989 are fulfilled most likely in only one country, Poland

Source: Word Bank and Milanovic (see below)

about 10 hours ago

Most people's expectations on November 9, 1989, were that the newly established capitalism in Eastern Europe will result in economic convergence with the rest of Europe, moderate increase in inequality and consolidated democracy.

These hopes and expectations are fulfilled most likely in only one country (Poland) and, at the very most, in another two rather small countries (Estonia and Albania). Their total populations are 42 million, or some 10% of all former Communist countries.

Thus, one out of 10 people living in "transition" countries could be said to have "transitioned" to the capitalism that was promised by those who waxed alluringly about the triumph of liberal democracy and free markets.
. . . .
Conclusion

So, what is the balance sheet of transition?

1. Only three or at most five or six countries could be said to be on the road to becoming a part of the rich and (relatively) stable capitalist world.

2. Many of the other countries are falling behind, and some are so far behind that they cannot aspire to go back to the point where they were when the Wall fell for several decades.

3. Despite philosophers of "universal harmonies" such as Francis Fukuyama, Timothy Garton Ash, Vaclav Havel, Bernard Henry Lévy and scores of international "economic advisors" to Boris Yeltsin, who all fantasized about democracy and prosperity, neither really arrived for most people in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The Wall fell only for some.
. . .
Branko Milanovic is the Presidential Professor at the City University of New York's Graduate Center, and Senior Scholar at Luxembourg Income Survey.

Feb 12, 16

The current psychology, Mr. Bove said, “is you can’t believe anything the government says because the government is not prone to telling the truth. And you can’t believe anything the banks say because we know they’ve lied to us repeatedly.”

Feb 12, 16

Disparity in Life Spans of the Rich and the Poor Is Growing

By SABRINA TAVERNISEFEB. 12, 2016

Despite big advances in medicine, technology and education, the longevity gap between high-income and low-income Americans has been widening sharply.

The poor are losing ground not only in income, but also in years of life, the most basic measure of well-being. In the early 1970s, a 60-year-old man in the top half of the earnings ladder could expect to live 1.2 years longer than a man of the same age in the bottom half, according to an analysis by the Social Security Administration. Fast-forward to 2001, and he could expect to live 5.8 years longer than his poorer counterpart.

New research released on Friday contains even more jarring numbers. Looking at the extreme ends of the income spectrum, economists at the Brookings Institution found that for men born in 1920, there was a six-year difference in life expectancy between the top 10 percent of earners and the bottom 10 percent. For men born in 1950, that difference had more than doubled, to 14 years.

For women, the gap grew to 13 years, from 4.7 years.

. . . Over all, according to the Brookings study, life expectancy for the bottom 10 percent of wage earners improved by just 3 percent for men born in 1950 compared with those born in 1920. For the top 10 percent, though, it jumped by about 28 percent. (The researchers used a common measure — life expectancy at age 50, and included data from 1984 to 2012.)
. . . . . Limited access to health care accounts for surprisingly few premature deaths in America, researchers have found. So it is an open question whether President Obama’s health care law — which has sharply reduced the number of Americans without health insurance since 2014 — will help ease the disparity.

. . . . Poor health outcomes for low-income Americans have dragged the United States down to some of the lowest rankings of life expectancy among rich countries. The Social Security Administration found, for example, that life expectancy for the wealthiest American men at age 60 was just below the rates in Iceland and Japan, two countries where people live the longest. Americans in the bottom quarter of the wage scale, however, ranked much further down — one notch above Poland and the Czech Republic.

. . . .
Many researchers believe the gap in life spans from lower- to upper-income Americans started widening about 40 years ago, when income inequality began to grow.

Feb 12, 16

Purity specs on POCO graphite.

impurity concentrations way under a ppm

Feb 11, 16

It's not exactly a surprise, then, that the people who have been hurt the most by globalization don't like it. Indeed, the working class in countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and France have actually seen their inflation-adjusted incomes fall the past 30 years at the same time that hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indian, and Indonesian workers have been lifted out of extreme poverty. It's true that these rich-world workers are still, well, richer than people in the rest of the world, but that's not much of a consolation for them. That's because the things they need just to tread water—housing, healthcare, and higher education—keep going up in price while their wages do not. That adds up to a financial future where their kids could very well end up worse off than they are, something 60 percent of Americans and 85 percent of French people are afraid will happen.

Feb 11, 16

NOTE PRICES PER WATT

On the central question of the value of the leasing model, the company's numbers had a positive message. Using SolarCity's assumptions, each watt of capacity that it deployed in the fourth quarter was worth $3.64 in present value terms compared with an installation, marketing and overhead cost of $2.71, a record low.

The central phrase there is "using SolarCity's assumptions." At this point investors either have some faith in the long-term value of the company's leases or they don't.

Feb 11, 16

A distinguished political scientist wrote an essay 26 years ago that anticipated our predicament with eerie explanatory power. The only downside is that its author specialized in the causes of democratic collapse.

“The Perils of Presidentialism,” by Yale University’s Juan J. Linz, compared the Westminster-style parliamentary system with “presidentialist” systems that divide executive and legislative power between separately elected presidents and assemblies. The former, he concluded, were inherently more stable than the latter.
. . . .
Presidentialist democracy is most vulnerable in a polarized society with multiple parties and a volatile electorate.

Feb 11, 16

FEB. 11, 2016

the research into the destructive potential of a war involving nuclear weapons has continued. . . .
A nuclear war between any two countries using 100 Hiroshima-size atom bombs, less than half of the combined arsenals of India and Pakistan, could produce climate change unseen in recorded human history.

. . . . There are simply too many nuclear weapons in the world, by as much as a factor of 1,000, for anyone, anywhere, to be safe from the potential effects of even a small war. The chance that nuclear weapons would be used by mistake, in a panic after an international incident, by a computer hacker or by a rogue leader of a nuclear nation can be eliminated only by the removal of the weapons themselves.

We were among the scientists involved in the initial research that discovered the potential for nuclear winter. More modern and advanced climate modeling has confirmed the initial findings and shown that the effects would last for more than a decade. The reason is that smoke from nuclear conflagrations would rise as high as 25 miles into the atmosphere, where it would be protected from rain and take at least 10 years to dissipate.

In more recent research, we looked at the potential impact of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, with each country detonating 50 Hiroshima-size bombs. These explosions would produce so much smoke that temperatures would plunge, shortening growing seasons and threatening the global food supply.

Our calculations, based on how crops grow in different weather, showed that wheat, rice, corn and soybean production could be reduced by 10 percent to 40 percent overall for five years. The ozone layer would also be depleted, allowing more ultraviolet radiation to reach the earth’s surface.


Alan Robock is a professor of environmental sciences at Rutgers University. Owen Brian Toon is a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Feb 11, 16

The Supreme Court’s extraordinary decision on Tuesday to temporarily block the Obama administration’s effort to combat global warming by regulating emissions from power plants was deeply disturbing on two fronts.

It raised serious questions about America’s ability to deliver on Mr. Obama’s pledge in Paris in December to sharply reduce carbon emissions, and, inevitably, about its willingness to take a leadership role on the issue.

. . . . Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. often complains that the court is unfairly viewed as just another political branch. He said so again in an interview just last week, arguing that the nomination process creates the impression that justices are little more than party loyalists. “When you have a sharply political, divisive hearing process, it increases the danger that whoever comes out of it will be viewed in those terms,” he said. But, he insisted, “We don’t work as Democrats or Republicans.”

If the court wants to be perceived as acting in a judicial capacity, and not as an arm of the conservatives, it has a funny way of showing it.

Feb 11, 16

Losses at rooftop solar companies have mounted as some states have withdrawn their support, and cheap natural gas isn’t helping matters.

February 11, 2016 - By DIANE CARDWELL and JULIE CRESWELL - Business Day - Print Headline: "Looking for Silver Linings"

Feb 10, 16

"I think like most establishment Republicans, they thought if they kept promoting the narrative that Trump was a passing fancy and he would collapse, it would happen," Gargiulo told me. "But this phenomena is the result of 25+ years of failed promises and lackluster leadership over multiple administrations from both parties. People have had it, and those in power don't want to accept the reality they can no longer maintain the status quo."

Feb 10, 16

The stay means that questions about the legality of the program will remain after Obama leaves office. An appeals court is not scheduled to hear the case until June, and the Supreme Court’s order said the stay would remain in effect while the losing side petitions the Supreme Court. If the court were to accept the case, that would mean an ultimate decision in 2017.

The timing imperils the Clean Power Plan, because a new president could make significant changes.

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