Real Headlines of March 24

 

Trump Considers Reopening Economy, Over Health Experts’ Objections – NYT

Trump hints at discontent with social distancing measures as economy slides – Yahoo News

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick suggests, he & other seniors willing to die to get economy going again – NBC News

In other words they’re more willing to have the end of the world than to move out of their comfort zone and live a different way.

In other news the head of the Israeli Health Ministry, Yaakov Litzman, was asked by a reporter if the lockdown in the country will last until the Passover holiday on April 8.  This Health Minister said, “We are praying and hoping that the Messiah will arrive before Passover…”  Sounds like a sure thing.  Why have a lockdown at all?  In fact why have a Health Ministry.  Israel could save money.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In Nancy’s Bailout, Airline Companies Could Plant Trees and Pollute Away

Despite the pleas of climate scientists and activists the Democratic Party alternative to to Trump’s trillion dollar bailout bill has very very little added to it to protect the climate.  One big concern is that greenhouse gas pollution for jets is slated to triple in coming decades. Activists wanted a guarantee that airlines would cap pollution at 2020 levels.  Nothing doing.  Yahoo news reports that in the Democratic bill proposal airlines in return for being bailed out would be required to “offset” their increased pollution by planting trees or funding renewable energy.

Problem is the whole “offset” industry is a scam.  Here’s a piece on Propublica about it.  Reporter Lisa Song writes, “If the world were graded on the historic reliability of carbon offsets, the result would be a solid F.”

Anyway, the offsets and $300 million a year for grants to make better jet fuel look like all there is to climate benefits in the Pelosi bill.  No stoppage of fossil fuel exploration.  No ban on banks financing pipelines. Nothing

Obama, for all his faults, saved GM and Ford and got in return significant increases in miles per gallon standards on cars.  This Nancy Pelosi alternative to the Trump-Mnuchin plan looks like total crap.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“If We’re Bailing Out Corporations, They Should Bail Out the Planet”

The title above is in quotes because it’s the title of Bill McKibben’s latest piece in The New Yorker. The banks and corporations are asking for trillions again. They’re in bad shape because they took advantage of the crazy low interest rates to borrow trillions that they suddenly can’t pay back. Of course they have a friendly ear in Trump.

McKibben says not to give the money unless there a few “strings” attached like:

1) Cap airline emissions at 2020 levels
2) No bank allowed to loan for fossil fuel pipeline
3) No more exploring for oil

and he links to this long, long statement from climate groups about how to go on

One hopes that Bernie Sanders will stay in the race to lead this fight, one of many.

And I’ll link to an alarming  NYT piece ” ‘Terrified’ Package Delivery Employees Are going to Work Sick”.  I spotted one error.  It says there’s low danger to the public because cardboard holds the virus for only a “brief time”.  Uh uh what health folks are saying is 12 hours.

Oh, by the way what ever happened to those free market fanatic Tea Party folks who took over the Republican Party.?  They were outraged, OUTRAGED when government (meaning Obama) gave money to companies and the public.  Don’t hear them saying $***@#@@ now.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

After a 6 a.m. Run to a Supermarket

After a 6 a.m. Run to a Supermarket I Think

We Need to Nationalize Food Markets and Deliver Foods to Homes

by Stanley Heller

March 19.  Since my wife and I are seniors we decided last night to order from Stop and Shop Peapod and get everything delivered.  After 90 minutes we were done ordering online,  but there was a problem.  A big one.  Peapod was so booked that all March deliveries had been taken!

So Plan B. Stop and Shop had announced early hours exclusively for older people.  So I got up at 5:30 and made it to the store about an hour later.  First thing I saw was a crowded parking lot.  My heart sank.  Everybody had the same idea.  Go out in public now before the numbers with the Covid-19 virus skyrocket.

I put on some plastic gloves and entered the store.  Inside it didn’t look too different from mid-day.  Lots of people, but not scary crowded.  A few people wore masks, which was a bit unnerving, though my brain knows that’s fine.  Few of the workers in the store had gloves and that bothered me.

I noticed there were no heads of lettuce, but otherwise produce looked pretty good, but when I got to the mean aisle I got a shock.  Almost nothing.  No chicken, no hamburger, no beef.  The only thing there was some unusual things packaged like beef liver.  The bread aisle was mostly empty though it was supplied with 40 or 50 loaves as I was nearly finished shopping.  The careful list of items for “specials” was useless.  I was lucky to find any pound of butter. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

World Going to Command Economies – What Should Be Done?

 

March 18.  Countries are moving over to command economies.   In each country the “free market” will be less important than “World War II type” mobilizations.  Crucial decisions made at the top.  With tens of millions “locked down” it will be the only way that current elites  understand to keep people healthy and fed and to prevent chaos.

What should working people call for?

Crash program to build ventilators  (Britain is planning to make 20,000 a week)

Produce virus testing equipment massively

Make huge amounts of disinfectant and soap products and disposable or reusable gloves

Realize the frontline workers are doctors, nurses and workers who clean as are food producers and distributors

Hire thousands of inspectors to make sure cleaners are well prepared and doing their job

Have all food delivered to peoples’ homes

Feed the undocumented, too.  We’re all in this together

Let thousands of low-risk prisoners free, especially those at high risk of catching the virus

It is not a priority to rescue cruise lines and airlines

Free internet and free computers so education can go on (and we dont’ drive each other nuts) Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maybe Globalization Wasn’t Such a Whiz Bang Idea After All

Feb. 28. A couple of days ago one of the stock-sellers on Bloomberg said that the sudden and big drop in stock prices was caused by something “exogenous” to the real economy.  I had to look up the word.  It means something “outside the body”, something foreign to it.  On the one hand the coronavirus is certainly not the normal thing stock traders pay attention to.  On the other hand their capitalism in its lust for ever cheaper resources and labor has gone global in a big way.  It’s latest phase is called “globalization”.

Back in the 1950’s when I was a boy in New Jersey, I’d guess that the overwhelming majority of what we consumed (including electronics) was probably produced within a couple hundred miles from where I lived.  Now we depend on people in China to make the chips for our digital devices and Vietnam to make our shirts and we import peaches from Chile.

And we travel, by plane, by cruise ship, by train and so on, for business and for pleasure. When I was a lad (yes, dinosaurs still walked on the streets) working people would vacation or honeymoon fairly close to home.  Niagara Falls was a big deal.  Nowadays it’s the Caribbean or Europe or even Asia.   All this travel is making disease spread much much easier.

So let me pontificate again for a planned economy.  If it replaced capitalism we need not rush to embrace the latest idea that seems to save a buck, but is considered in all its aspects, what it might do for public health and global climates, and the people who make products X who will be laid off if we switch to product Y or import it from Saudi Arabia.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The “Hot” Economy

 

New York Times economist Paul Krugman wrote a piece called “The Triumph of Fiscal Hypocrisy” exploring for the umpteenth time Republican hypocrisy on deficit spending (spending more than you take in and adding to the national debt to make things square). He’s correct about the hypocrisy, but he also writes , “And let’s be honest: The U.S. economy is running pretty hot these days. Growth in G.D.P. and employment has been good, though not spectacular; the unemployment rate is near a historic low.”

I added this in the comments section:

The economy is “hot”?  In fact it’s overheated, not with inflation, but with global warming.  How is the fact that industry and transportation throw their waste into the air not part of the economy?  If people just kept adding their human waste to a pile the basement wouldn’t that be a factor in the quality of life? We now have less than 10 years before we must MUST cut back greenhouse gas emissions by 50% or go over a tipping point.  Instead of looking at GDP look at the PPM, parts per million of carbon dioxide in the air.  Safe is 350, but currently it’s very close to 414.  Do we really think a few “Green” measures we take care of things?  Some sound the alarm and cry “emergency”, but few realize what must be done.  We at Promoting Enduring Peace call for worker and community takeover of the fossil fuel industries, rationing of fossil fuel use, degrowth, rewilding and other emergency measures.

The latest flyer from PEP about this is here

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Real Raises?  About ½ a Percent a Year

January 13.  The business press is crowing about job numbers.  145,000 more jobs in December.  The average for the year is 176,000 each month in 2019, lower than the year before but enough to keep the country fully employed.

Wage growth is supposedly 2.9% for employees. Hold on. That doesn’t account for rising prices.  In truth since the end of the Great Recession in 2009 wages just grew by a pittance.

In 2018 Forbes magazine (which used to call itself “Capitalist Tool”) did a study about wages.  “The starting point is, again, June 2009 at $334 per week, with the end measured in the second quarter of 2018 at $351. That is a 5.1% increase over nine years, or about 0.57% a year.”

A teeny bit over a half a percent a year wage increase. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hardhearted Lowe’s

 

August 12.  The CBS headline says it all: “Lowe’s spent billions on share buybacks, zero on severance for laid-off workers”   The home improvement chain has 300,000 workers and is very profitable.  “”Yet when thousands of those workers recently got the boot, they received no notice and no severance.” , says CBS

“Lowe’s has announced buybacks worth $5 billion annually, or every other year, for the past decade. “ The theory is that if a company buys back its stock, there’s less out there and the price of the stock will go up.  Lowe’s could use the money to raise wages, but….. they don’t want to do that.  The purchasing power of workers wages hasn’t gone up in 40 years.  Executive compensation has skyrocketed.  U.S. companies gorging themselves on Trump’s tax cuts took that money and invested in new factories spent $1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000) on buying back their own stock in 2018.

The CBS article has a pitiful story about one woman, Patricia Wilkerson.  She had just lost her part time job.  She had been laid off twice by Lowe’s.  This year she was making $12.22 an hour, less than when she was a seasonal worker at Lowe’s in 2003 when she made a royal $13 buck and hour.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Easy to Win a Trade War?

 

August 25.  On Friday morning China announced some tariffs on U.S. goods in response to Trump’s tariffs.  The stock market shrugged it off when it opened.  Then the head of the Federal Reserve, Jay Powell, said the Fed had limited ability to help moderate trade wars.  The markets barely reacted.

Then “the Chosen One” started a series of tweets against the Federal Reserve and the man he himself picked to head it and China.   Sample: ….My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?  Another: Our country has lost trillions of dollars to China. Another: Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing..  ….your companies HOME and making your products in the USA

Yeah, we “lost” trillions to China.  We received goods and China received paper money.  They ripped us off indeed.   Bring jobs home?  Trump’s tariff’s have reduced imports from China, BUT instead we’re getting higher priced imports from Vietnam.

Trump then said he was raising various tariffs on Chinese made goods.

Responding to all this “wisdom” stocks started diving.  At the end of the day the DOW was down over 600 points and the more important S&P 500 dropped a whopping 2.6%.

Remember these stock brokers and hedge fund managers worship Trump, but they’re not going to let his BS stand in their way of making or keeping their dough.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We Need to Think Much, Much Bigger

Conference in Bridgeport Sunday, April 28

by Stanley Heller

I go to conferences about climate all the time and mostly people talk about working on very small scale projects.  We should all be supportive of new ideas, for efficiency, recycling, green production,  and the like, but face it we don’t have the time to plant good green seeds and hope a good collection of crops will replace the bad.  In 11 years if we don’t cut back carbon dioxide production in half we’re screwed.  And if it’s not cutback to zero by 2050 we’re screwed.  It’s not me whose saying that, but the conservative consensus of U.N. scientists called the IPCC.

The best writer that I can think of on this subject is Richard Smith.  He does not see fuel taxes, divestment or even “leave the oil in the soil” as solutions.  Read closely his latest piece,  A Radical Direction for the Environmental Movement.  Among others things he says:

  • Radically suppress fossil fuel consumption in the industrialized nations across the economy, from energy generation to transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, and services.
  • “Contract and converge” production around a globally sustainable and hopefully happy average that can provide a dignified living standard for all the world’s peoples.
  • Revolutionize the production of goods and services to minimize resource consumption and to produce things that are durable, rebuildable, recyclable, and shareable—instead of disposable.
  • Steer investments into things society does need, like renewable energy, organic farming, public transportation, public water systems, environmental remediation, public health, and quality schools.
  • Devise a rational and systematic approach to handling and eliminating waste and toxics as far as possible.
  • Provide equivalent jobs for all those workers displaced by the shutting down of harmful industries. Not only is this a moral imperative, but it is also required to gain support of those workers for the huge structural changes we need to save the humans.

By an amazing coincidence Smith will be speaking in Connecticut on April 28.  (Well, not so amazing.  I helped arrange the conference.)  Come hear him and the other speakers at the conference called “The Green New Deal and Other Ideas on Avoiding Climate Catastrophe”  and make plans in these  breakout sessions: 1) An Ecosocialist World and How to Get There, 2) Influencing Environmental Groups in CT and Beyond and 3) What does this Mean for Bridgeport?.   Details at www.pepeace.org and on this Facebook page

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Build Paper Mills and Glass Factories

Years ago you went shopping and the grocery store packed all your stuff in sturdy paper bags.  At some point they shifted to cheaper plastic.  If you ask for a paper bag now they’ll give you a bag, but it’s so thin that it tears at the slightest movement.  So, they put your thin paper bag in a plastic bag!  Straws used to be made out of paper.  Now you have to go online to find anything but plastic straws.

How about food trash and refuse inside your home?  It’s so convenient to use a “kitchen-size” plastic bag.  Why don’t they make thick kitchen size paper bags for wet refuse (whatever is not being composted)?

This is not completely a new idea.  Not too long ago everyone just bagged their leaves in big green garbage bags.  It’s outlawed I think all over CT.  Instead we use thick tall brown paper bags.

So, ban the use of plastic for grocery items or for trash containers.

As everyone knows there’s a real problem with plastic bottles.  Americans use 50 billion plastic bottles a year, 50 billion no misprint.  91% of that plastic is not recycled.  Before the 1990’s no one used this crap. Coke didn’t go to plastic bottles until 1993.  How did people get a drink in public in the olden days?  Well for one thing there were public water fountains. People also used metal canteens and thermos bottles And there was also this clear stiff stuff that held everything from soda, to perfume to medicine.  I think it was called glass.  That’s right it was called glass.  You can recycle it forever with just hot water and some soap.

Ban the plastic bottle.  Go back to glass and stick a 50 cent deposit on every bottle to encourage recycling.

And build some more water fountains.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s Not Only Greed – It’s the System

 

In talking to the media Ahold Delhaize  the company the owns Stop and Shop, says it needs all kinds of give-backs from workers to “stay competitive”.  With a company that made a profit of near $600 million in the last three months of 2018 their excuse seems to be a load of … potatoes.

The case for the boss was made in an article in the Boston Globe and it has to be treated seriously, because it will influence many people.   The Globe calls the strike the “last stand for unionized grocery workers, whose stores are under attack by a host of competitors, all looking to grab a piece of the supermarket bounty.”  There is some truth in this.  The A&P, Pathmark, and Grand Union supermarkets are gone.  Now Walmart, Amazon, Costco and even the drug store chain CVS sell food items.  They’re are eager to gobble up more of the market (pun intended).

The newer food selling companies don’t have what they think are the terrible burdens of the supermarkets (unions, pensions, health insurance, decent working conditions).  Some like Amazon don’t even have stores.  All of this lets them sell things cheaper and that does put pressure on the likes of Ahold Delhaize.  Law-of-the-jungle capitalism makes it harder and harder for working people to have a decent living.

So, should the workers at Stop and Shop just give in?  Absolutely NOT.

As we say again and again we need system change.  In the meantime go down to the picket lines and help the strikers. For the latest go to the website of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 371.  Go union!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Economic Miracle”

In his State of the Union speech Trump claimed an unprecedented economic boom and an “economic miracle”.   What is the miracle?  Yes, the elite enjoyed their stock price gains, but what about wages?  How are 157 million employees doing?  Take a look at pay increases minus price hikes, what economists call “real wages”. Trump’s Bureau of Labor statistics tells the tale.  In Trump’s first year in office real weekly wages went up 0.8 percent.  In the second year 1.2%   A grand total of 2%.   What a miracle! Not.

We know from PEW research that workers’ real wages have barely increased over 40 years.  How are Chinese workers doing?  Economist Richard Wolff points that just in the last dozen years real wages in China have quadrupled, meaning they doubled and doubled again.  That’s a 400 percent increase

Here are a couple of graphs.  He’s the 2% raise.  Looks fat. 

But here it is compared to what the Chinese workers received.  Now it looks kind of pitiful.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fed Folds – Cheap Credit Party Continues

January 30.  Trump got his way.  After the stock market tanked in December Trump started screaming at the Federal Reserve for gradually raising interest rates.  He demanded credit remain cheap.  For a while Fed Chairperson Powell attitude was “wait and see”.  Today he basically folded his cards.  He said he would be “patient’ about new increases.  The stock market took this to mean zero increases this year and maybe even a cut.  Ka-ching for the stock market.

In more plutocratic party news Trump is going to have another trillion dollar budget debt, really 1.3 trillion.   “The Treasury’s total net new issuance in 2018 amounted to $1.34 trillion, more than double the 2017 level of about $550 billion. In 2019, it will be $1.4 trillion.”  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Glenn, You Think Tulsi Gabbard Is Being Treated Unfairly? I call BS

Jan. 15.  You appear on the far-Right Tucker Carlson show on Fox, not to debate him, but to defend Tulsi Gabbard supposedly from “Official Washington”.  You spend your time explaining how Gabbard “questioned Washington orthodoxy” by opposing its policy of regime change in Syria.  Washington hates, you said, “independent minded” and “critical thinkers” like Gabbard.  Yeah, only “Washington” is criticizing her, not anyone on the Left with an ounce of decency.

Let’s assume for second that Obama and “Washington” really was trying to overthrow Assad (as opposed to fighting ISIS in Syria while at the same time trying to undermine and control the democratic uprising).  What was she doing?

You say she is being “ridiculously accused” of supporting Assad.  Let’s look at the record

Gabbard was first elected to Congress from Hawaii in 2012.

In 2015 she supported Russian bombing of Syrians. ““Al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11 and must be defeated,” she tweeted that October. “Obama won’t bomb them in Syria. Putin did.” She added that it’s “bad enough US has not been bombing al-Qaeda/al-Nursa in Syria” and that “it’s mind-boggling that we protest Russia’s bombing of these terrorists.”  This, of course, as Russia and Assad planes bombed neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, markets, etc. etc.   Needless to say she never criticized a single Russian bombing or any murderous act by Assad. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I.O.U.’s Keeping U.S. Afloat

Dec. 26.  The recession isn’t here yet.  Amazon reported today that their sales were at a record and not affected by gloom on the stock market.  Stocks then zoomed.  Expect a super-smug Trump tweet.

We are near the top of the business cycle and the big capitalists are predicting a recession.  Wages are a little big higher than last year, but as I’ve written are really no higher than they were 40 years ago.   So, what’s keeping things afloat?  I.O.U.’s, that is debt.

Consumer debt is expected to rise to $4 trillion by the end of this year. Consumer debt is what you’re paying for credit cards, car loans and student loans.  It doesn’t include what homeowners are paying the bank for their houses (mortgages).

“American owe more than 26% of their income in debt  That’s up from 22% in 2010”  Lending Tree has a neat chart showing the percent.  Back in 1980 when Jimmy Carter was president personal debt was far less, about 15-16% of incomes.  To pay this off Americans are spending 1 out of every 10 bucks back to the moneylenders.  Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is the Trump Bump a Trump Dump?

Update Jan 3, 2019.  After stocks had an awful December Trump brushed it off saying “We had a little glitch in the stock market last month, but it’s still up about 30% from the time I got elected”.  Total BS.  Even if you include the huge one day jump right after Christmas the DOW went up from the day after Trump’s election to this morning by 22%.  So Trump’s statement was well past exaggeration, up to the fib and lie range.   And today…today there was another big tumble.  BTW here’s another neat chart for another stock index, the S&P.   It shows the rise or fall over each modern president’s term.  Who were the best friends of Wall Street?  #1 Bill Clinton,  #2 Barack Obama.

Dec. 24. When they’re making money a lot of people are willing to forgive Fearless Leader for his little peculiarities, things like mad hatred of this group or that, going hugely into debt, firing everyone in sight or bloody wars.  When times get tough though, opinions change.  Are we at that point in the U.S.?

Now you know Trump has been constantly trumpeting (pun intended) how wonderful the economy is and much the stock market has gone up during his presidency.  Well, with stocks tanking he’s, of course, looking for a scapegoat.  He’s found the head of the Federal Reserve to fix blame.  Seems it doesn’t understand that the Fed should borrow more trillions to keep interest rates ridiculously low.

Anyway, how well has Trump actually done in his years of office (with a Congress dominated by Trump yes-men)? There’s a neat site called Market Insider that shows not only the current index numbers like the DOW and S&P, but how these indexes have done over any period of months and years you care to give.  

From the day after Trump’s election to this morning Dec. 24 stocks went up 19%.  Pretty good.  But compare to Obama’s years in office.  From the day he was elected to the day he left the stock market rose 143%. That’s an average of 18% every year for 8 years. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Buy Out the Fossil Fuel Companies and Make them Fossil Free

a bold take on the Green New Deal slogan.  Interview with Richard Smith

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Companies Buyback $1 Trillion in Stock with Trump Tax Cut

Remember all that money that giant companies kept overseas because they couldn’t pay the “crushing” taxes in the U.S.? (They would have paid the same rate companies pay for business in the U.S. minus what they pay to foreign country.  Weep for them.)    Part of Trump’s “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” was a huge tax cut on corporate profits brought back to the U.S.  It’s unclear how much money came back.  JPMorgan says about $270 billion came back. The Commerce Department says $464 billion.  Sounds like a lot, but either way its just a fraction of the $3 trillion kept overseas.

The corporations also have more cash because of a  cut in their basic tax rate.  The rate was cut almost in half (though the big companies had legions of lawyers and accountants making sure they would never really paying the top posted rate.)  Still they made out like bandits.  The tax money the U.S. took in from companies dropped by a third.  That’s an immense drop and it never happened before in “good times”.

What did the companies do with the money?  Did they raise pay? Did they build factories Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment