At the Boston Review, takes a look at arguments for increasing defense spending not just wanting, but spectacularly specious. He makes some points that are commonly absent from the discussion and deserve consideration. Here’s a snippet:

The other standard argument for increased military spending is that “the world is on fire,” as Senator John McCain puts it. Headlines about North Korean missiles, Chinese islands in the South China Sea, Russian aggression and Middle Eastern chaos are scary enough, people like McCain say, to justify more military buildup. But U.S. military spending does not necessarily cure these ills; in fact, it may end up aggravating them. Increased U.S. military power, for example, could encourage North Koreans to want more nuclear missiles rather than pacifying them.

A larger flaw in McCain’s argument, however, is that, by historical standards, not much is actually burning. And, more importantly, the United States does not need to go looking for fires to extinguish. The world remains far more peaceful by various measures than at almost any other point, and the United States still enjoys a privileged position: militarily powerful and distant from trouble. U.S. enemies are historically few and weak; U.S. defense spending is more than double what Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea collectively spend on their militaries; and U.S. forces remain vastly superior. North Korea and Iran are troublesome, but incapable of posing much direct threat to their neighbors, let alone the United States, especially considering nuclear deterrence. Russia threatens its neighbors, but with an oil-dependent economy now about the size of Italy’s, it poses little danger to more economically stable nations further west.

10 March 2017 · Comments Off on Be Careful What You Wish for · Categories: Political Economy, Political Theatre

Thom tangles with a glibertarian.

26 January 2017 · Comments Off on Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go · Categories: Political Economy

Still well under 300k.

Jobless claims rose by 22,000 to a four-week high of 259,000 in the period ended Jan. 21, which included the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington.

(snip)

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, declined to 245,500, the lowest since 1973, from 247,500 in the prior week.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits increased by 41,000 to 2.1 million in the week ended Jan. 14. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

19 January 2017 · Comments Off on Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go · Categories: Political Economy

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Filings for U.S. unemployment benefits fell to near the lowest level since the 1970s, consistent with a still-improving labor market, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington.

Key Points

  • Jobless claims declined by 15,000 to 234,000 (forecast was 252,000) in the week ended Jan. 14
  • Previous week’s claims revised to 249,000 from 247,000
  • Continuing claims dropped by 47,000 to 2.05 million in the week ended Jan. 7
  • Unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits, also reported with a one-week lag, was unchanged at 1.5 percent

12 January 2017 · Comments Off on Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go · Categories: Political Economy

Still under 300K.

Jobless claims rose by 10,000 to 247,000 in the week ended Jan. 7 from the lowest level since 1973, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday in Washington.

(snip)

The four-week moving average decreased to 256,500 last week, from 258,250. . . . .

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 29,000 to 2.09 million in the week ended Dec. 31.

08 January 2017 · Comments Off on The Next Stop · Categories: Political Economy, Republican Hypocrisy

Image of 2016 Donald Trump throwing

Via Job’s Anger.

05 January 2017 · Comments Off on Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go · Categories: Political Economy

Still well under 300k.

Jobless claims dropped by 28,000 to 235,000 in the week ended Dec. 31, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington.

(snip)

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, decreased to 256,750 from 262,500 in the prior week.

29 December 2016 · Comments Off on Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go · Categories: Political Economy

Still nicely under 300k.

Jobless claims declined by 10,000 to 265,000 in the week ended Dec. 24 from a six-month high in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed Thursday.

(snip)

The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, fell to 263,000 from 263,750 the prior week.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits climbed by 63,000 to 2.1 million in the week ended Dec. 17, the highest since Sept. 10.

22 December 2016 · Comments Off on Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go · Categories: Political Economy

Still under 300k, but up a bit.

Jobless claims increased by 21,000 to 275,000 in the week ended Dec. 17, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday.

(snip)

The four-week moving average increased to 263,750 last week, from 257,750.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 15,000 to 2.04 million in the week ended Dec. 10. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

15 December 2016 · Comments Off on Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go · Categories: Political Economy

Still under 300k.

Jobless claims fell by 4,000 to a three-week low of 254,000 in the period ended Dec. 10, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday.
(snip)

Claims have stayed below the 300,000 level for 93 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1970 and typically consistent with an improving job market.

(snip)

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits rose by 11,000 to 2.02 million in the week ended Dec. 3. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits held at 1.5 percent. These data are reported with a one-week lag.

Enjoy it while it lasts, folks.

Alan Caron points out an uncomfortable truth. A snippet:

I feel sorry for the frustrated working people who put their faith in this shameless showman, President-elect Donald Trump, because he promised to bring back the glory days of manufacturing. Here’s the secret that politicians don’t want you to know. The president – and for that matter, government as a whole – doesn’t have much to do with creating jobs. They can help, on the margins. They also can cause damage by getting behind the wrong things.

But the notion that campaign promises can revive the 20th century economy belongs on the pages of the National Enquirer at the supermarket checkout stand. It’s nonsense.

For every one manufacturing job we’ve lost to trade deals and government actions, we’ve lost seven to eight to machines, computers and robots. Governments don’t control technological progress, new inventions, time-saving devices and brilliant breakthroughs. Heck, government is usually the last place to employ those things. And technological progress is what’s costing us jobs. The sooner we understand that, the better off we’ll be.

What’s missing from the “jobs” equation is this: The wealth created by this “progress” is not being shared; it’s being hogged.

And, as George Orwell told us, some pigs are more equal than others.

10 December 2016 · Comments Off on All That Was Old Is New Again · Categories: Mammon, Masters of the Universe, Political Economy

Thom and Richard Eskow discusses similarities between Donald Trump’s cabinet of deplorables and Republican cabinets of the 1920s.

Jen Sorenson has more. Here’s a snippet (emphasis added):

Of course, he’s (Trump–ed.) never been a man known for doing small and humble. So his cabinet, as yet incomplete, is already the richest one ever. Estimates of how loaded it will be are almost meaningless at this point, given that we don’t even know Trump’s true wealth (and will likely never see his tax returns). Still, with more billionaires at the doorstep, estimates of the wealth of his new cabinet members and of the president-elect range from my own guesstimate of about $12 billion up to $35 billion. Though the process is as yet incomplete, this already reflects at least a quadrupling of the wealth represented by Barack Obama’s cabinet.

Trump’s version of a political and financial establishment, just forming, will be bound together by certain behavioral patterns born of relationships among those of similar status, background, social position, legacy connections, and an assumed allegiance to a dogma of self-aggrandizement that overshadows everything else. In the realm of politico-financial power and in Trump’s experience and ideology, the one with the most toys always wins. So it’s hardly a surprise that his money- and power-centric cabinet won’t be focused on public service or patriotism or civic duty, but on the consolidation of corporate and private gain at the expense of the citizenry.

Welcome to the kelptocracy.

09 December 2016 · Comments Off on That Pesky Dialectic of Materialism, It Just Won’t Go Away · Categories: Mammon, Political Economy

At the Boston Review, Alex De Waal remembers Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, which was written in 1944 and analyzed the events leading from the Napoleonic Wars to the World Wars from a social and economic perspective. De Waal applies that same analysis to the events since 1945. His conclusions do not give reason for optimism.

The article is long and densely reasoned and so depressing that it’s taken me three days to wade through it. I urge you to read the whole thing, even if it takes you three days . . . .

Here’s just a bit to either whet your appetite or scare you away (emphasis added).

Donald Trump was elected as the mouthpiece for a populist insurgency that humbled the biggest political machine in the United States. But he is also a plutocrat, a scion of the very system against which he mobilized so much anger. And his cabinet is oligarchy incorporated. What most distinguished Trump from Hillary Clinton in his public performance was his candor in admitting that the system is rotten and so is he. Trump was elected because he is deplorable, and proud of it.

(snip)

So now—a winning minority of the electorate having lodged its protest and voted for its own gravedigger—the logic of today’s political economy is laid bare. What then can we take from The Great Transformation to deepen our understanding of our predicament? Polanyi’s central conclusion is that unregulated capitalism promised a “stark Utopia” of great wealth but destroyed the social and material basis of a humane society. Just over a hundred years ago, nineteenth-century Western liberal civilization reached its apogee, which was also the moment at which it could no longer contain the forces of disorder that it had unleashed. The massive destruction of the world wars, the communist revolution, fascist imperialism, and the Great Depression followed. Capitalism was reprieved by the political dispensation that followed World War II. John Maynard Keynes provided the intellectual capital for managing the market, and the victors of the war recognized that full employment, social welfare, and a good measure of equality were necessary to save civilization. But capitalism’s dangerous tendencies remained and, once freed from the challenge of socialism, its utopian dogma was again ascendant. The inevitable crisis is now here.

08 December 2016 · Comments Off on Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go · Categories: Political Economy

Still under 300k.

Jobless claims declined by 10,000 to 258,000 in the week ended Dec. 3, a report from the Labor Department showed Thursday.

(snip)

Claims have stayed below the 300,000 level for 92 consecutive weeks, the longest stretch since 1970 and typically consistent with an improving job market. . . .

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits dropped by 79,000 to 2.01 million in the week ended Nov. 26. The unemployment rate among people eligible for benefits declined to 1.4 percent from 1.5 percent.

05 December 2016 · Comments Off on Clueless in the Capital · Categories: Political Economy, Political Theatre

In related news, Josh Marshall looks at developments.

01 December 2016 · Comments Off on Cabinet of Horrors · Categories: Mammon, Political Economy

Will Bunch opens the door and takes a peek.

01 December 2016 · Comments Off on Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go · Categories: Political Economy

Sill under 300k (emphasis added).

Jobless claims increased by 17,000 to 268,000 in the week that ended Nov. 26 and included Thanksgiving, Labor Department figures showed Thursday in Washington.

(snip)

Jobless claims have been below 300,000 for 91 straight weeks — the longest streak since 1970 and a level typical for a healthy labor market. At the same time, other factors that have pushed claims down in recent years, including cuts in the duration of benefits and changes to claim-filing technology.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 245,000 to 265,000. The prior week’s reading was unrevised at 251,000.

The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits increased by 38,000 to 2.08 million in the week ended Nov. 19.

Wait six months. I predict the rate will Trumple.

MIA

01 December 2016 · Comments Off on MIA · Categories: Health Care, Political Economy, Republican Hypocrisy

Remember all those teabaggers who demonstrated against the Affordable Care Act carrying signs that said, “Hands off my Medicare”?

Where are they now?

27 November 2016 · Comments Off on Those Who Forget History . . . . · Categories: Political Economy, Political Theatre

Dick Polman has had it with the lionizing of Fidel Castro. Even granting, as I do, that the government he overthrew was rampant with corruption and Havana was a playground run by the American mafia, Castro has many faults and, especially in the early years, was quite the despot.

A snippet:

The amnesiacs and ahistorical romanticizers should study the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. That’s when Fidel urged Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to consider launching a first nuclear strike on the eastern seaboard of the United States. In a letter to Krushchev on Oct. 26, he said that if the Americans try to invade the island, “that would be the moment to eliminate this danger forever, in an act of the most legitimate self-defense. However harsh and terrible the solution, there would be no other.” (My italics).

That advice was too much even for Khrushchev, who subsequently told Fidel in writing that government leaders can’t allow themselves to be “swept away by the popular feelings of hot-headed elements…If we had refused a reasonable arrangement with the U.S., a war would have left millions of dead and survivors would have blamed their leaders.”

Afterthought:

I remember the Cuban missile crisis, the press conferences on television, the pictures of missile carriers with their missiles at rest, the contemplation of death.

Yes, even kids understand death.

The Las Vegas Sun takes a look at Donald Trump’s promise to bring back manufacturing jobs and concludes that’s it more flim-flam. A nugget:

Wait until Trump tries to come through on one of his central promises: to bring back millions of high-paying manufacturing jobs to the U.S.

There is no shortage of economic experts who say it’s a fantasy.

Why?

Because U.S. manufacturers already are producing a lot of goods. They’re just doing it with fewer people due to automation and other technological advancements in manufacturing processes.

Follow the link for much, much more.