Saturday, December 8, 2018

It's Mueller Time!

The Mueller investigation of the Trump Crime Family is now in its endgame, and it isn't looking good at all for the Donald or any of his cronies.  Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, along with several others, are now officially convicted (or very soon to be convicted) felons at this point, and it looks like both the Teflon Don (and probably Don Jr.) will soon be next.

Ruh roh.  (Cue the Dragnet music, Maestro!)

There is no longer any reasonable doubt at this point about collusion between the Trump campaign and the Putin regime of Russia, all technicalities aside.  Now it's more like, "what did they know and when did they know it" for each of these individuals involved, and they have already been caught in several lies in that regard.  Both Cohen and Manafort, along with Flynn and others, are apparently singing like canaries and throwing Trump and Jr. under the bus to save their own skins.  It's only a matter of time now.

Let's see:  bribery, money laundering, racketeering/RICO, conspiracy to commit election fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States are all at least on the table now as charges related to the Trump-Russia collusion scandal.  And even if somehow none of these charges end up sticking for whatever reason, there is always perjury, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering as well, all of which are not only impeachable offenses, but also punishable by prison as well.  (All of which are easily proven, by the way, and in this case are so glaringly obvious now.)  And you can probably also throw tax fraud and tax evasion in there for at least some of the members of the Trump Crime Family as well.

The jig is basically up now, Donald.  And Pence will most likely be implicated as well, if he hasn't been already.  At the very least, they can likely get Pence for misprision of felony, if not conspiracy to obstruct justice (and aiding and abetting) in the firing of James Comey.  So Trump would be wise to resign right now so Pence can pardon him, but even that would only buy the administration a little more time before they are all "Out Like Flynn" if not behind bars for a very long time.  Hope you like orange, Donald, because for once your clothing and skin will actually match!

It's beginning to look a lot like TREASON, everywhere Trump goes....

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Big Lie of Economics Is Now Completely Unsustainable At This Point, So Let's End It Now

Earlier this year, we at the TSAP have exposed the Big Lie of Economics, a lie so massive and specious that even WE partially fell for prior to 2018.  The Big Lie consists of the following statement and its corollaries:
  • Federal taxes pay for federal spending, and any shortfall in revenues (i.e. "deficit spending") must be made up by the federal government borrowing money to cover the deficit.
  • It must be this way, because otherwise the federal government will run short of dollars, which are finite.
  • The federal government is literally bankrupt and can no longer afford to keep paying for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, let alone anything more ambitious and progressive.
  • Things like Universal Basic Income (UBI), tuition-free public college for all, state-of-the-art infrastructure, a Green New Deal, and single-payer Medicare For All sound like good ideas on paper, but we literally can't get the numbers to add up.  Sorry.  Oh well.
  • If the national debt as a percentage of GDP rises above some arbitrarily high level, the federal government will have no choice but to default.
  • Thus, we will have no choice but to accept an austerity "menu of pain" at this point, with both large tax hikes and/or deep spending cuts. (Austerity for the bottom 99%, that is.)
Do you still believe these statements? Well, guess what?  Each and every one of those specious statements is absolutely FALSE.  Period.  Not even a kernel of truth in there, except for the completely contrived self-fulfilling prophecy that believing such lies leads to, starting with the very first statement on that list, and it goes downhill from there. Federal taxes DO NOT pay for federal spending, because our federal government is Monetarily Sovereign and creates all the dollars they need to spend into existence on an ad hoc basis.  Tax dollars merely disappear into infinity, and the so-called "National Debt" is literally nothing more than a National Savings Account consisting of deposits in Treasury securities.  Yes, really.   And the only reason why we must currently match spending with taxes and/or "borrowing" is due to the arcane and archaic rules left over from when we actually had the gold standard.

So having established that, we must now note that sustaining the Big Lie, a lie that really only benefits the oligarchs and their sycophantic lackeys of both corporate duopoly parties in government, is now physically and metaphysically untenable.  Especially given the many converging real and contrived crises now facing our nation and world.  Make no mistake, we absolutely must end this Big Lie YESTERDAY or else face extremely painful austerity, recession, depression, or worse in the very near future.

Thus, we should all write letters to our Congresscritters based on the following sample letter written by the ever-insightful Dr. Joseph M. Firestone and disseminated by the ever-insightful Rodger Malcolm Mitchell:

Dear __________________
At one time or another you and nearly every one of your fellow Representatives (or Senators) have expressed great concern, even alarm, at the size of the national debt and the often increasing debt-to-GDP ratio.
Many of you have pointed out that if the national debt were broken down into how much each American owed that would add more than $50,000 to our individual debts, even though the national debt is not an obligation of each American citizen, but of our government.
You and your political allies have also pointed out that in view of the size of the national debt it is important for the Government to either reduce spending, raise taxes or both.
You have said doing this is necessary to be “fiscally responsible”, and, at least, to reduce the annual deficit, and the debt-to-GDP ratio.
You have voted for and supported legislation in order to be “fiscally responsible” in this way, and in doing so you have cut many programs of long standing that were delivering great benefits to people, harming them and their families.
Some of you have expressed regret and sorrow about this, while insisting on the need for sacrifice in order to be fiscally responsible.
I, your constituent, have heard this fiscal responsibility story from you for many years now, including your sentiments about how much you hate “the national debt,” what an evil it is, and how much we have to lighten its burden on our grandchildren.
In view of all this from you, it surprised me greatly to learn recently, that the very existence of the national debt is Congress’s fault, including your own and your colleagues. I say this for a very simple reason.
That reason is that you and your colleagues can, in an afternoon, make it standard legislative practice to include the following clause, or an alternative formulation meaning the same thing, in every appropriations bill or continuing resolution for Federal Spending. The clause is:
Now here comes the key part:
“Upon passage of this appropriations bill, the Federal Reserve is directed to fill the Treasury’s spending account at the New York Federal Reserve with the addition to its Reserve Balance necessary to spend the appropriation.
“In addition, the Federal Reserve is directed to fill the Treasury spending account with the additions to the Treasury Reserve balances necessary to repay all outstanding debt instruments including principal and interest as they fall due for the fiscal year of this appropriation.”
In short, the Federal Reserve would pay off T-securities, making the so-called “debt” disappear.
The Fed simply would create U.S. dollars from thin air, just as it always has been authorized to do, and just as it does when it buys federal bonds with its Quantitative Easing (QE) programs.
The first sentence provides the reserves necessary for the Treasury to spend its mandate from Congress without issuing new debt.
And the second provides the reserves necessary for the Treasury to pay down the existing outstanding Treasury debt instruments as they fall due within the time period of the appropriation or continuing resolution bill.
If this or similar language were included in every such bill it would mean that (1) deficit spending by Congress would no longer involve issuing new debt instruments, so the debt would no longer grow and (2) that all outstanding debt instruments would be paid off as they fall due as long as Congress continues to include the new language in all its appropriations bills and continuing resolutions.
So, it seems to me that the sole reason why the national debt exists at all in 2017 is that when President Nixon took the United States off the gold standard in 1971, the Congress did not adjust to the new reality of fiat monetary sovereignty by funding Federal spending using language like the above.
I believe that Congress made a grievous mistake in not changing its funding language immediately after the change to a fiat currency in 1971, and mandating the Federal Reserve to fill Treasury’s spending account with the reserves needed to spend its appropriations.
That mistake has led to the whole situation of debt terrorism we see around us now, and to all the damaging propaganda and horrible legislative outcomes we have suffered at the hands of Republicans and Democrats alike.
You have all been very wrong about the need to sacrifice. There was no need to sacrifice!
You have been all wrong about all of that for 40 years now, and you should all wear sackcloth and ashes and hang your heads for the damage you have done to America.
Since the Administration of President Carter we have been treated to these meaningless harangues about a faux financial problem that is purely one of politics and messaging and not one of public financing at all.
And this faux problem, solely of Congress’s own making has led to much suffering among most of the American people, including decades of less than full employment, the denial of universal health care coverage, deteriorating public spaces and infrastructure, refusal to deal with a life-threatening climate change problem, increasing economic inequality, a declining educational system, decreasing life expectancy, and a host of other problems too numerous to mention.
Well, I have had enough of all this, and especially of the pretense that the Federal Government doesn’t have enough money to buy any goods or services for sale using US currency.
I know that using the words above or words very like them, you and a majority of your colleagues in Congress can appropriate funds for anything you want to spend on.
So, never let me hear from you ever again that we can’t afford this good program or that good program or any other program that will benefit a majority of the people of the United States.
I now know that is a lie. And I insist that you never tell that lie again in public, and that from now on you advocate for and insist on legislative language similar to the above, being included in all appropriation bills and continuing resolutions passed by Congress.
I demand, that as my representative, you vote against any bill that lacks that language.
And I tell you now that if you fail to comply with this demand of mine, I will do all I can to defeat you in the next election and will work for and vote to elect any opponent of yours who is willing to promise that she or he will include such language in all appropriations bills or continuing resolutions.
In closing, I hope I have made myself abundantly clear. I insist that the lies and propaganda advancing faux fiscal responsibility stop immediately.
I insist that the issue of the national debt be taken off the table by including the language suggested above or a similar formulation, followed by gradual pay-off of all outstanding Treasury debt instruments. And I insist that you represent me in this way going forward and for as long as you serve.
I want Job 1 for you to be seeing to it to the best of your ability that this language is in all appropriation bills or continuing resolutions coming out of Congress. I will want other things from you too.
But, as I say, this is Job 1, and if you want my vote in the future you will see to it that it is well done, so that the various lies and fables surrounding Federal spending are at last ended, and so our nation may move forward to true fiscal responsibility, which is Government spending for public purpose.
Sincerely Yours, Your Constituent,
Granted, this letter is probably TL;DR and should perhaps be more concise, but the part in blue is really the heart and soul of the letter.  As Rodger Mitchell further explains:
The above letter is way too long to send as is. Further, I disagree with two of the points it makes: 
  1. I disagree that all “debt” (i.e. T-securities) should be allowed to expire...and not [be] replaced. T-securities serve useful purposes. They help the Fed control interest rates and they provide a safe place to hold large amounts of money.
  2. I disagree that “. . . Treasury Reserve balances (are)necessary to repay all outstanding debt.” Maturing Treasuries are repaid by transferring existing dollars from the T-security accounts back to the checking accounts of the T-security holders.  [Only the interest needs to be created anew.]
That said, the fundamental idea of having the Fed buy enough T-securities to reduce the outstanding “debt” would change the dialog, and ease the drive to cut social benefit spending.
And there you have it.  A bit more nuanced, but the same basic idea.  It would probably also be useful to add that there is a federal statute on the books that codifies the aforementioned arcane and archaic rules left over from when we actually had the gold standard.  That statute is codifed as 2 USC Ch. 20, most notably Section 902. Once one gets through the legalese mumbo-jumbo, one can plainly see that this requirement for "sequestration" upon "falling short" of federal budgetary dollars to pay bills is an outmoded contrivance that no longer serves any useful purpose at all.  Amending or repealing this obsolete section, or even the entire Chapter 20, is not just a good idea, but a matter of grave necessity to save our country at this point.  The same goes for 31 USC section 3101, which is the statute that imposes that other outmoded contrivance, the so-called "debt ceiling" as well.  Repealing both of these obsolete laws will permanently make it so the text in blue in the aforementioned letter will no longer need to be every spending bill as a formality to work around such laws each time going forward after the first one--especially if that text in blue were to be inserted in whatever remains of the repealed/amended 2 USC Ch. 20.

And instead of so-called "debt ceiling", which almost no other nation in the world has, we could simply have a spending limit that would be deemed automatically raised each time a new budget, continuing resolution, or appropriations bill is passed and signed into law, NOT by a separate vote. And that limit will only apply to spending on any new obligations taken on going forward, not on outstanding obligations.  The only functional reason for this at all would be as a "safety valve" or "circuit breaker" that would stop feeding the beast of inflation in the (unlikely) event of truly excessive inflation.

In the meantime, if Congress refuses to act, the executive branch does still have one powerful "ace in the hole":  the trillion-dollar coin.  While a pure "Treasury Warrant" idea is of very questionable legality and would likely be struck down by SCOTUS, under current law the Department of the Treasury has the explicit legal authority to mint platinum coins in literally any denomination.  Thus, they can easily mint one or two (or twenty!) trillion-dollar coins as a workaround for the time being and use the resulting seigniorage to pay any bills and preclude default even if Congress plays "chicken" with the debt ceiling as a cudgel to force a default if they don't get their way.

It's long past time to end the Big Lie already, period.  The very best time to do so was in 1971-1973 when we functionally got off the gold standard and/or 1975-1976 when all remaining nominal ties between gold and the dollar were formally severed for good.  The second best time is NOW.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Beginning of the End for the Trump Regime

The 2018 midterm election results were a mixed bag overall, and while the Republicans kept control of the Senate and even gained a few seats, the Democrats got the biggest prize of all:  control of the House of Representatives, something they haven't had since 2010.  The House, as you may know, has the power to initiate impeachment against Trump, and launch all sorts of investigations of him.  And Mueller, who has been awfully quiet lately, will be dropping a major bombshell in his investigation of Trump within a matter of days.  You know, the Trump-Russia investigation?

No wonder Trump essentially forced Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign today, and replaced him with a Trump loyalist, Matthew Whittaker.  He didn't waste any time, and also removed Rod Rosenstein from the investigation as well.  But this will likely backfire, as Nixon's infamous "Saturday Night Massacre" comes to mind.  Spoiler alert:  it didn't end well for him.

No matter how Trump tries to paint it as a victory for himself, the midtern election results overall favored the Democrats, who now have a majority in the House, while the Republicans are barely hanging onto the Senate with a slim majority that can still be filibustered and is no more than a handful of defectors away from failure.  And with a few exceptions, most state and local elections also tended to favor the Democrats this time as well, further making it harder for Trump to advance his vile and regressive agenda on the ground.

Trump's days are numbered.  Will the Democrats have the intestinal fortitude to do what needs to be done to thwart his agenda and eventually remove him or force him to resign in disgrace?  Or will they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as they have time and again in the past?  We don't know, but given all of the newer Democrats in office, they are more likely to prevail now than any other time in recent history--at least the past eight years.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Vote Blue, Like Your Life Depends On It!

We cannot emphasize this enough.  This one is for all the marbles, folks.  If we win, we will see the very first glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel that is America's long dark night of the soul.  If we lose, well, it's safe to say that all bets are off at that point.

The TSAP is of course neither Republican nor Democrat, and is clearly not a big fan of either corporate duopoly party in fact.  But we saw what happened in 2016 when too many people made the perfect the enemy of the good:  they ultimately ended up with neither.  And now Trump and the GOP are hell-bent on destroying for fun and profit what is left of everything that's still good about America.  So much damage is already done, but if the anticipated Blue Tsunami washes away the Red Tide that is currently drowning this country, there will at least be some hope of reversing it.  If not, the damage will most likely be irreversible at that point.

Thus, either the GOP suffers irreversible damage and essentially does seppuku, or America does.  The choice is ours, and we only get ONE SHOT this time.  This is literally a once in a lifetime opportunity to take our country back.  Republicans most likely will cheat as usual, but remember that cheating only works in close elections, not in landslides.

So get out there and VOTE BLUE like your life depends on it.  Because in many ways, it really does.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Enough Is Enough Already! (Yet Again)

Another day, another horrible mass shooting.  This time, it was a truly deplorable and horrific anti-Semitic hate crime in which the genocidal mass murderer shot up a Pittsburgh syangogue because he, in his own words, "just want[ed] to kill Jews."  Yes, really.  This was in fact the deadliest attack on Jews in this country's history, but in context with the numerous other recent mass shootings it otherwise seems disturbingly banal.  Seems that mass shootings in general have become an almost daily occurrence in recent years, and school shootings in particular an almost weekly occurrence--in the USA at least.  But the rest of the industrialized world doesn't really seem to have this kind of problem, even in countries where anti-Semitism and hate groups in general are rife.  Why is that?  Well, there's always....


America is the land of 300 million guns, and combined with a culture that is crazier and more violent than most other "developed" countries, and much more extreme inequality, it is a very lethal combination indeed.  And some states, most notably Florida and Texas, but also Pennsylvania as well, have particularly lax gun laws compared to other states.  Of course, the biggest elephant in the room is the fact that at least 98% of mass shooters are MEN.  Thanks to the patriarchy and the sort of "toxic masculinity" that it creates, combined with the above factors, too many men end up resorting to violence.  Like the Iron Maiden song says, "a briefcase, a lunch, and a man on the edge".  With a gun. I mean, what could possibly go wrong, right?

There should be no doubt at this point that something needs to be done.  However, we do not believe that banning all guns for everyone, or adopting British or European-style gun laws, is the solution, as the genie is already out of the bottle, and there is also that whole Constitution thingy as well.  Thus, the TSAP recommends that the following measures be taken:

  1. Bring back a new and improved 1994 assault-weapons ban yesterday, this time with more teeth.  This time, include all rapid-fire devices and all magazines with more than ten rounds in the ban as well as the previously-banned types of semi-automatic rifles and their knockoffs.
  2. Remove the 20-year ban on gun violence research, yesterday. 
  3. End the gun-show loophole and implement universal background checks, yesterday.
  4. Put a significant excise tax on all bullets/ammo, like Chris Rock recommended. (Seriously)
  5. Treat ammo sales the same as gun sales.  Or better yet, treat bullets like Sudafed:  must show ID, limit on the number that one can buy, the number bought would be recorded, and if you do buy too many, you will be investigated.
  6. Pass a "one gun a month" law at the federal level.  And consider perhaps putting a limit on the number of guns that an individual can own at a given time, except for antiques/relics/curios.
  7. Require reporting of lost or stolen guns.
  8. Regulate firearms like other consumer products in terms of health and safety standards--currently such standards are nonexistent.
  9. Improve enforcement of existing gun laws, which tend not to be enforced very well these days, and improve state reporting of prohibited persons to NICS.  Also, prohibit anyone on the terrorism watch list from buying any guns, period--and consider hate groups to be domestic terrorists as well.
  10. Consider a massive gun buyback program, one that pays significantly more than what the guns are worth on the street.  Voluntary for any still-legal weapons, mandatory for any newly-banned ones. 
  11. And last but not least, improve our woefully-inadequate mental healthcare system.
Of course, to truly solve our gun violence problem would require a fundamental overhaul and transformation of our society, which the TSAP clearly supports.  We need to go from being what Riane Eisler calls a "dominator" society to more of a "partnership" society, as the latter kind is far less violent overall.   But in the meantime, the aforementioned recommendations would go a long way towards taking the dangerous edge off of the problem. 

The motive in this case was very clear:  he hated Jews and wanted to kill them.  And like other cases of domestic terrorism, it was most likely due to a combination of toxic masculinity, easy access to deadly weapons (especially the obligatory semi-automatic AR-15 or its knockoffs), and a virulent anti-Semitism fueled by the so-called "alt-right" (read:  white supremacists, KKK, and neo-Nazis) as well as the Trump administration that nods, winks, and looks the other way (when they aren't stoking the fire themselves).  Regardless of the motive, the first two factors are absolutely essential for virtually all mass shootings, whether in places of worship or otherwise.

And on the heels of another incident of Trump-inspired right-wing domestic terrorism, the pipe bombs sent by an angry and disgruntled Trump supporter to various prominent Democrats, this becomes even more disturbingly NOT an isolated incident or fluke, but the tip of a very large iceberg of virulent hate and violence.

I don't know about you, but my favorite part of the Second Amendment is where it says "well-regulated".  Too bad so many Republican Congresscritters who are bought and paid for by the NRA can't seem to read the first half of the freaking sentence.  Oh, and nevermind that when it was written, guns at that time fired at most one round per minute, not 600+ per minute like so many of today's killing machines.  Not like the gun lobby and their lackeys really do nuance.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

What Will Really Cause The Next Big Crash?

There is a recent article by Matt Taibbi in both Rolling Stone and Common Dreams that predicts a looming economic disaster due to three colliding problems.  And those three problems are as follows:  1) FERAL Reserve monetary tightening, both in terms of raising interest rates as well as the more subtle but significant Quantitative Tightening  (QT), 2) Trump's tax cuts depending on unrealistically high economic growth to "pay for themselves", and 3) Trump's tariffs and the resulting trade war.  And the collision of all three together will not end well, according to Taibbi, and he is probably right for the most part.

But even these are mere sideshows compared to the very biggest underlying root cause of the next looming crash, even if one or more of these problems are in fact the proverbial spark that sets off the financial powder keg.   So what is this underlying powder keg, exactly?  Well, it is the mother of all stock market bubbles, artificially inflated by corporations buying back their own stock to manipulate share prices.  And famous economist Ted Bauman predicts that when it finally bursts, any day now in fact, the market will quickly plummet by 70% or more, causing a crisis that makes 2008 and perhaps even 1929 look like a walk in the park by comparison.

So how did we get here in the first place?  The story begins in the 1920s, when corporate stock buybacks were all the rage, and in fact caused the 1929 Wall Street crash.  The Great Depression soon followed.  In 1934, this highly manipulative practice was rightly outlawed, and the ban remained in effect for nearly half a century until the Reagan administration lifted this ban in 1982 as part of Reagan's deregulation platform.  And since 2010, stock buybacks have accelerated dramatically, artificially inflating the stock market numbers and lulling hapless investors into a false sense of security.  And the recent Republican tax cuts have only accelerated this trend even further (since corporations now have even more money with which to buy back their stocks).

And what goes up, must come down, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Don't say you weren't warned.  On the bright side though, if the crash occurs before the November 6 election, it will essentially guarantee that the predicted Blue Wave will be a Blue Tsunami, washing away the current vile Red Tide of Trump and his sycophantic Republican lackeys, no matter how much GOP cheating occurs (and surely there will be plenty).

Friday, October 12, 2018

We Are Running Out of Time To Save the Planet

Every year since 2011, the TSAP has been giving our annual State of the Planet Address in mid-to-late January.  But given the latest IPCC report, which is truly nothing short of horrifying, we are giving an additional one now in October as well.  Yes, we know it is a bit of a downer to say the least.  So sit down, take off your rose-colored glasses, and read on:

Our planet is in grave danger, and has been for quite some time now.  We face several serious long term problems:  climate change, deforestation, desertification, loss of biodiversity, overharvesting, energy crises, and of course pollution of many kinds.  Polar ice caps are melting.  Rainforests have been shrinking by 50 acres per minute.  Numerous species are going extinct every year.  Soil is eroding rapidly.  Food shortages have occurred in several countries in recent years.  Weather has been getting crazier each year thanks to climate change.  We have had numerous wildfires, floods followed by long periods of drought, and a "storm of the century" at least once a year for the past few years.   And it is only getting worse every year.  In fact, 2016 has been the hottest year on record, and 2017 was the hottest year without an El Nino.  Look no further than the three record-breaking storms in the past dozen years:  Katrina (2005, highest storm surge), Sandy (2012, largest diameter), and now Harvey (2017, a 1000-year flood, and overall worst hurricane on record), followed by Irma and Maria which devastated Puerto Rico, for a taste of the not-too-distant future.  And that was before Hurricane Michael devastated a large chunk of Florida recently.

In fact, on the other side of the world, the worst monsoon season in recent memory has recently displaced 41 million people due to record flooding.  Thus for many, the future is sadly already here to one degree or another.

None of this is an accident of course.  These problems are man-made, and their solutions must also begin and end with humans.  We cannot afford to sit idly by any longer, lest we face hell and high water in the not-too-distant future.  Our unsustainable scorched-earth policy towards the planet has to end.  Yesterday.

While we do not invoke the precautionary principle for all issues, we unequivocally do for the issue of climate change and any other environmental issues of comparable magnitude.  In fact, for something as dire as climate change, as of 2015 we now support a strong "no regrets" approach.  With no apologies to hardcore libertarians or paleoconservatives, in fact. We are not fazed one bit by the naysayers' pseudoscience as it does not really "debunk" the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming. The only serious debate is about how fast it will happen, and when the tipping point (or points) will occur. It is not a matter of if, but when. And the less precarious position is to assume it is a real and urgent problem. We need to reduce CO2 emissions to the point where the CO2 concentration is at or below 350 ppm, ASAP.  And it is currently at an unsustainably high level of 400+ ppm, and growing.

Solving the problem of climate change will also help to solve the other ecological crises we are facing, for they all ultimately have the same root causes, not least of which is our insatiable addiction to dirty energy.  However, there is a right way to solve it, and several wrong ways.  Technology is important, but it won't be decisive on its own (economics geeks may recall Jevons Paradox).  The real problem is the paradigm that our society has been following, and that system is based on wetiko, the parasite of the mind and cancer of the soul.  It often seems that the only difference between capitalism and cannibalism is the spelling.

The TSAP endorses the ideas embodied in Steve Stoft's new book Carbonomics, most notably a tax-and-dividend system that would tax carbon (i.e. fossil fuels) at the source, and give all Americans an equal share of the revenue generated from this tax.  (Note that our proposal to tax natural resources and pay out an Alaska-like citizen's dividend already includes this.)  Yes, prices for various things would undoubtedly rise due to this tax, all else being equal, but the dividend will allow Americans to pay for this increase. The average American would in fact break even, but those who (directly or indirectly) use less energy than average will effectively pay less tax, while the energy hogs will effectively be taxed more, as they should be. Thus it is certainly not a regressive tax, and may even be mildly progressive. This is both the simplest and most equitable way to reduce carbon emissions as well as other forms of pollution, not to mention waste of dwindling non-renewable resources. The real challenge is getting the feds to accept something that won't directly benefit them (in the short term).  Carbonomics also includes other good ideas, such as improving how fuel economy standards are done, and crafting a better verison of the Kyoto treaty.   

In addition to the ideas in Carbonomics, we also support several other measures to help us end our addiction to fossil fuels once and for all.  Our Great American Phase-Out plan would phase out all fossil fuels by 2030 at the latest, via alternative energy, efficiency, and conservation.  One good idea to further the development of alternative energy would be the use of feed-in tariffs for renewable power sources. 

We support ending net deforestation completely, and putting carbon back in the ground through carbon sequestration. One method is known as biochar, a type of charcoal made from plants that remove carbon dioxide from the air, that is subsequently buried. This is also an ancient method of soil fertilization and conservation, originally called terra preta.  It also helps preserve biodiversity.  Another crucial method would be regenerative organic farming, which also turns the soil into an effective carbon sink as well.

We've said this before, and we'll say it again.  Our ultimate goal is 100% renewable energy by 2030, but we need to hedge our bets.  We can phase out fossil fuels, or we can phase out nuclear power, but we can't do both at the same time--and fossil fuels need to be phased out first, and quickly.  Nuclear is doing a pretty good job of phasing itself out as it is.  So let's not get rid of it prematurely.  

But the biggest elephant in the room (make that the elephant in the Volkswagen) is overpopulation.  It does not make for pleasant dinner conversation, but it must be addressed or else all other causes become lost causes in the long run. We absolutely need to have fewer kids, or nature will reduce our population for us, and the latter will NOT be pleasant to say the least. The TSAP believes in voluntarily reducing the total fertility rate (TFR) to 1.5-1.9 children per woman to do so, but let us be clear that we do NOT support draconian and/or coercive measures of population control (like China has used).  We believe that more liberty is the answer, not less.   In fact, the two most effective means of reducing the birthrate are poverty reduction and female empowerment.

Fortunately, America's TFR has recently dropped to around 1.8, with no indication of rising back above replacement rate in the near term.  But clearly we cannot keep growing and growing, that's for sure (in fact, we need to shrink). And our insatiable addiction to economic growth (despite being decoupled from well-being) is also every bit as harmful as overpopulation as well, if not more so.  Growth for the sake of growth, the ideology of the cancer cell,  is clearly one of the most asinine obsessions our nation (and world) has ever had.  We clearly need to transition to a steady-state economy, most likely following a period of what Naomi Klein calls "selective degrowth" as well.  And to do that, we need a radical paradigm shift to happen yesterday.  Put another way, we need to leave room for Nature, lest Nature not leave room for us.  We have been warned, decades ago in fact.  Unfortunately, such warnings have largely fallen of deaf ears until very recently.

Yesterday is the time to jettison the Twin Big Lies that "everybody must work for a living" and "everybody must procreate".  Because doing so is the sine qua non of any realist plan to avert ecological catastrophe.

Last but not least, the TSAP now believes that as long as men remain in charge, we are all merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.  Let's face it, it ain't gonna be us fellas who will save the world, as the past 7000 years or so have shown.  We paved paradise and put up a parking lot, we created a desert and called it peace.  We devoured and suffocated our own empire, and our proverbial 15 minutes of fame is almost up.  Only when women finally take over and reclaim their rightful position as the new leaders of the free world--and they will--will there be any real permanent solution.

Bottom line: we need to take the environment much more seriously than we do now.  We ignore it at our own peril.  And while the current administration in DC clearly doesn't care, We the People must act nonetheless.  With no apologies to the deniosaurs or Big Oil or Big Gas, or Dirty Coal.

Oh, by the way, wanna hear a joke?  Peak Oil.  Not saying it won't happen, of course--it will eventually peak and decline at some point--but climate change kinda supersedes it.  While conventional oil most likely has already peaked, there is more than enough total oil (including unconventional) to deep-fry the Earth--and most of which needs to stay in the ground if we wish to avoid catastrophic climate change.  Fossil fuels are, after all, what Buckminster Fuller referred to as our planet's "energy savings account", which we need to wean ourselves off of and save just in case of a planetary emergency--and he first said this in 1941!

So quibble all you want, but the truth must be faced head-on.  We have a planet to save.  So let's roll!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The GOP's October Surprise Gift to the Democrats

On October 6, 2018, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate as a US Supreme Court Justice despite the cloud of suspicion hanging over him concering his accusation of attempted rape, his dubious judicial record, and his repeated lying under oath about his rather checkered past.  All but one Republican, Lisa Murkowski, voted in favor, and all but one Democrat, Joe Manchin, voted against his confirmation.

The Republicans are now gloating in their victory, of course, but that victory will soon prove temporary since the voters will remember in Novemeber.  This very foolish move on the GOP's part will come back to haunt them in the form of the Blue Wave--scratch that, the Blue Tsunami--when the Democrats take back both houses of Congress by a landslide, and not a moment too soon either.  And then Kavanaugh can finally be impeached for lying under oath (aka perjury), followed by Trump and his deplorable cronies (including Pence) as well.

What, you doubt that?  Well, we can make it happen if we get out and VOTE on Novemeber 6, just one month from now and less than a week after Halloween.  Hopefully our ever-shortening attention spans in the age of Facebook and Twitter will last that long.

"Remember, remember, the 6th of November."

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Americans Are Still Having Fewer Kids, and That's a Very Good Thing

Even in 2018, after several years of ostensible economic recovery, Americans (particularly Millennials) are still having fewer kids than they were before the Great Recession.  The total fertility rate in the USA has thus fallen to around 1.8 children per woman, down from 2.1 before the Great Recession (replacement rate is around 2.1).  And contrary to what the naysayers may claim, that is actually a very GOOD thing on balance.  The world is grossly overpopulated and in serious ecological overshoot, and Americans' truly elephantine ecological footprint per capita due to our massive pollution and overconsumption of resources only makes it that much more important to reduce birthrates in the USA relative to the rest of the world.  And such grave ecological concerns greatly dwarf any social and economic concerns about population aging and other consequences of low birthrates.  Especially since with a Monetarily Sovereign government like our own federal government, money is literally no object when it comes to things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and things like that--the government can literally only go broke if they choose to.  And our addiction to economic growth is also part of the problem in terms of ecological sustainability, so that fear needs to be jettisoned at once as well.

In fact, one recent study finds the ideal TFR in terms of standards of living overall is in fact in the 1.5-2.0 range, basically the same as what the TSAP has long advocated since our founding nearly a decade ago in 2009.  Yes, really.  Take that, birth dearthers!

Of course, it is not all wine and roses either.  The very same New York Times article referenced in the beginning of this post does note that both women and men are on average having fewer kids than their own self-reported ideal numbers, primarly due to economic reasons.  Part of the decline in fertility is due to Millennial women having more choices than previous generations, of course, but at the same time those choices are severely constrained by economics.  Our nation has a truly abysmal record of providing paid family leave, high-quality childcare, and social safety net benefits in general compared to most other modern and even semi-modern countries.  And in spite of increasing gender equality in many ways, the modern workplace remains both largely male-dominated and male-defined, and thus stuck in the past in terms of work-life balance.  And while the perennial fears of low birthrates are largely overblown, it is still entirely possible that if they eventually fall to extremely low levels (such as Japan's 1.2-1.4 over the past two decades) and remain that low for decades at a time, we may very well hit a "pothole" on the road to sustainability.  So there is still plenty of room for improvement in that regard, even if current TFRs are right where they should be.  And besides, it is simply the right thing to do regardless of fertility rates and any concerns about such numbers.

If the pro-lifers and pro-natalists really cared, they would instantly advocate not only very generous paid family leave and subsidized (if not free), high-quality childcare, but would also support things like Universal Basic Income (UBI) to eliminate poverty (especially child poverty) while also (partially) compensating the unpaid work of mothers (and some fathers as well).  They would also advocate better quality education from pre-K through post-grad, also free, as opposed to currently trying to kill the entire public education system via death by a thousand cuts.  They would advocate better work-life balance for both women AND men, higher minimum wages, and especially shortening the workweek (what's the point of having kids if you are never going to see them?).  And they would also advocate single-payer Medicare For All.  But do you see them advocating any of those things?  Of course not.  Gee, I wonder why.

So can you really blame young people for effectively going on a (partial) reproductive strike given the world we currently live in?  Of course not.

The best way to sum things up:  Want us Millennials to have (more) kids?  Give us a quarter-million dollars, then we'll talk.  Because that's about how much it costs on average to raise a child from birth through age 18--and that doesn't even include college.  And besides, our Mother Earth will truly thank us in the long run.  Otherwise, silence is golden.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

What "Give People Money" Gets Right--And Wrong at the Same Time

One of our favorite journalists, Annie Lowrey, recently wrote a book called Give People Money:  How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World.  As its self-explanatory title suggests, she is clearly in favor of the idea, at least in principle, and notes all of the many benefits to society that a Universal Basic Income (UBI) would have.  She does a great job of delineating such benefits and thoroughly debunks numerous myths about this big idea.  So overall, it is a good book.

That said, while her thesis starts out practically on fire in terms of ambition, it really starts to coast towards the end when the practical issue of cost starts to seep in.  Then, her proposals start to get significantly less ambitious than a true UBI, namely a negative income tax (like the kind Nixon once proposed and was ultimately weakened into what became the Earned Income Tax Credit) and/or a smaller UBI-style payment for children only.  True, those weaker versions would indeed be cheaper, and far better than doing nothing at all.  And it would certainly be more likely to pass through Congress, no doubt about that.  But the larger point is still being missed in terms of the nature of the cost issue.

And that larger point is that since the United States federal government is Monetarily Sovereign, the whole cost issue is really a non-issue when you think about it.  It is a Big Lie that federal taxes actually pay for federal spending, and that the federal government can somehow run short of dollars.  They can literally create infinite money, thus money is literally no object in that regard, if only they would act like it and dispense with the Big Lie once and for all.

In fact, Rodger Malcolm Mitchell himself advocates a form of UBI that he calls the Economic Bonus (EB), which is Step #3 of his recommended Ten Steps to Prosperity.  It is similar to Social Security for all, but without the FICA tax (which he believes should be abolished), and paid for entirely via money creation (i.e. spending it into existence).  Though the figures he provides are not set in stone, he advocates that we start with $1000/month for everyone over the age of 21 and $500/month for everyone below that age.  The TSAP fully agrees, except that we think the age threshold for the full amount should be 18 instead.  Or perhaps give the same amount (say, $500) to everyone regardless of age to start with.  Either way, once it is started, the numbers can be easily adjusted.  And $1000/$500 is a very handy number since that is roughly the amount that would be enough to eliminate poverty as well as give workers much more bargaining power than they have currently, while still not being so ludicrously high as to trigger runaway inflation or other adverse effects.  And best of all, it wouldn't cost the taxpayer one penny.

And Presto!  The square has thus been circled--or is that the other way around?

Oh, and about that inflation thingy, keep in mind that despite three rounds of QE, nearly $30 trillion in secret bailouts for the banks, $21+ trillion in national debt, and the Pentagon "losing" another $21 trillion despite putting two (or four) wars on the proverbial credit card, all of this money created out of thin air in fact, and economic growth finally roaring back to life (for now), we are still nowhere near the point of runaway inflation.  Not by a long shot.  If anything, we are still under the shadow of what Larry Summers calls "secular stagnation" thanks to chronic, extreme economic inequality and related socioeconomic ills.  And if ever we did get anywhere near that point, we know now exactly how to prevent and cure such inflation via interest rate control, and failing that, simply create less new money going forward.

So what are we waiting for?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

RIP John McCain, A True American Hero

After learning of the recent passing of Senator John McCain on August 25, 2018, we would like to give a brief eulogy for this great man.  We at the TSAP have clearly had our differences with him politically on most issues, but we could never deny him the respect that he deserves.  To call him a hero would be the understatement of the century, both for his undeniably great courage as a war hero in Vietnam as well as his constantly fighting the good fight against the current corrupt cesspool of an authoritarian regime during America's dark night of the soul, up until the very moment that he lost his final battle with brain cancer.  Few could honestly say that they have done even a fraction what he has done in his 81 marvelous years on this Earth.

And shame on anyone who tarnishes his name by spreading vicious lies and slander about him as some people (and bots) have apparently been doing lately, regardless of where they happen to fall on the political spectrum.  Seriously, knock it off.  NOW.

Whether you love him, hate him, or are altogether indifferent about him, one thing is absolutely for certain.  If there is a heaven, John McCain is one of the very few Republicans (or anyone in Congress these days for that matter) getting in.  May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Jig Is Up, Donald!

Wow, today must be the Donald's very worst day ever, or least in a great while.  First, his former campaign chair Paul Manafort (of Russiagate infamy) was found guilty of eight out of 18 counts related to tax fraud and bank fraud (the rest were a hung jury), and is thus now a convicted felon.  Secondly, his former lawyer and personal "fixer", Michael Cohen, has just pled guilty to eight counts of his own as well, most significantly including two related to campaign finance violations. You know, that whole bit about illegally paying hush money to two porn stars to keep quiet about Trump's affairs with them, so as to influence the 2016 election in Trump's favor, turned out not to be a hoax after all--and it directly implicates Trump himself since the payments were about him.

So not only have both of these former associates of his now effectively joined the growing club of convicted felons in his orbit, but now they are in a crucial position to "flip" on Trump.  And there is a very good chance that they will both sing like a canary, if they haven't done so already.   It's only a matter of time.  Check checkity check check, checkmate!

The jig is up, Donald.  The mounting evidence of your numerous high crimes and misdemeanors can no longer be denied.  So do us all a YUUUUGE favor and RESIGN, yesterday.  Clean out your desk now, and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Or, as you like to say, "YOU'RE FIRED!"

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Interest Rates: A Razor-Sharp, Double-Edged Sword

After debunking the Big Lie of Economics (namely, that federal taxes actually pay for federal spending and that the federal government can somehow run short of dollars) in our previous post, the question of inflation and how to control it remains.  Most economists (including Rodger Malcolm Mitchell) believe that raising interest rates is the best way to do control inflation, while others (mainly in the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) school of economics, along with Ellen Brown) believe that doing so is practically blasphemy and will only make things worse, relying instead on taxes of various kinds (if anything at all) to control it, albeit crudely.  So which is it?

Well, it seems that the answer is a lot more nuanced than either side likes to believe.  For starters, there are at least two different kinds of inflation: 1) cost-push inflation, and 2) demand-pull inflation.  Sometimes both types occur together almost equally, other times one clearly outweighs or excludes the other.  And whether raising interest rates is helpful or harmful depends on exactly which kind of inflation one is trying to fight.

For cost-push inflation, which is caused by rising production costs resulting from things like higher fuel prices, taxes, or borrowing costs on businesses that get passed onto consumers.  And raising interest rates will only make that kind of inflation worse by increasing borrowing costs for businesses even higher still.  Doing so is like fighting fire with gasoline, and should generally be avoided like the plague.

For demand-pull inflation, which is caused by demand for goods and services outstripping supply for same, on the other hand, raising interest rates is highly effective at preventing and curing such inflation.  If interest rates are (artificially) coupled to money supply, raising the former will effectively shrink the latter, which is of course disinflationary or deflationary.  But even more importantly, whether they are coupled to the money supply or not, raising interest rates also increases the demand for dollars by increasing the reward for holding them.  Remember, as Rodger Mitchell explains, Value = Demand/Supply, and Demand = Reward/Risk, where inflation and default are the risks and interest is the reward.

(Since the risk of default is by definition zero for a Monetarily Sovereign government that consistently acts like it and is not foolish enough to borrow money denominated in a foreign currency, that leaves only inflation vs. interest.  And the net reward is given by:  Interest Rate - Inflation Rate = Real Cost of Money.)

Note too that interest rates can have both types effects, but which one outweighs the other depends on the type of inflation as well as the general condition of the overall economy.  At the same time, the effects of raising and lowering interest rates need not be symmetrical, since lowering interest rates to stimulate the economy often amounts to "pushing on a string" in terms of effectiveness.  Especially since interest on Treasury securities is literally new money that is pumped into the economy, and lowering rates will reduce that money accordingly.  True, there is in fact a positive correlation between the effective Fed Funds Rate and the CPI inflation rate, but that is as much of a chicken-and-egg problem as anything, given that the two types of inflation are both measured the same way, and that the FERAL Reserve usually raises rates in response to or in anticipation of inflation.  (For all their faults, they have generally succeeded in keeping inflation more or less under control at least since the post-gold standard era.)

But how exactly does one distininguish which type of inflation predominates at a given time, and thus whether to raise or lower interest rates?  Usually it is fairly simple.  When the velocity of money (the rate at which money circulates through the economy) is going "too fast for conditions" relative to the economy, that is a fairly strong indicator that demand-pull inflation predominates and that interest rates ought to be raised, even if there is some cost-push inflation mixed into the overall inflation rate.  But if the velocity of money is sluggish, raising rates will likely be counterproductive, at least in the absence of massive deficit spending (i.e. new money creation).

Because regardless of whether or not there is any link at all between interest rates and the actual supply of money, raising rates (especially when raised higher than the inflation rate) will always slow down the velocity of money, ceteris paribus.  Likewise, cutting interest rates accelerates the velocity of money at least somewhat, even if that alone doesn't always stimulate the economy enough in practice.

So what about taxes, then?  In theory, raising taxes and/or cutting government spending should also control inflation by effectively shrinking the money supply.  Remember, since the federal government is Monetarily Sovereign, any tax revenue they raise is effectively destroyed in practice (just like how all deficit spending effectively creates money out of thin air).  But this is a very crude way to do it, and is too slow and political to be particularly useful.  That said, having some level of federal taxation can indeed act as an "automatic stabilizer" even with no changes to the tax code, since when the economy overheats, the velocity of money is high and thus more tax revenue is removed from the economy, while the reverse is true during recessions when the the velocity of money is slower.  That is especially true for the idea of the Universal Exchange Tax, since it specifically taxes the movement of money, but can be true for all taxes.  But interest rate control is ultimately a superior method--as long as the inflation in question is the demand-pull variety resulting from an excessive money supply and/or velocity of money.  And knowing that, there is no good reason why a Monetarily Sovereign government should be shy about creating enough money to fulfill any of its ambitions that benefit the the bottom 99%.

The best, of course, is when interest is NOT coupled to the creation of money.  But until they end the charade and implement Overt Congressional Funding instead, and also fully nationalize the FERAL Reserve, the best way to fight stagflation is to raise interest rates (to fight inflation) while also increasing deficit spending (to fight stagnation), effectively decoupling the two for the time being.  And to fight high inflation in an overheating economy, raise interest rates first with no changes to deficit spending, and if that doesn't work, then reduce deficit spending.  But don't keep interest rates too high for too long--eventually they need to be cut to avoid doing more harm than good to the economy.  And note also that there is no historical correlation between deficit spending and inflation, at least not during peacetime and post-gold standard.  Only during truly major wars has there been any sort of correlation between the two, given how wars tend to create shortages of goods and services.

Wait, what?  That's right, there has been no correlation between federal deficit spending (i.e. money creation) and inflation in recent decades, meaning that any relationship between the money supply per se and inflation is a very tenuous one.  Let that sink in for a moment.  So we are nowhere near the point where increasing the money supply poses any risk of runaway inflation.  And even if we were, we know precisely how to prevent and cure it.

In other words, it looks like both Rodger Mitchell and Ellen Brown are both correct to one degree or another.  But what about what the FERAL Reserve is doing right now, raising interest rates (and implementing Quantitative Tightening) in the midst of historically high deficit spending?  Well, seeing as how inflation is still low and currently dominated by oil prices and the Trump tariffs that are just beginning to bite, it is safe to say that cost-push inflation, not demand-pull inflation, thus predominates now and in the near future, and thus raising interest rates any further now is probably not the wisest idea.  Especially given that, as Ellen Brown notes, the banksters have currently set a minefield of trigger points for variable-rate loans and mortgages, that will be set off if the Fed Funds Rate goes up much higher.  And these oligarchs thus stand to pull off one of the greatest wealth transfers in history, from the bottom 99% to the top 1% and especially the top 0.01% (i.e. to the oligarchs themselves).

Bottom line:  While taxes are more of a blunt instrument when used to control inflation, interest rates are essentially a razor-sharp, double-edged sword, one that we need to be very careful about using willy-nilly.  Don't say we didn't warn you.