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      Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 15, 2019 by Tony Wikrent Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy The Economy of Evil [Historicly, via Naked Capitalism 12-11-19] Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister in October 1922. Nazis rose to power in 1933 in Germany. Mussolini convened a meetin […]
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Rogue Wave

Now that elections are over, I have a few observations, in no particular order:

1.) New Jersey.  I don’t like Christie, didn’t vote for him and think he’s a bully.  But I do kinda understand why New Jersey re-elected him.  First, I’ve noticed that Democrats have been tending to not support candidates that are liberal.  I’ve mentioned more than once that there are no women in the Congressional delegation in either the House or the Senate and it’s been that way for a couple of decades.  In 2006, there were a couple of liberal candidates that got very close to winning congressional seats and were supported vigorously by the party.  That all changed in 2008 when the Obama campaign took over the machinery after Obama secured the nomination.

Second, there is Sandy.  It was pretty rough.  I lived 36 miles from NYC and the shore and it was still awful.  Power lines down for about a month.  No school for a couple of weeks.  Whole forests decimated.  Price gouging on firewood when my entire township couldn’t turn on their electric or gas heaters in November. And gas lines like you would not believe.  Seriously, people.  It was no picnic.  But there was one thing that stood out for me about Sandy that made me think of Christie.  It was this.  Two days before it hit, I was on my way to the movie theater to pick up Brook and I was at a red light at Route 206, which is the only, inadequate single lane road in central NJ.  It was dark.  All of the sudden, a convoy of electric company utility trucks  and cherry pickers passed by.  There were about 20 vehicles.  That was weird enough but what was even weirder was that they were from out of state.  They were from Michigan or Vermont or somewhere.

You can say a lot of negative things about Christie, and I have, but when push came to shove and he saw that monster bearing down on us, he swallowed his pride and begged for help.  And he got it.  He couldn’t do anything to stop nature but he went beyond the call of duty in making it bearable.  The state is still a mess.  In particular, the infrastructure is pathetic for a state that is essentially the suburbs of NYC and Philadelphia.  I put a lot of the blame on the Republicans for failing to change what is the worst part of living in NJ.

Taxes.  That is the third part of why Christie won.  Ironic because his party should take the blame for how ridiculously expensive it is to live there.  The property tax burden is especially brutal for middle class people living in the suburbs.  It’s actually not so bad for the very wealthy.  Some wealthy townships are in sending districts, which means they send their kids to a neighboring school district for high school.  Consequently, their taxes are relatively low in comparison.  And there’s not much of a sales tax, which is great if you live in NYC and can go shopping in NJ but now that I live in PA, I can see why a sales tax is so useful. The wealthy can’t get out of paying at least *something*.  In NJ, the wealthy can pick and choose what taxes they want to pay and they’d prefer to put the entire burden of financing the state on the backs of people who are in the middle who own houses.  My taxes on a modest little townhouse in a middle class burb?  $6700/year.  Ridiculous.

When it comes to elected officials, NJ taxpayers go with the person who promises not to raise their taxes.  They’ve had bad experiences with democrats who promise to reform the tax system and then throw up their hands in frustration and don’t do anything.  That would be Jon Corzine.  And they’re not fond of Democrats who say taxes have to be raised, like Jim Florio, because, frankly, there’s only so much blood you can squeeze from a stone.

Then there are the teachers’ unions.  Now, I was on the school board and I don’t begrudge teachers their salaries and pensions.  It is expensive to live in NJ and teachers are making a living wage there and that’s about it.  And I don’t think Christie is being fair or honest when he says NJ teachers produce a bad product.  Those teachers are pretty good for about 95% of children who live there.  They absolutely SUCK when it comes to the gifted though.  It’s criminal.  No, really, I mean it.  Now that I live in PA and the local school system tested Brook and we know exactly why she didn’t fit in to school for 11 years, it’s kind of a relief to know that there was nothing wrong with *HER*.  It was all the NJ teachers’ collective hive mind and their ridiculous ideas about heterogenous classroom experiences.  I do not miss NJ when it comes to the schools but I realize that we are a special case.  If you have a reasonably bright kid, his or her future on Wall Street is all but assured as long as they are obedient, compliant and willing to stay up all night.

That being said, there are a lot fewer New Jerseyans who can afford to pay these teachers.  That’s because the pharmaceutical industry, which was one of the few remaining non-financial industries left in NJ, pulled out en masse in the last 4 years.  I am not exaggerating when I say that everyone I worked with in the past 25 years was laid off because of site closings, mergers and other reductions in force.  Some of these people auditioned for new jobs in their companies and had to relocate to Groton or Cambridge or the west coast.  Others went to work for CROs.  Others are struggling  with small start ups or are self-employed.  Most of them are making much, much less money and many of them have no health insurance.

I was not surprised to see that the Obama administration is dismayed by the number of older people signing up for the exchanges.  I would love to see the numbers.  I’m guessing that there are a lot of 45-65 year olds in NJ who are in that cohort.  Their companies abandoned them in one of the most expensive places of the country to live and health insurance on the individual market is out of reach for most people.  That’s one of the reasons I moved to PA.  At least I could somewhat afford health insurance, although probably not for very much longer.  It’s sucking up all my savings.

So, anyway, the bottom line in NJ, as I see it, is still taxes.  Perversely, the higher property taxes are, the more a Republican who promises not to raise taxes is likely to do well.  A Democrat is either going to find NJ hard to reform or slap on a new tax and nobody there wants or can afford.  So, until the economy improves, don’t be surprised that Christie is a winner in NJ.  But let’s also not forget that he may be a local phenomenon.

2.) Virginia.  Ok, some of you lefties have a very weird thought pattern when it comes to Terry McAuliffe.  It’s like “He turned me into a newt!” and he wears a long pointy nose.  I think it has something to do with the idea that pure politicians are cool, detached, intellectual types who do not dirty their hands with money.  Yeah, that’s how we got Obama.  HE didn’t dirty his hands with money.  All of his financier class backers did.  I have read a lot of allegations about McAuliffe’s money but nothing feels or looks or reads as anything tangible.

Oh, but he was involved with the Clintons.  uh-huh.  That’s the thing, isn’t it?  The thing about the Clintons is that the Big Dog admitted that he made a mistake when he listened to his economic advisors.  He seems to have learned.  You would think that Obama would have learned too but he’s actually worse, so, you know, there’s that.

From what I can see of the Virginia voter demographics I’m going to guess that a.) it was an off year election, b.) many of the Democrats’ key constituencies are wondering if it’s worth voting at all ala Russell Brand and c.) many Republican hard ass so-called Christian types are still motivated to go out and punish people who insist on having sex without their permission, like that’s the only thing in the world that matters.  But it still wasn’t enough for the Republicans to win.

Never the less, I don’t know if there is going to be a wave election next year.  I’m predicting that Obamacare is NOT going to get better.  I think it’s going to be the equivalent of the work house for Americans of a certain age.  Everyone is going to be very, very afraid to lose their job because they might have to go on Obamacare.  We’ll see.  I’ve been right about Obama so far.

Gotta go.

Virginia might actually get a liberal leader…while the DNC gets…something else

McAuliffe also brings a political portfolio well to the left of Democrats Mark R. Warner and [Tim] Kaine, who toiled in the state party for years before they were elected governor by pledging bipartisan cooperation and campaigning as moderates. (From the AP via WTOP, emphasis added)

It has been quite the weekend for political announcements. Our illiberal President-elect is consolidating his takeover of the Democratic Party by appointing another illiberal to head the DNC – Tim Kaine, outgoing governor of Virginia. Meanwhile, Terry McAuliffe  has announced his formal bid for the governorship of Virginia.  (Click anywhere below to go to the video announcement on Terry’s site.)

McCauliffe My decision

As a liberal, I applaud Terry McAuliffe’s decision to run for governor of Virginia. Terry has worked hard for other liberals, most obviously for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign. I heard Terry give his reasons for supporting Senator Clinton on various occasions. He supported her candidacy because he believed (as did I, and millions of others) that she was both the most qualified member of the field and the most liberal of the field, in the American tradition of liberalism. That tradition calls upon people to work hard for their personal successes. Consider, for example, Terry’s own work to build a number of successful businesses, work that meant he has neither needed nor sought a salary for his work in politics, including his stint as DNC Chair, when he actually managed to put the DNC on a sound financial footing (an accomplishment soon squandered by the now almost-never-heard-from Howard Dean). American liberalism also calls upon government, applying measures available within its Constitutionally delimited sphere, to provide an equal opportunity for anybody’s hard work to pay off.  Although nobody is guaranteed a pay off in this tradition, everybody is guaranteed a fairly level playing field, at least in principle. Continue reading