Neoliberals fiddle while the economy burns

Elon Musk

So yesterday, I posted a blog entry expressing skepticism about Elon Musk’s promise of N95 masks and respirators,[1] badly needed especially in the state of Washington for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The respirators remain to be seen, but Musk came through with the masks on schedule.[2] I’m sure there’s a backstory that isn’t covered here and if Musk actually comes through on the respirators, there will be much more of one that desperately needs covering.

Because in the world I know, things just don’t turn on a dime like this. They can’t.

Sydney Brownstone and Brendan Kiley, “50,000 N95 masks delivered to UW researcher’s home thanks to Elon Musk, Tesla,” Seattle Times, March 22, 2020, https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/truckload-of-50000-n95-masks-headed-to-uw-researchers-home-thanks-to-elon-musk-tesla/


Gig economy

There is a new blog entry entitled, “While neoliberal hot air floats over gig workers’ heads, here’s the Trump administration.”

Ian Kullgren, “Congress should bail out gig workers, Cohn says,” Politico, March 22, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/22/congress-gig-economy-workers-cohn-141886


Israel

Gershom Gorenberg, “With a pandemic as cover, Netanyahu is carrying out a coup in Israel,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/03/19/with-pandemic-cover-netanyahu-is-carrying-out-coup-israel/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Elon Musk, groan, again,” Not Housebroken, March 22, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/03/22/elon-musk-groan-again/
  2. [2]Sydney Brownstone and Brendan Kiley, “50,000 N95 masks delivered to UW researcher’s home thanks to Elon Musk, Tesla,” Seattle Times, March 22, 2020, https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/truckload-of-50000-n95-masks-headed-to-uw-researchers-home-thanks-to-elon-musk-tesla/

As we tumble not so gently into the abyss

Coronavirus

I’ve been assuming for days now that I will be exposed to the novel coronavirus sooner or later if I have not already been.

The number of cases testing positive for the covid-19 has been doubling nearly every two days since the state [Pennsylvania] began processing them, [Rachel] Levine said.

“It’s not just increased testing,” she said. “We are actually seeing a spike in (covid-19) cases because more people are ill.”[1]

But I have had no symptoms and therefore no reason to seek out testing.

Then there’s this weirdness:

We’re on new ground here. … But I also know that Pennsylvanians are strong and resilient, and that our communities will get through this if we do it together.[2]

I don’t know what communities she’s talking about. I really don’t.

Next, David Remnick has a blast at not only Donald Trump, whose malfeasance on coronavirus is already well-documented,[3] but his entire enabling Faux News bubble:

[Donald] Trump cannot be forgiven for his preening and his belatedness. And yet this least trustworthy of Commanders-in-Chief is entrusted by the authority of his office to make a series of critical decisions. In order to “flatten the curve,” we have rightly set in motion a set of edicts that, while necessary to control the pandemic, will continue to batter the economy, create deep atomization, and cause all manner of suffering. The human need for solidarity is frustrated by the need for social distancing. An economy that seizes up entirely could, in theory, produce nearly as much suffering as the virus itself, particularly for the most vulnerable among us. A host of well-judged policy decisions must be made and executed effectively if the country is to be spared the worst. As recently as Friday, however, the President spent much of his briefing berating a reporter and further alarming the public. It is better to be lucky than good, the old saw has it. Trump is not good; we must hope that he will be lucky.[4]

I’m remembering a lyric by Albert King: “If it wasn’t for bad luck, you know I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”[5]

Finally, on March 20th, I wrote,

What if Donald Trump’s initial diminishing and mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic[6] was meant to cover a retreat from the stock market by his allies?[7] They all deny it, of course. But also, it just looks to me like, for all that earlier denial and minimization, the Republicans are better prepared to present proposals than the Democrats.[8] For a lot of folks, this will be just putting two and two together. Or as Watergate’s “Deep Throat” was famously portrayed saying, “Follow the money.”

Consider this: After a decade of Republicans obstructing Democrats, suddenly on this singular issue, it is Democrats who are cast in the role of obstructing an urgent Republican proposal.[9] Something is surely up and I’m pretty sure it isn’t that Nancy Pelosi is smarter than Mitch McConnell.[10]

Now, here’s Kevin Williamson at the mostly neoconservative National Review:

If you want to know why people are so vulnerable to conspiracy theories and to misinformation, it is in part because they believe that they are being lied to by those with whom they have entrusted great power, that the truth is being kept from them by design. They are not wrong about that: The New York Times has the emails explicitly directing state authorities to keep the facts — “numeric values” — from “the public.”

Right now, the question for Trump, et al., is whether they will be reelected. But there are military hospital ships anchored off both coasts, and ventilators and other necessities are in short supply, for a reason. Perhaps we will be successful at “flattening the curve” and avoiding a pandemic that is as bad as it has the potential to be. These clowns in Washington had better pray perfervidly that we are successful. Senator Burr is not expected to run again in 2022. His retirement is understood to be a foregone conclusion. But the world is going to remember that when history called, Senator Burr called his broker, and it will take more than stock profits to ensure that his retirement is a comfortable one.[11]

This quote and the headline on Williamson’s article slightly mislead: Williamson points to a number of data points implicating a number of politicians. Earlier in his piece, he writes,

The senators’ explanations run the gamut from the more or less plausible, at a glance, to the barely plausible. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that these stories may be plausible on a case-by-case basis but that that plausibility requires a level of trust that Washington as a whole has not earned. And maybe Hunter Biden has some special charm known only to Ukrainians.[12]

I have little use for neoconservatives as a general rule. And Williamson’s appearance in the National Review only suggests he is probably a neoconservative. I’m more suspicious than he is—I think—but he lays out the evidence.

Kevin D. Williamson, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker,” National Review, March 20, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/history-called-and-senator-burr-called-his-broker/

Natasha Lindstrom, “Pennsylvania reports 103 new covid-19 cases, large clusters in Allegheny County,” TribLive, March 21, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-reports-103-new-covid-19-cases-large-clusters-in-allegheny-county/

David Remnick, “How the Coronavirus Shattered Trump’s Serene Confidence,” New Yorker, March 22, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/30/how-the-coronavirus-shattered-trumps-serene-confidence


  1. [1]Natasha Lindstrom, “Pennsylvania reports 103 new covid-19 cases, large clusters in Allegheny County,” TribLive, March 21, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-reports-103-new-covid-19-cases-large-clusters-in-allegheny-county/
  2. [2]Rachel Levine, quoted in Natasha Lindstrom, “Pennsylvania reports 103 new covid-19 cases, large clusters in Allegheny County,” TribLive, March 21, 2020, https://triblive.com/news/pennsylvania/pennsylvania-reports-103-new-covid-19-cases-large-clusters-in-allegheny-county/
  3. [3]Adam Gaffney, “Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people,” Guardian, March 17, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/17/trump-sees-the-coronavirus-as-a-threat-to-his-self-interest-not-to-people; Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/a-president-unequal-to-the-moment; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  4. [4]David Remnick, “How the Coronavirus Shattered Trump’s Serene Confidence,” New Yorker, March 22, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/30/how-the-coronavirus-shattered-trumps-serene-confidence
  5. [5]Albert King, “Album: Born Under A Bad Sign,” Song Facts, 1967, https://www.songfacts.com/lyrics/albert-king/born-under-a-bad-sign
  6. [6]Adam Gaffney, “Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people,” Guardian, March 17, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/17/trump-sees-the-coronavirus-as-a-threat-to-his-self-interest-not-to-people; Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/a-president-unequal-to-the-moment; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  7. [7]Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Wagner, and Teo Armus, “Sen. Richard Burr, head of powerful committee, sold large amount of stocks before sharp declines in market,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-richard-burr-r-nc-head-of-powerful-committee-sold-large-amount-of-stocks-before-sharp-declines-in-market/2020/03/19/6cf4b25a-6a31-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html
  8. [8]Jeff Stein et al., “Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/
  9. [9]Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic;  Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Wagner, and Teo Armus, “Sen. Richard Burr, head of powerful committee, sold large amount of stocks before sharp declines in market,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-richard-burr-r-nc-head-of-powerful-committee-sold-large-amount-of-stocks-before-sharp-declines-in-market/2020/03/19/6cf4b25a-6a31-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html;Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Why do Republicans seem better prepared to present proposals on coronavirus relief than Democrats?” Irregular Bullshit, March 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/20/why-do-republicans-seem-better-prepared-to-present-proposals-on-coronavirus-relief-than-democrats/
  11. [11]Kevin D. Williamson, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker,” National Review, March 20, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/history-called-and-senator-burr-called-his-broker/
  12. [12]Kevin D. Williamson, “History Called — and Senator Burr Called His Broker,” National Review, March 20, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/03/history-called-and-senator-burr-called-his-broker/

Elon Musk, our rich white knight in shining armor

Elon Musk

There is a new blog post entitled, “Elon Musk, groan, again.”

Tim Higgins, “Elon Musk’s Defiance in the Time of Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/elon-musks-defiance-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-11584733458

Jack Morse, “Ventilator manufacturers aren’t impressed by Elon Musk’s offer,” Mashable, March 21, 2020, https://mashable.com/article/experts-doubt-tesla-elon-musk-manufacture-ventilators/

Zachary Shahan, “Elon Musk: Should Have 1000 Ventilators Next Week, + 250,000 N95 Masks For Hospitals Tomorrow,” CleanTechnica, March 21, 2020, https://cleantechnica.com/2020/03/21/elon-musk-should-have-1000-ventilators-next-week-250k-n95-masks-for-hospitals-tomorrow-cleantechnica-exclusive/


Coronavirus

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is looking for power to, among other things, abrogate habeas corpus.[1] Just so we know where their priorities lie.

Betsy Woodruff Swan, “DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic,” Politico, March 21, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/21/doj-coronavirus-emergency-powers-140023


  1. [1]Betsy Woodruff Swan, “DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic,” Politico, March 21, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/21/doj-coronavirus-emergency-powers-140023

Don’t call it a recession. This is what neoliberals call a ‘vacation.’

Recession

Mark Blyth wrote of European Union-imposed austerity in the recession precipitated by the financial crisis of 2008,

The notion that unemployment is voluntary is, in the context of the current self-inflicted wound in Europe, downright offensive. Real workers must pay bills and feed families from jobs that have fixed hours and fixed wage rates. The idea that workers “trade off” labor against leisure by figuring out the real wage rate and then slacking off or going on an indefinite unpaid leave is the type of thinking that leads us to see the Great Depression as a giant, unexpected, and astonishingly long unpaid vacation for millions of people: original, yes; helpful, no.[1]

Intellectually, neoliberalism stands utterly discredited,[2] but it remains mainstream Democratic Party ideology and an ideology professed by Republicans even when they run up huge deficits on their turns in power.[3] I have concluded, in fact, that the defense of neoliberalism is a higher priority for Democrats even than winning elections—the latter is merely a means to the former.[4] And certainly Nancy Pelosi’s dithering on economic relief[5] does nothing to dispel this conclusion.

Meanwhile, Luke Taylor offers an introduction to some of my passengers,[6] although I doubt many of them are nearly so creative as he claims. Whatever. They aren’t going anywhere now.

David J. Lynch and Heather Long, “U.S. economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans are forced to stay at home,” Washington Post, March 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/20/us-economy-deteriorating-faster-than-anticipated-80-million-americans-forced-stay-home/

Luke Taylor, “When coronavirus is behind us, will you still think of restaurant and bar workers?” Vox, March 21, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/21/21188210/coronavirus-restaurant-bar-workers-economy-service-industry


  1. [1]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University, 2013), 159.
  2. [2]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); Amir Fleischmann, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative,” Jacobin, March 5, 2017, https://jacobinmag.com/2017/03/fiscal-conservative-social-services-austerity-save-money; Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019, https://newint.org/features/2019/07/01/long-read-progress-and-its-discontents; Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Robert Kuttner, “Austerity never works: Deficit hawks are amoral — and wrong,” Salon, May 5, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/05/austerity_never_works_deficit_hawks_are_amoral_and_wrong/; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011); Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, “Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel,” Nation, July 6, 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/austerity-has-failed-an-open-letter-from-thomas-piketty-to-angela-merkel/; John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013, http://chronicle.com/article/Austerity-Has-Been-Tested-and/139255/; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/opinion/how-austerity-kills.html; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/19/paul_krugmans_right_austerity_kills/
  3. [3]Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed
  4. [4]David Benfell, “How the neoliberal (usually known as Democratic) party may well lose in 2020,” Not Housebroken, December 7, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/12/07/how-the-neoliberal-usually-known-as-democratic-party-may-well-lose-in-2020/
  5. [5]Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed; Jeff Stein et al., “Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/
  6. [6]Luke Taylor, “When coronavirus is behind us, will you still think of restaurant and bar workers?” Vox, March 21, 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/21/21188210/coronavirus-restaurant-bar-workers-economy-service-industry

Life has to go on

Recession

There is a new blog post entitled, “We are not going to be alright.”

KDKA, “Coronavirus In Pennsylvania: Gov. Wolf’s Order To Close ‘Non-Life-Sustaining Businesses’ To Be Delayed,” March 20, 2020, https://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2020/03/20/gov-wolfs-order-to-close-non-life-sustaining-businesses-to-be-delayed/

Ben Schmitt, “Wolf’s shutdown could be more harmful than coronavirus, health expert says,” TribLive, March 20, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/pittsburgh-infectious-disease-expert-discusses-business-shutdown-order-effect-on-society/

TribLive, “Small businesses scramble to survive amid Pa.’s partial shutdown over coronavirus pandemic,” March 20, 2020, https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/small-businesses-scramble-to-survive-amid-pa-s-partial-shutdown-over-coronavirus-pandemic/


Let us drown

Recession

Further evidence for my claim that neoliberalism is an ideology rather than anything its proponents claim it to be can be found in Kate Aronoff’s article in the New Republic.[1]

[Nancy] Pelosi was evincing a preference for allowing some of those drowning to go without life preservers, if that’s what it took to prevent wasting preservers on those who were perfectly capable of swimming to shore on their own.[2]

Even the Republicans don’t believe in it anymore—not that, with their budget deficits, they ever really did.[3] This morning, I noted that “for all that earlier denial and minimization, the Republicans are better prepared to present proposals than the Democrats.[4]” I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be the only one to have noticed.[5]

Yet instead of reclaiming their place as the party of the New Deal, several senior Democratic lawmakers seem stuck in a different decade. The mantra of New Democrats like Al Gore, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton in that era was that the “solutions of the thirties will not solve the problems of the eighties.” They pushed for the party to embrace market-based solutions and reject Roosevelt and Truman’s big welfare state policies as they triangulated around Reaganomics. But as the U.S. and perhaps the world currently face what might be the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, the solutions of the 1980s couldn’t be worse suited to solve the problems of the 2020s.[6]

FireShot Capture 110 - DJIA - Dow Jones Industrial Average Advanced Charting - WSJ - www.wsj.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Averages, from January 20, 2017 (Donald Trump’s inauguration) to March 20, 2020 (today) created using the Wall Street Journal’s advanced charting tool.

Wall Street’s meltdown over the past month has erased all of the stock market gains since President Trump entered the White House. On Feb. 12, the Dow peaked at 29,551.42 — a 49 percent jump from its close on Trump’s Inauguration Day in January 2017. But within a span of weeks it has lost a third of its value as the coronavirus crisis has played out. On Friday, it lost an additional 913.21 points, roughly 4.6 percent, to close at 19,173.98.[7]

Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed

Thomas Heath and Taylor Telford, “U.S. markets wrap up worst week since the 2008 financial crisis,” Washington Post, March 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/20/stocks-markets-today-coronavirus/


Pacific Gas and Electric

Dale Kasler, “PG&E makes deal with Gov. Newsom on bankruptcy demands. ‘End of business as usual,’ he says,” Sacramento Bee, March 20, 2020, source


  1. [1]Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed
  2. [2]Eric Levitz, quoted in Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed
  3. [3]Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed
  4. [4]Jeff Stein et al., “Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Why do Republicans seem better prepared to present proposals on coronavirus relief than Democrats?” Irregular Bullshit, March 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/20/why-do-republicans-seem-better-prepared-to-present-proposals-on-coronavirus-relief-than-democrats/
  6. [6]Kate Aronoff, “The Democrats Screwed Up,” New Republic, March 20, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156994/democrats-screwed
  7. [7]Thomas Heath and Taylor Telford, “U.S. markets wrap up worst week since the 2008 financial crisis,” Washington Post, March 20, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/20/stocks-markets-today-coronavirus/

Why do Republicans seem better prepared to present proposals on coronavirus relief than Democrats?

Coronavirus

What if Donald Trump’s initial diminishing and mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic[1] was meant to cover a retreat from the stock market by his allies?[2] They all deny it, of course. But also, it just looks to me like, for all that earlier denial and minimization, the Republicans are better prepared to present proposals than the Democrats.[3] For a lot of folks, this will be just putting two and two together. Or as Watergate’s “Deep Throat” was famously portrayed saying, “Follow the money.”

Consider this: After a decade of Republicans obstructing Democrats, suddenly on this singular issue, it is Democrats who are cast in the role of obstructing an urgent Republican proposal.[4] Something is surely up and I’m pretty sure it isn’t that Nancy Pelosi is smarter than Mitch McConnell.

I’m never inclined to credit Trump with sufficient intelligence for any scheme. I think he is an erratic, delusional, raging narcissist-in-chief. And I think he has surrounded himself with sociopathic sycophants. But disgusted as I am with kissing ass, I’ve seen it in enough places—yes, including academia—to know that as a possibility, sycophancy does not exclude even high intelligence.

Machiavelli is on my shelf, among many of the books I still haven’t gotten to reading.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Wagner, and Teo Armus, “Sen. Richard Burr, head of powerful committee, sold large amount of stocks before sharp declines in market,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-richard-burr-r-nc-head-of-powerful-committee-sold-large-amount-of-stocks-before-sharp-declines-in-market/2020/03/19/6cf4b25a-6a31-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html

Jeff Stein et al., “Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/


  1. [1]Adam Gaffney, “Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people,” Guardian, March 17, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/17/trump-sees-the-coronavirus-as-a-threat-to-his-self-interest-not-to-people; Susan B. Glasser, “A President Unequal to the Moment,” New Yorker, March 12, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/a-president-unequal-to-the-moment; Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  2. [2]Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Wagner, and Teo Armus, “Sen. Richard Burr, head of powerful committee, sold large amount of stocks before sharp declines in market,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-richard-burr-r-nc-head-of-powerful-committee-sold-large-amount-of-stocks-before-sharp-declines-in-market/2020/03/19/6cf4b25a-6a31-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html
  3. [3]Jeff Stein et al., “Senate Republicans release massive economic stimulus bill for coronavirus response,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/
  4. [4]Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic;  Michelle Ye Hee Lee, John Wagner, and Teo Armus, “Sen. Richard Burr, head of powerful committee, sold large amount of stocks before sharp declines in market,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-richard-burr-r-nc-head-of-powerful-committee-sold-large-amount-of-stocks-before-sharp-declines-in-market/2020/03/19/6cf4b25a-6a31-11ea-9923-57073adce27c_story.html; Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html

The corrupt and the decrepit

It’s the second time this has happened since I got to Pittsburgh. I’ve been going to dealers to get my car serviced because I haven’t found an independent hybrid mechanic. And my tire guy keeps warning me that dealers are under pressure to raise revenue from their service departments because they’re having trouble moving their inventories of cars.

The first time I had a problem was with Ken Ganley Toyota. They flagged my tires as needing service soon. It wasn’t true. I expect to put those particular tires back on (I have snow tires on now, even as the birds are starting to build their nests) when I do the rotation at the end of April.

Now, Spitzer Toyota flagged my rear brakes as needing immediate attention. It’s not true. According to my tire guy, the front brakes have 50 percent left and the rear brakes have over 50 percent. And yes, that is apparently sufficient to pass the state-required inspection.

I just checked my records. It’s been a little over 40,000 miles since the rear brakes were last done. The mechanic who performed the state-required inspection when I arrived, and who clearly did not expect to become my regular mechanic, warned me this was coming, so it wasn’t a surprise.

But because this is a hybrid, regenerative brakes take a lot of the load. I’ve put a little over 110,000 miles on the car and haven’t done the front brakes yet.

Some things I can get checked. Like the tires and the brakes. But a lot of stuff I can’t. If for example, a mechanic tells me the car is due for a tune-up that I had done yesterday, I just have to take their word for it. I really don’t know otherwise until the engine starts misfiring or I get a check engine light, neither of which I want to happen with passengers in the car.

The starter battery, which had been flagged as needing service soon on the previous service but not the one yesterday, is another example. When that battery fails, the car goes into “limp home” mode, which caps your speed at a ridiculously low speed, on the order of five miles per hour. And it can fail without warning—this happened to me once before. This is something else I don’t want to happen with passengers in the car.

I have to be able to trust my mechanic on a lot of stuff. So far in Pittsburgh, that’s been a real problem. But I looked again today for an independent hybrid mechanic. To the limited extent one can trust online reviews, I might have found somebody. And my mother found someone else who seems even more highly rated and a little closer.


Pittsburgh

There is a new blog post entitled, “The abandoned.”

I’m starting to see the first flowers of spring. I think I like having four seasons. Well, three of them anyway (summer is ridiculous).


Pennsylvania

If—a very big if—I understand correctly, Uber and Lyft drivers are not directly affected by the governor’s shutdown order affecting “nonessential” businesses that should already be in effect.[1] That said, there will be even fewer places for people to go than there already are.

From a few days ago:

This is an unprecedented time in our community. Our region has always been at its best when we work together, and this challenge is no exception. We need everyone to step up and play a part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our region. We understand that this may cause hardship for some, and frustration for others, but it’s imperative that we work together to do what’s best for our community.[2]

The hardship is disproportionately borne by the poor who, as yet, have no assurance of any compensation, let alone full compensation. I’m really not feeling this “community spirit” that I guess I’m supposed to feel when, yet again, I’m left to negotiate the financially impossible by myself.

Kara Seymour, “All ‘Non-Life-Sustaining’ Businesses In PA Must Close By 8 PM,” Patch, March 19, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h20cy/all-non-life-sustaining-businesses-in-pa-must-close-by-8-pm


  1. [1]Kara Seymour, “All ‘Non-Life-Sustaining’ Businesses In PA Must Close By 8 PM,” Patch, March 19, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h20cy/all-non-life-sustaining-businesses-in-pa-must-close-by-8-pm
  2. [2]Rich Fitzgerald, quoted in WTAE, “Allegheny County officials call on all nonessential businesses to close,” March 16, 2020, https://www.wtae.com/article/allegheny-county-calls-on-all-non-essential-businesses-to-close/31648999

The neoliberal speed bump

Recession

I don’t recall Barack Obama ever even in the slightest way apologizing for this “painful legacy:”

Yet the need to rescue large parts of the economy is running into the painful legacy of the 2008 bailout, which was criticized for putting banks and other companies that helped cause the financial crisis before struggling homeowners and workers ravaged by the Great Recession. The $700 billion bank bailout elicited a voter backlash, which means any aid this time is likely to have large strings attached. Those could include limits on executive compensation, prohibitions on stock buybacks and, most prominent, measures to force bailed out companies to keep workers on their payrolls.[1]

Neoliberals are as self-righteous as any evangelical Protestant. While just about everyone else is emphasizing a need for speed over “getting it right,”[2]

“Nancy Pelosi is officially to the right of Tom Cotton on economic support for American families,” HuffPost reporter Zach Carter tweeted on Sunday. “This is a total failure of Democratic Party leadership.”[3]

Now, rather than apologize for painfully prolonging the “Great Recession,” neoliberals are delaying a badly needed bailout.

Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic

Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html


  1. [1]Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html
  2. [2]Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic; Jim Tankersley and Ben Casselman, “Washington Weighs Big Bailouts to Help U.S. Economy Survive Coronavirus,” New York Times, March 18, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/business/bailout-economy-coronavirus.html
  3. [3]Eoin Higgins, “Refusal by Pelosi to Consider Universal Cash Payments in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Maddening,’ Say Progressives,” Common Dreams, March 18, 2020, https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/03/18/refusal-pelosi-consider-universal-cash-payments-response-coronavirus-pandemic