Trump intervenes on behalf of a Chinese state-owned telecom days after a $500 million Chinese government investment in a Trump property is announced

Like a lot of folks, I was puzzled as to why Donald “America First” Trump had begun advocating for the Commerce Department to intervene on behalf of a Chinese telecom company – especially one that stands accused of espionage by members of our intelligence community – demanding that we act fast in order to save tens of thousands of jobs in China.

OK, before I go on, here are two quick responses to this edict from Trump.

1. “It’s striking that (Trump) is overruling the judgment of his own national security apparatus in order to help a Chinese company succeed.” -Abraham Denmark, the director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

2. “I am speechless. I’m highly confident that a [US] president has never intervened in a law-enforcement matter like this before.” -Kevin Wolf, the assistant secretary of commerce in the Obama administration who oversaw the launch of the ZTE case

Having read a bit about the situation in Fortune earlier this evening, it struck me that this could have less to do with the loss of Chinese manufacturing jobs, and more to with the fact that enormous American electronics companies that supply components to ZTE, like Qualcomm and Intel, are getting hit hard by the federal restrictions levied against the Chinese company… but then I read this headline from this past Friday’s South China Morning Post.

And now I think this probably has more to do with keeping the Trump Organization afloat than Chinese factory workers employed.

Here, for those of you who don’t subscribe to the South China Morning Post, is an excerpt from the article.

A subsidiary of Chinese state-owned construction firm Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) signed a deal with Indonesia’s MNC Land to build a theme park outside Jakarta as part of the ambitious project, the company said on Thursday.

The deal is the latest to raise questions about the extent of Trump’s financial exposure to Beijing.

The park – expected to be backed with up to US$500 million in Chinese government loans – is part of an “integrated lifestyle resort”, known as MNC Lido City.

The project includes Trump-branded hotels, residences and a golf course, as well as other hotel, shopping and residential developments…

So, yes, it looks as though it was announced on Friday that Trump’s Indonesia project would be financed by way of $500 million in Chinese government loans, and, three days later, our president took to Twitter to demand that our Commerce Department disregard the warnings of our intelligence community and the fact that ZTE had violated U.S. sanctions against both Iran and North Korea, and get the company up and running at full capacity again… Sounds totally legit, right?

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  1. Anonymous
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the secret to understanding Trump. Every move he makes is about getting richer and avoiding jail. It’s that simple.

  2. Jean Henry
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    When I heard about this today (without the Trump org Asia expansion piece), I thought that the president is just being whipsawed by the economic impact realities of protectionism, which isn’t all bad. If anyone in the citizenry is paying attention. I also thought that in Trumps amoral universe, every detail in a negotiation is just a pawn in a chess match with one objective: improving Trumps personal status. We can make ourselves ceaY looking for some logic that looks more like normal political strategy. But then, so camnfpreigb leaders. What’s so odd is that the man who ran with little interest in foreign affairs is establishing his legacy there. If he’s successful, I wonder if political scientists will develop some chaos theory of foreign policy in which the removal of the reliable American center frightens global assholes into fundamental shifts. Ideally in a less chaotic direction…. Or it could just fuck everything up for everyone.

    Re Trump Organization Asia expansion, my guess is that approval was just thrown in for good measure by the Chinese to sweeten the pot and appeal to Trumps ego.

  3. CNN
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Rep. Eric Swalwell accuses President Trump of trying to save Chinese company ZTE in order to benefit himself and his companies: “It does seem like the simplest explanation is the correct one — it’s money”

  4. Demetrius
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    DJT has engineered the biggest, brashest corporate takeover in history … the entire U.S. government is now just a subsidiary of the Trump Organization. Instead of Congress and the Courts running the country, we have a cabinet stacked with Billionaire cronies … with his daughter and son-in-law helping to call the shots.

  5. John Brown
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    And the zealot evangelicals won’t give two shits…

    He’s fulfilling their fantasy in Jerusalem and the courts. They are fully committed to the Doctrine of Double Effect because “abortion is murder”. Trump was actually underestimating their support with his “I could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Ave” comment.

  6. anonymous
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    From Robert Reich:

    It’s as bad for a president to look as if he’s lining his pockets with foreign cash as for him to actually do so, because the appearance of corruption undermines American leadership just as readily as the real thing. The damage to our credibility is immeasurable.

  7. Eel
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Please use the #chinapeople tag

  8. Iron lung
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    The trump minions rejoice.

  9. Meta
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Congressman Adam Schiff:

    “China backs Trump project in Indonesia to tune of $500 million. Trump backs China with fix for ZTE, a company that has cheated on Iran and North Korea sanctions and poses a cyber threat to U.S.

    Today’s swamp level: White House now completely submerged.”

  10. John Galt
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Cyberthreats, like hate crimes and global warming, are fake news. Cyber means computers, and computers, like guns, can’t hurt anyone on their own.

  11. Meta
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Slate is reporting that it’s $1B being invested.

    Report: China commits $1 billion to Indonesian development that will include Trump hotels and a Trump golf course

  12. Jean Henry
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    1 bullion clams changes my assessment.
    How is it this is not illegal under the emoluments clause?
    Too bad Suharto isn’t around any more. Trump would have loved him.

  13. Donald
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    at least we’ll have a textbook case to teach about corruption if there’s a still a country in a couple decades…

  14. Billy LaLonde
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Does he know Amy Xue Foster?

  15. Meta
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    The National Review: “China Contributing $500 Million to Trump-Linked Project in Indonesia”

    The project will include a number of Trump-branded hotels, a golf course, and a residence. While the $500 million loan will not be directly allocated to any of the Trump-branded features, Beijing’s contribution of half the project’s total operating budget ensures the success of the broader theme-park venture.

    The Trump properties are considered flagship elements of the theme park, according to MNC marketing materials, and internal documents obtained by Agency France-Presse show Trump’s sons have been directly involved in its planning.

    Though negotiations began prior to Trump’s election and his pledge to cease engaging in new business dealings with foreign governments, the project raises questions about the extent to which the Trump organization is dependent on Beijing amid contentious trade negotiations with the U.S.

    “Even if this deal is completely and entirely above board, it simply furthers the perception of impropriety” surrounding Trump’s business dealings, Christopher Balding, an economics professor at Shenzhen’s HSBC Business School, told AFP. “Especially with the potential trade war, this is not a good look….Critics will be entirely right to demand answers.”

    Trump refused to divest his Trump Organization holdings upon taking office, much to the consternation of government-ethics experts, opting instead to place his holdings in a blind trust and hand over control of the business to his sons.

    Vice Premier Liu He, China’s top economic official, is traveling to Washington this week to continue negotiations over the large trade deficit between the U.S. and China. Though negotiations have proved fruitless thus far, the administration has remained confident that Beijing will make significant concessions to avert the harsh tariffs the Trump administration has threatened to implement.

    Read more:

  16. NBC's Ken Dilanian
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    The nation’s top counterintelligence official told the Senate intelligence committee Tuesday that penetration of the US market by the Chinese telecom firm ZTE could pose a national security risk to the United States. That’s the firm President Trump tweeted he wants to help.

  17. Marco Rubio
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    China intends to dominate the key industries of the 21st Century not through out innovating us, but by stealing our intellectual property & exploiting our open economy while keeping their own closed. Why are we helping them achieve this by making a terrible deal on ZTE?

  18. M
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy Carter transferred his peanut farm to a blind trust… and that was just a peanut farm

  19. Jean Henry
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    His peanut farm made jimmy carter a very wealthy man. Do not underestimate the wealth of many people involved in big agriculture. Agriculture is still the third largest industry in the country. But fewer and fewer people work in that sector. You do the math.

  20. John Brown
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    JH, the corporatization of farming is a huge part of the economic insecurity of the rural white trump supporters. All the small towns USA that used to be actual farming communities are now just super cheap places to live but with super long commutes to the real jobs. Seasonal work driving Combines and trucks for the few remaining well capitalized farmers wont support families or communities. All these abandoned rural folks should be looking to the left of the political spectrum – if they could just break free of the evangelical poison.

  21. M
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    It’s my understanding that the Carter family peanut farm was not exactly what you’d call an agricultural empire. While certainly not small, it’s not like they were at the top of the corporate food chain. They weren’t wheeling and dealing with shady people around the globe, like the Trumps, securing funding from foreign governments and the like. In fact, by the time they left the White House, the family business was over $1 million in debt, and they sold it off.

  22. Jean Henry
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m from a rural Bible Belt farming/industrial working class community.
    I fail to see your point. I did sense it’s condescension.
    My point was that some in ownership in large scale farming have done quite well for themselves. It’s clear that when a few people are doing very well in a large sector with shrinking numbers of workers, some will be doing less well. That was embedded in my comment.

    There is nothing about what you said and how you just said it that would compel Christian conservative Farmers and Farm workers to the Dem side. Although you are right, the left technically offers them more economically. The left however does not respect their most dearly held values. Maybe try another approach.

    Farmers in my home area, because they are religious conservatives averse to borrowing, have done quite well with smaller scale family farms, but they have co-ops and other forms of collective risk management.

    Those who left the farms for industrial Work have fared less well there.

  23. Jean Henry
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    M– The Carter family farm did well up until his presidency. And he was well invested in real estate as well. The farming business didn’t do so well during his presidency. Apparently Billy (remember him?) had a taste for unsecured loans. There was even a special counsel investigation.

    I’m not drawing anything close to a full equivalency to Trump, but I do reject the tendency on the left to over-romanticize the Dem party and its politicians pre-Reagan. They weren’t innocent or even great leaders. Carter is a great ex-president.

  24. Iron lung
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    I think the idea the the Democratic Party has more to offer people involved in agriculture than Republicans is extremely flawed.

    Further, the image of the happy, honorable hard working mighty farmer is just silliness. Thats a fiction designed to make you feel good about yourselves.

    Agriculture is and has always been a business. Farmers are business people. People who own land and make money off of it are business people.

  25. Jean Henry
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Awesome. Better than I remembered. When Carter ran for President he was richer than Ford. Sounds like the farm was a campaign funds laundering operation.

  26. Jean Henry
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    IL– The Dem party did offer comprehensive health care which was a great benefit to many farmers, though they were already able to buy into association group plans in some cases.

  27. John Brown
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    Yes farms are businesses. Its just that there are a small fraction of them than there were in the 1970s. And of those many are owned outright or financed by global capital. So the wealth the farm generates leaves the community and the workers are now wage slaves instead of farm partners. So all those folks no longer benefiting from the farm business are needing something to do – other than opioids and meth. They are the ones that should be looking left.

  28. Jean Henry
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Nothing you have said contradicts or even illuminates what was said before. Being financed by global capital is not the same thing as being owned by global capital. 90% of American farms are still independently owned. Many of them participate in commodity farming now, which may be where your beef (heh) is. We understand farm workers are treated horribly in many places. Farm workers are not farmers. IL is right. One cant say with so much certainty the Dems have served farmer interests better than the GOP. Dems are really not terribly concerned with rural places and what happens in them. Their voter base is urban and suburban and farmers know that. Taxes and regulation are a primary voting concern among farmers.

  29. Jcp2
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I think this is where cultural tribal associations trump economic interests.

  30. Jean Henry
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Do not underestimate the burden of regulation and taxation on farmers. I know a lot of very liberal farmers locally and they would be happy to tell you all about how they are over-regulated. This idea that people in the GOP are only acting from tribal affiliations is inaccurate. They may be acting from self-interest however. The only people, in my experience, who vote against their own economic self-interest are ‘values voters’ — either poor and Christian conservative or wealthy and Liberal. I see a tremendous amount in common among the Christian conservatives I grew up with and the hardcore liberals of ann arbor, chiefly in moralism and righteousness, but also in seeing how they live their lives as a testament to deeply held core values. At any rate, this is more than tribalism. Or maybe such things are the core of tribalism. It’s the opposite of an unconscious choice though.

  31. John Brown
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Oh crap I didn’t read the fine print that my comments have to be illuminating. Might as well close down the internet. And most of the written record since Shakespeare…

    But seriously my personal experience is that lots and lots of rural folks are still identifying as farm people even though the there is no longer any room for them in that economy. So yeah to regurgitate, persistently tribal despite being surplused by the modern farm paradigm.

  32. Jean Henry
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    If you are going to speak with bombastic tone, illuminating or at least accurate are recommended, in life, not just on MM.
    I’m not sure where your personal experience with rural people derives, but in my hometown, once people get off the farm, they really are not especially nostalgic about farming. My father, a lawyer, moved from the city back to a farm, two generations later, and we were teased mercilessly about it. I was called a country hick. A part of me still identifies that way (which will no doubt amuse people here), but I have not changed my politics one bit. Anyway, my home county with agriculture as its main remaining industry voted overwhelmingly for Trump… but I wouldn’t call them ‘farm people’ to their faces.

  33. John Brown
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I grew up in Ithaca Mi during the 1980s farm crisis. Our Twp went through a drastic consolidation from typical 200ac to 1000ac min in an extremely short time. Including huge Dutch Agribusiness taking over my buddies family’s dairy and creating the first “cafo” in Gratiot county, and leaving him with no choice but the army. Many of my generation never left the farm, the farm left them. So my experience is the people left behind working at the party stores, growing weed, cooking meth, scrapping, poker games for prescription pills, and resenting all those that did get off the farm to become lawyers, or whatever. Basically Bonnie Jo Cambells “American Salvage” was my experience too. Honest, no bombast. Clearly I was not hanging out with the holy rollers, but they were even more limited economically due to their moral constraints. Basically, if you couldn’t get away to college then, you’re still there and most likely poor, or making a marginal living off the poor. Income inequality data by rural, suburban, urban might be illuminating.

    My more recent forays hunting and shooting in Hillsdale and Lenawee counties are consistent with my Gratiot county American Salvage experience. And my MI State prison guard friend in Coldwater confirms that the farm country mafia are well represented.

  34. Jean Henry
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Well, a lot of that sounds familiar, John Brown. Very few people leave my hometown, and those who do rarely return. And yes, my dad was lucky. His grandfather was plucked out of insurance work and sent to law school (no undergrad) so the county would have a judge. Town people they became in a generation, and soon enough, Methodists:) I just dont know anyone in my hometown who would call themselves ‘farm people’ even farmers. They may say country but mostly in the pejorative. But yes, that’s the scenario. And at least in my hometown, more are voting Democratic than ever before (though Trump still won the county by a wide margin), but that may be the influence of EAst coast cities and their people who seem to be drawing closer and closer all the time. Maybe since these people never voted Dem, –there wasn’t even a Dem party in my hometown growing up– the point of comparison to Michigan is moot.

  35. Iron lung
    Posted May 17, 2018 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Even before the lifting of restrictions on financial speculation on ag commodities, farm areas were among the most small minded and corrupt in the country.

  36. Jean Henry
    Posted May 17, 2018 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    John Brown– It also needs to be said that the only way to be subject to a hostile takeover is to be deeply in debt. The farm crisis did not impact my hometown the way it did out here, where people were more responsive to encouragement to expand rapidly. In that case, their old school religious conservatism saved their asses and their farms. Many have sold their farms for development and made quite a nice nest egg for their descendants in the process. Not all rural places or ‘farm people’ are the same. I guess I’m lucky because I’ve known very few poor farmers. I’m not saying they were rich but they ran close to million dollar businesses that generated a few percent profit for them to live off of. Some years more than others. Sound like business to me. And some fail. And it’s not always the evil foreign corporations that are to blame. Though people do love that narrative.

  37. Jean Henry
    Posted May 17, 2018 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Just asked my dad and the Mennonite dairy farmer and his offspring who rent our farm run a business over several adjacent properties that generates $6-8 million in revenue a year. The profit margin is in the single digits though and always at risk. They sell to a local co-op dairy.

    He is wondering why we are talking about dairy farming…
    Good question. Back to work.

  38. wobblie
    Posted May 17, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    JH, thanks for enlightening me. Now I understand why 1) you don’t have a clue about being working class, and 2) Why you do not believe (want?) that it is possible to achieve a more egalitarian society.

    Your Mennonite tenant makes a “profit margin is in the single digits”, means he has a before tax income of at least $20,000 per million in revenue, ie. 120,000 to 160,000 (that is a 2% profit margin) per year. Given the ambiguity it could be as high as $540,000 to $720,000 (ie. a profit margin of 9%).

    Nearly half of the country can not afford rent, food, health care and a car.

    In fact your Dad’s Mennonite farmer tenant is quite likely a 1%.

    The top 5% of households earn an annual income of $214,462 or higher, according to the Census Bureau. That’s nearly four times the 2015 nationwide median household income of $56,516. The average income among those in the top 5% climbed to $350,870. Overall, this group lays claim to a 22.1% share of total household income in the U.S. Source:

    To be certified as a one-percenter, you’ll need to bring in even more income each year. According to statistical data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the top 1% had an adjusted gross income of $465,626 or higher for the 2014 tax year. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth put the average household income for this group at $1,260,508 for 2014.

    Read more: How Much Income Puts You in the Top 1%, 5%, 10%? | Investopedia
    Follow us: Investopedia on Facebook

  39. Jean Henry
    Posted May 17, 2018 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Wobblie– Yes, my point was that farmers are independent business people and some do quite well. My point was that farmers are not always working class. (We’ve talked about whether it was income or status as an employer that makes one working class before. Almost all farmers have employees. Abe used 5 farmsteads total for his farming operation and employed his own kids for the most part. I did not grow up working class and have never pretended otherwise. I have however worked in the food business most of my adult life, and my yearly income at 52 is well under the median for the county. I have chosen to spend most of my life from the get go around working class people. I dont know if that means I understand them, but I’m not unfamiliar with their struggles.

    PS I both want and believe its possible to achieve a more egalitarian society. I said so very clearly. I just believe the best path to doing so is to talk honestly about how to achieve that instead of pretending Daddy Warbucks 1% has enough dough to rescue us all.

  40. Iron Lung 2
    Posted May 18, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    “Almost all farmers have employees.”

    Yes, this is all you need to know about farmers. It used to be that almost farmers had slaves, too. Now they just hire cheap migrant labor.

    Astounding that so called social justice advocates would offer such a rosy pictures of the agricultural industry, which has always been exploitative at just about every level.

  41. Jean Henry
    Posted May 18, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Not all farmers operate that way, IL. I have been paid very well by terrible agribusinesses and asked to work for free by organic, local growers…
    But yes, farming is a high volume, low-profit margin business that is often exploitative and is always at considerable risk. They also have very limited access to capital.. now. Such conditions often lead to less than ideal worker treatment. We spend less on food as a percentage of income than ever and waste more and eat more than we need to across the board… but try convincing ‘social justice advocates’ that we pay too little for food… Everybody thinks they are marginalized these days. The greedy are only the 1%. Everyone else is mining their trauma for excuses.
    I’m not sure we can reasonably ask business to step up and be better citizens when we insist we have no responsibility to be better consumers.

  42. Jean Henry
    Posted May 18, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Not all farmers operate that way, IL. I have been paid very well by terrible agribusinesses and asked to work for free by organic, local growers…
    But yes, farming is a high volume, low-profit margin business that is often exploitative and is always at considerable risk. They also have very limited access to capital.. now. Such conditions often lead to less than ideal worker treatment. We spend less on food as a percentage of income than ever and waste more and eat more than we need to across the board… but try convincing ‘social justice advocates’ that we pay too little for food… Everybody thinks they are marginalized these days. The greedy are only the 1%. Everyone else is mining their trauma for excuses.
    I’m not sure we can reasonably ask business to step up and be better citizens when we insist we have no responsibility to be better consumers.

  43. wobblie
    Posted May 18, 2018 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    My family has been connected to farming since the 1830’s. I remember visiting my Uncle Thomas farm, out house was in the chicken coop and rural electrification had just reached them. You still used a pump to bring water from the well into the kitchen, but the milk shed had electricity for the milk pasteurizer. He had a small dairy herd, couple hundred chickens, and a dozen hogs across the road. Geese, dogs, and cats were every where. My cousin Manard ran the farm as a dairy operation until the dairies demanded that he use bgh on his herd. He retired, and his son Paul, converted the farm to raising Angus cattle for slaughter. The chickens and hogs disappeared decades ago as agri-buisness replaced family farming.
    Paul still operates as a cattle feeder, but both Paul and Manard have had to have social security creating jobs to provide for retirement.

    Despite all the wealth this nation creates, most of us are pretty poor.
    Most poor Europeans have it better than most Americans, and much better than poor Americans.

    My Polish cousin (5th. generation American on my dads side, 2nd generation on my mom’s and her family is complicated–though too many cousins on my dad’s) also has a farm. He mainly raised chickens. I only know his life style through videos from 20 years ago. He would sell eggs and newly hatched chicks at the local farmers market. His farm house was about the size of my Uncle Thomas’s from the 50’s , but had all the accouterments of late 20th. century life, as such was not that much different than my American cousins except for size.

    I do not believe my uncle or cousins have ever hired anyone to work for them. Family farming was once the norm. The conversion of family subsistence farming to agri-business is part of the process “globalization” . This destruction creates refugees from rural areas—back to chiapas and the evils of globalization — are one of the chief drivers of social tensions and the need for scapegoats.

  44. Jean Henry
    Posted May 18, 2018 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Wobblie– Would you want to be a farmer? Contrary to the fantasy peddled here, most people don’t want the work. Those who opt in face a lot of insecurity and struggle as the risks are higher than any other business I can think of. I like farming work. Always have. But I’m not doing it because it’s too risky and too hard to get into it without a family legacy. I’m not sure you romanticize lots of subsistence farming, which is what you have described, over a functional mid-sized but still independent business that supports a big family and employs people– made possible in part by scientific advances created by agri-business. I don’t really understand the world you want but it seems more directed by a cheap and thoughtless moralism than a positive vision for the future.

  45. wobblie
    Posted May 19, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Would I want to be a farmer? Too old for that, I just want to be retired. In my little descriptor I pointed out how my farming relatives needed to have employment that paid into social security. As you point out, a “family legacy” is extremely important. My dad being the youngest of 12 meant he had to leave, though he spent most of his adult life working to make rural living better. I am not romanticizing subsistence farming, but it is a model that worked for our species for millenniums. It is well meaning people like you who mindlessly support neo-liberal economic policies (the essence of “globalization”) that are the “romantics”.

  46. Jean Henry
    Posted May 19, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Wobblie— you understand that humans now live twice as long as they did when we had an agricultural economy, right? You understand that industrial manufacturing work you bemoan the loss of was back breaking and also shortens life spans, right? The past was not better. People were not better off. It requires remarkable leaps of fantasy and denial to imagine that it was.
    I’m not saying it’s perfect now by a long stretch but we are still inching forward not back. Maybe if we focused on improving wages and benefits on existing jobs that would be a Better use of our collective political mojo.

  47. wobblie
    Posted May 20, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    As always JH, you prefer to duel with straw dogs. I have never advocated a return to the stone age. I just know that your preferred social economic model has brought death and devastation to most of the planet. Social Democracy is obviously superior, and there are better models yet. But being an upper class American insulates you from the evils of your preferred neo-liberal economic model. Like most Americans (you really are alot like EOS and Hyperbole in this regard) you choose to ignore the urgency of anthropogenic climate change.
    I’m sure you have imparted the American ethic to your children, “Don’t worry be happy”. As our leader clearly demonstrates, consequences are for losers.

  48. Sad
    Posted May 20, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    consequences are for losers. – ain’t that the truth!

  49. Jean Henry
    Posted May 20, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I have no problem whatsoever with Social Democracy which I think I have made abundantly clear here. I would be thrilled with such a model. I disagree with your idea about how to get there.
    Ps what Bernie was proposing was not social democracy. I don’t even know what to call it since it has no clear means of funding what he proposed.

  50. stupid hick
    Posted May 20, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    People, let’s not confuse the occupation of “farmer” with “farm worker”. Not all “farmers” do farm work yet some prefer to identify with a idyllic pastoral trope. Sounds better than “plantation owner”. In Liberal company, anyway.

  51. Jean Henry
    Posted May 20, 2018 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Any farmers to which I was referring were not the ‘gentleman’ type.
    Most farmers work very hard. Even successful ones. You can’t turn a profit on a latch key operation. The margins are too narrow. People who lease their land, like my parents, are not farmers. We grew all our vegetables growing up but we were not farmers.

    Farm workers are something else altogether.

    It amuses me the way leftists elevate the worker and want fair wages but deride the employer, especially those successful enough to pay a fair wage.
    It also amuses me that people can’t imagine that the same system that keeps the individual in an endless debt cycle, and so unable to do or be all that one wants to be—same system might also keep the independent business owner in the same situation. Very often they can not pay a living wage with benefits like the big guys. And yet many choose to work for them anyway.
    It’s not because they’re assholes who don’t care.

  52. Lynne
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    wobblie, what do you mean by “neo-liberal”? If you mean capitalism in ANY form, including what exists in social democracies, then I can say confidently that style of economy has been proven to be the most effective at ending poverty than any other. Social Democracies work (and I am very much in favor of them) because they allow for market economies but help keep the worst effects of it from harming poorer people. Even things like a UBI, which as everyone here knows I support, work because they keep in place the market economy. I am curious about what you think might be a better system.

  53. Jean Henry
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I was just saying elsewhere on the Internet last night in a conversation with someone on the oppposite side of the political spectrum from Wobblie that equity of opportunity is all about fair competition. And that a robust safety net, including UBI (in coming around on that…), would promote fair and vigorous economic competition by reducing catastrophic risk, much as bankruptcy does.

    Social democracy in its many many iterations is at its best about maximizing human potential. So is capitalism. At its best.
    Socialism is another thing altogether. I’ve seen it and just don’t think it works as well, in part because it’s anti-competition and achievement and because it concentrates power in the state.
    But whatever, clearly I’m anti-progress and pro status quo.

  54. nick
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    “neo-liberal” is not a subjective term, it has a definition. here is an article from the guardian, all about the history of neoliberalism that is very fascinating:

    “Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over “neoliberalism”: they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism. In so doing, they helped put to rest the idea that the word is nothing more than a political slur, or a term without any analytic power. The paper gently called out a “neoliberal agenda” for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality.

    Over the past few years, as debates have turned uglier, the word has become a rhetorical weapon, a way for anyone left of centre to incriminate those even an inch to their right. (No wonder centrists say it’s a meaningless insult: they’re the ones most meaningfully insulted by it.)

    In short, “neoliberalism” is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.

    What any person acquainted with history sees as the necessary bulwarks against tyranny and exploitation – a thriving middle class and civil sphere; free institutions; universal suffrage; freedom of conscience, congregation, religion and press; a basic recognition that the individual is a bearer of dignity – held no special place in Hayek’s thought. Hayek built into neoliberalism the assumption that the market provides all necessary protection against the one real political danger: totalitarianism. To prevent this, the state need only keep the market free.

    This last is what makes neoliberalism “neo”. It is a crucial modification of the older belief in a free market and a minimal state, known as “classical liberalism”. In classical liberalism, merchants simply asked the state to “leave us alone” – to laissez-nous faire. Neoliberalism recognised that the state must be active in the organisation of a market economy. The conditions allowing for a free market must be won politically, and the state must be re-engineered to support the free market on an ongoing basis.”

    i hope folks find the article interesting and enlightening.

  55. wobblie
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Lynn, I’ll go with the Britannica definition.

    Capitalism and its evils have been obvious to most thinking folks for well over 150 years. “Classical” liberalism (which most of you folks think you believe in) was about ameliorating those evils. Since the rise of neo-liberalism under Reagan and Thatcher, and its subsequent adoption by the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party liberalism has collapsed. On this site, Jean Henry is the most obvious believer in the neo-liberal agenda.

    For those who desire to understand the economy I recommend you read Michael Hudson.

  56. wobblie
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    This is a link to his web site

  57. wobblie
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Nick, thanks for your description. So is Nick short for Nicholas? It is one of the names I would have used for my male child if I had had one—In Greek the meaning of the name Nicholas is: People’s victory, got to love it.

  58. nick
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    it’s not my writing, i just pulled a few tasty, relevant paragraphs from the article ;)
    i wasn’t aware of that definition of nicholas, that’s pretty cool. is your name in reference to the IWW?

  59. wobblie
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    yes, X332142 though I have also been a member of the UAW National Writers Union, and LU 155, an employee of UAWIU for a dozen years as well. Currently a debt slave trying to retire

  60. Lynne
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    wobblie, That Hudson guy is not someone who sounds like he knows what he is talking about to me but I am not surprised you like him. He is as wrong about Hillary Clinton as you are! He also goes on and on without concretely saying what he wants other than to eliminate rents and even then he is pretty vague. Mostly he seems like one of those people who bitches about problems with no ideas for solutions but I will Hudson the benefit of the doubt and assume that he has thought about solutions but just was focusing on bringing awareness to his perceived problems. I will give serious thought to what a world without rents might look like though. I am not yet convinced that it is the most utilitarian option (which is how I judge economic systems)

    nick, oh I know the economic meaning of the term. I have studied Friedman and Hayek and Chicago School theory. I can give good arguments for why I don’t like that style of Economics. It has been tried in the real world and has failed. I question wobblie’s understanding of the word when he uses it to describe Obama or Clinton. He would probably call Keynes a ‘neoliberal’! I presume he means to apply it to ANYONE who allows any kind of economic rents in a society? Which of course is not the definition presented in the link he posted or The Guardian article. I agree that the perception that Clinton was a neoliberal devotee to the likes of the Chicago School was part of why she lost but it isn’t a particularly accurate perception, imho.

  61. Jean Henry
    Posted May 21, 2018 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Lynne.
    Trying to learn how to give it a rest lately. (Maybe too little too late, I know.) Anyway, It’s a lot easier when someone picks up the ball and runs with it.
    I can get back to my book now. Thanks.

  62. Jcp2
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 6:17 am | Permalink

  63. Sad
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    I never would have seen that article. I don’t read the Atlantic.

    I guess that’s the point. I started on the article but it made me Sadder.

  64. Wobblie
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Lynn you seem to know nothing about economics despite studying the discipline. No Keynes is the opposite of a neoliberal. He advocated for government intervention and planning in the economy. Krugmanm is the closest to a Keynesian among “popular” economist. Hudson is probably the best economic theorist America currently pocesses. You, having spent your education being brainwashed by the Austrian school are probably incapable of understanding classical economics.

  65. kjc
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Obama and Clinton can’t accurately be described as neoliberal? that’s hilarious.

  66. Jean Henry
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Wobblie— I’m all for using market forces, large and small, for improving the lives of as many humans as possible. I’m especially in support of using market forces to fund a robust social safety net and preserve civil liberties. I’m sure that makes me neoliberal in this new social media (v economic) definition, but it puts me at some distance from Thatcher, Reagan, and the Chicago school. It puts me most close in principle to the social democracies of Scandinavia or the German model.
    We can continue to argue about how to get to a more equitable society and world or we can talk about what we agree would constitute progress for our nation and our partnerships abroad.

    Neoliberal was never intended to mean in support of any kind of market solution. Nor was it intended to pretend that any market solution are inherently wrong. That’s what it has come to mean. It is levied to stymie conversation about ways forward within this system in favor of broad statements of principle against the system we occupy, aka ideology. And it gets us nowhere and helps no one but the consciences of the relatively comfortable and privileged righteous US left.

  67. Lynne
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    wobblie, Yes, Paul Krugman is pretty Keynesian to be sure. Guess what, so are Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama in some pretty major fundamental ways! Do you think a guy like Krugman would have endorsed Clinton if she was an advocate of neoliberal economic theory? Sure there might be elements of neoliberalism peppered here and there in their policies but not enough that it is fair to slap that label on them. It really does not mean “not a socialist” as you seem to think. As far as my knowledge of the field vs yours, you seem to be able to provide definitions but then don’t seem to understand them when you apply them. Either I am too stupid to understand your much greater knowledge of the field or you don’t have enough knowledge of the field to accurately determine mine. i.e one of us may be suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect.

    KJC, just in the economic sense of the word. The Washington Post had a good article about it earlier this year.

  68. wobblie
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    JH–Your “believe” in “market forces” is analogous to EOS’s belief in God. You rely upon supernatural forces to guide human behavior. The “invisible hand” of the markets is so much BS. As classical economist pointed out before the capture of discipline by paid hacks of the employing class, all economies are planned. The question is, in who’s interest does the plan serve. Talking about “market forces” makes about as much sense as talking about how many angels are on the head of a pin.

    Political forces determine who’s interest the economy serves. When plutocrats and their minions have the political power (such as now) the economy serves their interest. When the people exert enough political pressure (ie. force) the economy changes to serve the interest of people. There was no “market forces” that brought about the rise of America’s middle class. It was the real threat of social revolution. One example–a key one. The post WWII GI bill. An obvious example of social economic planning. Did the Government implement these policies because of “market forces”? NO. The powers that be were afraid of the return of millions of men being demobilized from the military. You probably are unaware of the strike wave that swept both the military (active duty soldiers struck demanding immediate demobilization) and the private sector following VJ day. Our ruling class bought off those returning from the war. The GI bill is the basis upon which our American middle class was built. Nothing but economic planning at its best.

    Beginning with Jimmy Carter, and accelerating under Clinton and Obama the Democratic party has adopted the neo-liberal agenda. The last wave of economic regulations occurred under Nixon (EPA, expansion of OSHA, etc). Since then every administration has engaged in deregulation. The Republicans with gusto, Clinton and Obama nearly as much. The only example of renewed regulatory authority was the Dodd-Frank attempt at reestablishing regulation of the finance sector of the economy. Obama did all he could to water that bill down, and the Democrats in the Senate a few weeks ago helped the Republicans to water it down even more.

    Lynn- if you go back and read Krugmann’s comments concerning Obama and the American Recovery Act, it was all about how totally inadequate Obama’s solutions were. Obama and Clinton give lip service to Keynesian economics, but the policies they pursue are neo-liberal. The Affordable Care Act is totally neo-liberal. Letting the Health Insurance Companies run the health industry is no different than Reagan deregulating the trucking industry.

    Sit down some time and add up all the finance fees you pay in a month. ATM charges, bank charges, late fees, etc. these are all a form of rent. Every time you use your credit card, the credit card company charges a fee to the vendor. That is rent. The cost of items and services are increased beyond the price necessary to pay the labor necessary to produce the item or perform the service. This additional cost is also in addition to the “profit” that the supplier of said item or service charges.

    As an aside the Washington Post is owned by the worlds richest plutocrat. He will not allow those who work for him to engage in any form of critical analysis that does not support his “right” to his wealth and power.

    Market forces tell me that this pin will support as many angels as I can put on it.

  69. Lynne
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    The ACA was a compromise. Obama and Dems had to fight very hard to get what they got which btw, included some pretty substantial subsidies. If you think it was a neoliberal solution, it again makes me question your understanding of the concept. A neoliberal health care solution would be to have no regulation at all and just let everyone buy their health insurance on their own. Neoliberals argue that health care costs are artificially inflated because so many get their healthcare from employers due to tax breaks employers get to provide health care. They would end those.

  70. wobblie
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    “A neoliberal health care solution would be to have no regulation at all and just let everyone buy their health insurance on their own. ” and what pray tell are the health exchanges? Admittedly there are some good things about the ACA, mainly extending the time that ones children can be on your policy. The ban on denying insurance to those with pre-exsisting conditions was also good, but most who have such conditions still pay through the nose for that coverage. As I pointed out earlier, since Carter the Democratic party has adopted greater and greater neoliberal policies. Under Obama, medicare for all was thrown out the window. It was the Democratic policy since Roosevelt.

  71. Jean Henry
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Social Security was a compromise solution to avoid a propose UBI. Just FYI. And it was staged in. Of course it was also implemented by a president who retained power for 16 years, so there’s that.

  72. Jean Henry
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Kennedy was a neoliberal by that definition as well then.
    Dems prior to that were just racist. Pro labor, but then labor was racist too then.

  73. Jean Henry
    Posted May 22, 2018 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    FDR was also neoliberal by your definition, Wobblie

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