Loyal Opposition

Donald Trump has appointed Rex Tillerson, the sitting CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State. Which is really weird. Why are Democrats focused on something relatively minor: his relationship with Russia?

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  • Ted,

    This is absolutely the best exposition of the effete nature of the Democratic Party and its unwillingness and inability to resist enemies of working people.

  • Russian ties used to be the kiss of death. Where is Joe McCarthy when you need him?

  • Ted,
    I don’t want to sound too pedantic (just a little), but the problem isn’t that the Dems are missing the point. It’s that the Dems cannot (as in a sense of they MUST NOT) address the point because the contradiction would be too great.


    A lot of the Obama supporters recite that he saved the economy. The HRC supporters recite that she has a resume filled with achievements. Both groups repeat these things because other people who think like them also repeat these things. But when you ask for specifics, the air gets mighty thin.

    Obama’s “economy saving” is the best example I can come up with off the top of my head.

    Unemployment hit its lowest figure of 4.4%. in 2006 and 2007. (All these are Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.) It went up and down by a tenth of a point (mostly) each month until May 2008, when it jumped 4/10ths of a point (5.4%) and took off from there. It peaked in October 2008 at 10%, and then it started to decline. As of November 2016, the U-3 (“official”) unemployment statistic is 4.6%.

    And that’s the point the Obama crowd stops at. They conclude: “The economy has recovered. Oh, it may be a little worse around the edges, but everything’s fine again. Whew!”

    But they ignore–deliberately–the methodology used to compile the U-3. Once you stop collecting unemployment benefits (once you have been unemployed for long enough) you stop counting in the statistic. Got that? You’re still out there somewhere, but you are no longer being counted. Take a look back. In most “recessions,” the “recesssion” ends in about two years. Why? Because everyone who got thrown away and wasn’t able to claw their way back in is simply dropped off the reckoning. Of course the economy always “recovers.”

    But there’s three other things they ignore (and when you point them out, they become very, very angry).

    1. The BLS stats for the U-6 (Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, as the BLS defines it). In May 2008 it was 9.4%. It was at its lowest 10-year percentage in October 2006, when it hit 7.6%. It trended upward from then all the way to its January 2010 peak of 18.0%. As of November 2016, it’s 9.0%. MORE people are unemployed now than before the collapse. The “new” normal is worse than the old normal. That is not “recovery.” It’s like having a 104 degree fever and dropping down to a 101 degree fever. You aren’t “better,” you are simply less feverish; you’re still sick.

    2. Wages. Here’s a link to a Pew report that basically says wages (buying power-wise) are just about the same as they ever were. You’ll have to google it yourself, but the basic picture now is that fewer jobs have pensions, fewer jobs have unions, fewer jobs have benefits that increase. My health plan just went up by about 100% (yes it doubled in cost). My wages stay the same but everything around me that I MUST pay for (rent, food, health coverage) continues to go up. Transportation costs in New York are obscene. This isn’t the picture of a booming economy.

    3. Job creation. Keep in mind that this statistic counts one person working two jobs as two jobs. So, the more people are out there running around doing 16 hour work days, the “better” the economy is doing. Got that? Okay. Here’s the average annual increase of each term, going back to Harding, courtesy of Wikipedia, ranked highest to lowest (some are approximations): FDR(+5.00%); FDR (~+4.97%); Harding/Coolidge (~+4.23%); LBJ (+3.90%); Carter (+3.06%); Truman (+2.93%); Reagan (+2.69%); JFK/LBJ (+2.64%); Clinton (+2.64%); FDR (~+2.53%); Nixon (+2.38%); Clinton (+2.33%); Coolidge (~+2.13%); Obama (+1.98%); FDR/Truman (+1.61%); Reagan (+1.43%); Eisenhower (+1.34%); Nixon/Ford (+1.29%); Eisenhower (+0.87%); GHWBush (+0.62%); Obama (+0.25%); GWB (+0.23%); GWB (+0.01%); Hoover (~-5.41%).

    The “reality” is that the economy is that there is, with the exception of a full-blown depression, always a positive growth in jobs. Obama’s better term had a rate lower than 13 prior administrations. His lousier term bested Dubya and Hoover. That is hardly something to hold up as an achievement.

    I know, the Obama supporters will be screaming about how he inherited a terrible economy. Yes. He did. So did a lot of other presidents. All of them, except Hoover, had a postive job creation rate. The “number” of jobs is meaningless unless compared with the quality of those jobs.

    I haven’t even touched on home ownership (fewer people own homes now, millions are trapped as renters because they can’t scrape together a down payment–see the above). I haven’t even touched on retirement (a whole lot of people are involuntarily going to die in harness because they simply do not have retirement savings sufficient to allow them to retire–see the above). I haven’t even touched on job security (I’ve lasted through four rounds of layoffs. I honestly think a psychologist would diagnose me with PTSD because I feel like someone whose entire platoon has been picked off by the enemy, one by one and in small clusters; I go to work every day expecting to be let go.)

    The economy is NOT doing well. Obama did not SAVE us. And the Democrats will not–see, I did bring it back to the initial point, albeit the long way ’round–admit that the reason why is because they are merely kinder, gentler versions of Republicans. The policies the Democrats actually advocate and support and pursue are not policies that improve the positions of the bottom 99%.

    Remember when Martin Shkreli jacked up the price of that medicine? And people went crazy about what a monster he was. And he replied that, hey, he has a duty to his shareholders and that in business school they didn’t teach him to go for 47% of the profit or 84% of the profit. He was taught to go after as much as he could every single time. And people kept on about what a pig he was.

    So tell me the difference. When a CEO “lays off” 2,000 people so that his company can have another quarter with great profits (which his bonus is linked to), how is that any different than what Shkreli did? As far as the victims of each action are concerned? I say that there’s no difference: Shkreli and the CEO are both pigs. Neither case is a “fire five or 50 lose their jobs” situation. Both are cases where profit is given primacy to human suffering. And from that perspective, the Dems are no different than the Republicans. I end up just as badly off in either case. If I die because a pharma bro jacks up a prescription I’ll need 10 years from now or if I starve to death slowly because no one will hire a beat-up old wreck such as my 10-year-older self, does it matter to me? No.

    That’s why the Dems focus on Tillerson-the-Russian. They don’t dare look at themselves honestly.

    • (this is not disagreement – call it expansion)

      The economy as a whole *is* doing better, it’s just that the benefits are going to the 1% instead of people who work for a living.

      Trumpism will serve to accelerate that trend. Will it be enough to cause a correcting backlash? We can only hope for change :: cough ::

      The good news is that the Trump Chumps will suffer even more than those of us who can count to eleven with our shoes on. The bad news is that they’ll never realize they did it to themselves.

      • “The economy as a whole *is* doing better, it’s just that the benefits are going to the 1% instead of people who work for a living.”

        Yes, in the same sense that the average wealth of the people in a bar goes up when Bill Gates walks in.

        At least the people who voted for Trump won’t (so far) get buried under the load of TPP that Hillary wanted to dump on them, while they still have not yet dug their way out of the load of NAFTA dumped on them by Bill.

        We should wait at least until people die before we bury them, even if so many of the 99% now hold them in as low regard as the 1% do.

        The poor people who voted for Trump are proletarians (people bred to produce proles for cheap labor, so no abortion for the poor breeding stock). Historically war has been good for culling excess proles, but it’s getting too risky for the 1% whose faith is in nukes.

        The Trumpen Proletariat will have their way, and now the 99% will have a share in their misery.

    • Alex,

      Well, yes, exactly. The short version is that both the Democrats and Republicans are capitalist parties. Neither of them has any interest in helping workers. Neither of them ever has. Even Roosevelet, he just wanted to try and save capitalism from itself.

  • This discussion is so far above my head that I’m dizzy!

    The only thing I can relate to is “Mr. Verhoeven” because I’ve met Michael (and his wife Senta Berger). His father Paul was a producer/director, also.

    That has absolutely no significance to Rall’s message, so I’ll leave the stage to more relevant actors.


  • Ted, I agree with a lot of your stuff, but not this. Sure, I dislike oil companies and corporations in general, but I’m not ready to equate them with Nazism, and probably the single most important quality we need in a Secretary of State right now is reluctance to start nuclear war. I would argue that nuclear war could be more harmful to the environment than anything an oil company might do.

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