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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
Number of posts: 24,691

Journal Archives

The Return of the 1920s (in Donald Trump and the republican base in general)

America is again caught between nationalists longing for the glories of an imagined past, and activists invoking ideals the nation has never yet attained.

The United States is wracked by a spasm of anti-cosmopolitanism and fear of radical subversion. It is exemplified, for many Americans by the election and presidency of Obama himself: black, yet biracially cosmopolitan, urban, intellectual, raised partly in a Muslim country, and the abandoned son of a Kenyan activist and academic. Millions of conservatives still suspect him of being un-Christian and, literally, not a native-born American qualified to serve as president. ... The current conflict is a continuation of one over the past century in the United States between what the historian Gary Gerstle has called the racial nationalism of blood and ethnic supremacy and a more expansive civic nationalism which promises a common political project of equal rights and respect for all. America has seen expressions of both racial and civic nationalism in its history—both are quintessentially American articulations of political power and hierarchy. Yet these different national projects—one culturally and ethnically homogeneous, the other inclusive of differences, yet seeking to subsume them into a “Party of America”, in political theorist Rogers Smith’s words—both risk canceling out a third strain of American nationalism.

There is no period of American history that so pervasively demonstrated the power of ethno-nationalism to suppress pluralist differences as that following the Russian Revolution, the end of the First World War, and then continuing through much of the 1920s. There are many broad parallels between this era and our own. In both historical moments, there is a rising racial nationalism that takes hold of a significant (and demographically similar) portion of the country. Following the 1920s, Franklin Roosevelt’s leadership during the Depression and a massive labor movement—which, at least, in its ideals (if often not its practice) extolled the social solidarity of Americans of all races, ethnicities, and religions—renewed civic nationalism.

Black soldiers returning from the war, looking for jobs after fighting for their country, were often met with rage; their simple expectation of respect precipitated a violent, racist backlash. In Chicago in 1919 and Tulsa in 1921 dozens were killed in race riots; across the country, whites killed blacks who dared to imagine they could be equal participants in a project of civic nationalism. ... What these various fears shared in common was the concern that the centrality of America’s Anglo-Saxon heritage was being undermined by radicals, immigrants, and African Americans. Understandable concerns for personal safety merged with resentment for groups who sought to disrupt long assumed hierarchies.

One consequence was the introduction of the Immigration Act of 1924. ... The stated goal of the bill’s sponsors and supporters was to enhance an ethnically and racially homogeneous American population.


Trump and his supporters have always seemed to be a throwback to an earlier republican era of anti-immigration, anti-trade sentiments, described by this writer as ethno-nationalists. It is interesting to see the parallels between the 1920's and republican view of the 21st century.

Liberals do seem to support "a more expansive civic nationalism which promises a common political project of equal rights and respect for all" even if that has never been achieved. Conservatives, OTOH, seem more worried about "the centrality of America’s Anglo-Saxon heritage" and their "u)nderstandable concerns for personal safety merged with resentment for groups who sought to disrupt long assumed hierarchies."

The 1920's revisited.

LA Times OpEd: To understand Donald Trump, look to the far-right in Europe

True, Trump's naked appeals to nativist, anti-immigrant populism have parallels in American history, from Pat Buchanan in the 1990s to George Wallace in the 1960s and 1970s to Millard Fillmore's Know-Nothing Party in the 1850s. (Trump) has totally ignored the Planned Parenthood undercover video controversy; and he has been griping about foreign trade since the 1980s (then it was Japan, now China).

In a European context, Trump would fit more comfortably. Many countries on the European continent pursue a “consensus” politics of the center-left and center-right. The moderates in power support a generous social-welfare state and more business regulation than Americans would accept, marginalize religious social-issue conservatives, and ignore crime and immigration.

By shunting so many issues beyond the pale of the mainstream, the elite fuel right-wing populist parties. Leaders like Geert Wilders in Holland, Marine Le Pen in France and their counterparts in Poland, Sweden, Belgium and Hungary give vent to the anxieties that establishment politicians would rather pretend did not exist. Accordingly, like conservatives in the United States, they stress security, including border security. But reflecting their working-class constituencies, European right-wing parties are often more anti-business, anti-trade and pro-social-welfare than American Democrats, let alone American Republicans.

The European right wing traces its heritage in part to the old monarchists. Yet its populist leaders also echo mid-20th century dictators such as Mussolini and Hitler, who were simultaneously violent nationalists and self-proclaimed socialists who disdained individual rights and sought domination over private business and Christian churches. ... In that sense, Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-trade, “Make America great again” nationalism may not be un-conservative, but it is literally un-American. It lacks the reverence for America's founding principles and the Lincolnesque concern for individual rights to life and liberty that have long called American conservatives to the more hopeful better angels of our nature.


I wonder if Trump is a student of RW European populist politicians and sees in their recent successes a pattern for him to follow here. Or if he is just the latest in a long history of American "nativist, anti-immigration" populists ( like "Pat Buchanan in the 1990s to George Wallace in the 1960s and 1970s to ... the Know-Nothing Party in the 1850's".

Krugman posted a graph of global income changes that shows the rise in poors' income.

What you see is the surge by the global elite (the top 0.1, 0.01, etc. would be doing even better than his top 1), plus the dramatic rise of many but not all people in emerging markets. In between is what Branko suggests corresponds to the US lower-middle class, but what I’d say corresponds to advanced-country working classes in general, at least if you add post-2008 data with the effects of austerity. I’d call it the valley of despondency, and I think it’s going to be a crucial factor in developments over the next few years. More eventually.


It also shows the rise in the incomes of the 1%, particularly the top 0.1%. Most liberals do not lament the rise in the incomes of the poorest 75% of the world's people. We do see the dramatic rise in the incomes of the 0.1% as the real cause of the decline of the Western middle class and working class.

RW populists like Trump & Le Pen, prey on two insecurities, economic and cultural.

Economic insecurity is widespread in Europe and the US. The right exploits this and uses cultural insecurity to blame economic problems on THEM (Mexicans, Chinese, Muslims, immigrants, the EU, etc.)

In Europe they hate the EU, refugees, immigrants and anything that infringes on sovereignty and the rights and privileges of 'real', native-born French, Swedes, Dutch, etc. (Monoculturalism is prized by the right in both the US and Europe.) In the US cultural insecurity is the right's fear of the increasing number and power of minorities, immigrants and secular or non-traditional groups.

Of course, LW populists recognize widespread economic insecurity. We differ in that we tend to blame our own 1% rather than the foreign version of THEM the right worries about.

There is not much 'there' there with Trump, but the same is true of Le Pen and a host of other RW populists who have been gaining in popularity. Their proposed solutions won't work - because their THEM is not the real problem - but every country has folks who are different in some way for the problems. Trump and Le Pen may espouse flawed policies but they know how to make a speech and simplify a complex world.

Krugman's review of Reich's new book: Inequality results from corporate market power which in turn

comes from the rise in corporate political power.

Economists struggling to make sense of economic inequality are, increasingly, talking not about technology but about power. This may sound like straying off the reservation—aren’t economists supposed to focus only on the invisible hand of the market?—but there is actually a long tradition of economic concern about “market power,” aka the effect of monopoly. True, such concerns were deemphasized for several generations, but they’re making a comeback—and one way to read Robert Reich’s new book is in part as a popularization of the new view ...

Meanwhile, forms of market power that benefit large numbers of workers as opposed to small numbers of plutocrats have declined, again thanks in large part to political decisions. We tend to think of the drastic decline in unions as an inevitable consequence of technological change and globalization, but one need look no further than Canada to see that this isn’t true. Once upon a time, around a third of workers in both the US and Canada were union members; today, US unionization is down to 11 percent, while it’s still 27 percent north of the border. The difference was politics: US policy turned hostile toward unions in the 1980s, while Canadian policy didn’t follow suit. And the decline in unions seems to have major impacts beyond the direct effect on members’ wages ...

There’s growing evidence that market power does indeed have large implications for economic behavior—and that the failure to pursue antitrust regulation vigorously has been a major reason for the disturbing trends in the economy. Suppose that we hypothesize that rising market power, rather than the ineluctable logic of modern technology, is driving the rise in inequality. How does this help make sense of what we see?

Part of the answer is that it resolves some of the puzzles posed by other accounts.
... Furthermore, focusing on market power helps explain why the big turn toward income inequality seems to coincide with political shifts, in particular the sharp right turn in American politics. For the extent to which corporations are able to exercise market power is, in large part, determined by political decisions. And this ties the issue of market power to that of political power.


Great to see one liberal economist comment on another liberal economists new book.

We all know that the rise in corporate political power has increased exponentially since the 1980's while corporate regulation has declined precipitously during the same period. Likewise, the rise in corporate political power has resulted in more regressive taxation, the rise in 'right-to-work' legislation and other anti-worker policies.

European citizens, like the Paris terrorists, can enter the US visa free already. They don't need

to pose as refugees.

Why Congress is moving to tighten restrictions on refugees, but leaves the Visa Waiver Program untouched

Of the various ways of getting into the United States, applying for political refugee status is hardly the easiest.

Since 2012, there have been 1,854 Syrian refugees admitted to the US. President Barack Obama has said that we will take in an additional 10,000 in fiscal year 2016, likely now with increased vetting and background checks after more than 30 governors have said they would reject refugees in their states.

While the refugee debate continues both in Washington and at the state level, 20 million people traveled to the US in fiscal year 2013 under the Visa Waiver Program — a program that allows citizens of 38 approved countries, mostly Western allies and Japan, to travel here for tourism or business for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa.

The Belgian and French citizens who were involved in the Paris attacks could have, in theory, been able to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program.

But even before Republican Rep. Mike McCaul, the chair of the Homeland Security Committee, introduced the bill earlier this week, many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle admitted they didn't really think the refugee program posed a major national security threat. ... So going at the refugee program is a way to bring frightened and demanding voters results.


So the voters wanted action. republicans and a minority of Democrats gave them 'action' even if they knew that that 'action' had little to do with making anyone here safer. It's all about responding to fear, largely generated by republicans who fear-monger as standard procedure.

From Maine: The Know-Nothings are reborn (as republicans), fueled by an anti-immigrant fever

Every so often, a tide of bigotry, fear and xenophobia washes over our country. There’s always someone new to hate. Africans. Irish. Italians. Chinese. Jews. Japanese.

Politicians point to the newcomers as threats, bent on our country’s destruction. Each time, they are proven wrong, the risk overstated for political gain. And each time, our country falls short of the grand ideals upon which it was founded.

In 1891 a mob brutally executed 11 men. Nine men were accused of murdering a police officer. Of those, six had been acquitted by a jury and a mistrial was declared for the other three. The last two victims weren’t involved. They were swept up with the rest because of their religion and country of origin. All 11 men were Italian, and the lynchings were driven by hatred and stereotypes of the new immigrant community and distrust of their Catholic faith.

Today’s Republican Party has become the heir to the Know-Nothings of the 1840s and 1850s. Its brand of anti-immigrant sentiment is hurting our country and targeting innocent people. Never has the name of a political party been more appropriate. The Know-Nothings dressed up their hate. They attacked the cost of educating new immigrants, who needed to learn English. They were worried about competition for jobs and the impact on taxes.


... the cost of educating new immigrants, who needed to learn English. They were worried about competition for jobs and the impact on taxes.

The RW 'populist' wing of the republican party could take their agenda directly from that of the Know Nothings 170 years ago. Just change "Catholics" to "Muslims" and the anti-immigrant rhetoric will work just as well today. The rest - the cost of education, job competition, impact on taxes - are the same things you hear from them today.

It is weird how the Know Nothings referred to themselves as "Native Americans". "Native Americans. Beware of Foreign Influence" would fit well with the modern tea party's phobia about "European" socialism, Sharia Law and their distaste for every international agreement and organization for fear that 'foreign influence' will give THEM a say in how we run OUR affairs.

"The group hopes attacks will provoke overreactions by European governments against innocent Muslims

"Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize . . . or they [emigrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the Crusader governments and citizens.” The group calculates that a small number of attackers can profoundly shift the way that European society views its 44 million Muslim members and, as a result, the way European Muslims view themselves. Through this provocation, it seeks to set conditions for an apocalyptic war with the West.

Unfortunately, elements of European society are reacting as the Islamic State desires. Far-right parties have gained strength in many European countries. France’s National Front is expected to dominate local elections in northern France this winter; on Saturday, Marine Le Pen, its leader, declared “those who maintain links with Islamism” to be “France’s enemies.” The Danish People’s Party gained 21 percent of the vote in national elections in June on a nationalist, anti-Islamic platform. The anti-foreigner Sweden Democrats is steadily growing in popularity."

Liberals in Europe will not give ISIS the "overreaction" it is looking for. However, if the rise of the far-right parties continues, ISIS may get what it wants. The right is quite anti-immigrant, anti-refugee and anti-Muslim. And it is growing.

Thomas Piketty: income inequality due to declines in unions and minimum wage, not globalization.

Piketty started things off by claiming that the received wisdom (at least among economists) for why inequality has increased, globalization and skill-biased technical change, simply don’t explain the phenomena very well. Neither can explain the rise of the top 1%, nor can they explain the international variation in the extent of tail inequality. Piketty did credit the role of educational exclusion in closing off access to the most elite precincts of the economy, as shown by the new Chetty, Saez, et al findings on the extent to which top universities draw their undergraduate students from rich households. But he continued on to a discussion of how the Piketty, Saez, and Stantcheva (2014) findings on wage bargaining and top income shares can’t be squared with a marginal-productivity story of wage-setting. He mentioned norms of corporate governance shifting in favor of managers and owners by way of explaining tail inequality, as well as erosion of unions and the minimum wage as explanations for stagnant or falling wages at the bottom and middle of the distribution. He closed with what I consider a profound restatement of why Capital in the 21st Century is such an important book:

The gap between [the] official discourse and what’s actually going on is enormous. The tendency is for the winner to justify inequality with meritocracy. It’s important to put these claims up for public discussion.

... Piketty’s rebuttal devastating: that progressive taxation was invented in America and that it flourished here as a complement to free and equal quality public education, not a substitute. Together, the two did not destroy capitalism. Quite the contrary: the period of their efflorescence, complete with confiscatory estate taxation, saw the highest aggregate and per-capita growth across the income distribution of any time in American history.

Piketty himself said it best: “The idea that we need to keep inequality to preserve incentives is just not consistent with reality.”


FDR's ITO pioneered the concept of neutral arbitration of trade disputes, much more than just

reducing tariffs. His ITO also introduced employment, labor and development standards as part of a trade agreement.

Along with the World Bank and the IMF, the International Trade Organization (ITO) formed the centrepiece of new kind of international organization in the mid to late 1940s. At the time, what was particularly novel about the Havana Charter was that it was not simply or mainly a trade organization like the WTO, its latter day descendent. At its core, the countries of the world, rejected the idea that it was possible to maintain a firewall between trade, development, employment standards and domestic policy. Its most distinctive feature was the integration of an ambitious and successful program to reduce traditional trade barriers, with a wide-angled agreement that addressed investment, employment standards, development, business monopolies and the like. It pioneered the idea that trade disputes had to be settled by consultation and mediation rather than with legal clout. Further it established an institutional linkage between trade and labour standards that would effect a major advance in global governance. Finally it embedded the full employment obligation, along with "a commitment to free markets" as the cornerstone of multilateralism.

Despite these accomplishments, the US Congress refused to ratify the Havana Charter even though it had signed it. As a direct consequence, the ITO's collapse represented a significant closure of the full employment era internationally. In the end, it's demise made possible the rapid return of the free trade canon that increasingly, would impose its authority and ideology on all international organizations and on the practice of multilateralism. As this essay concludes, its history compelling because whatever its apparent shortcomings, governments, economists and ordinary people demanded that trade, employment goals and developmental needs should reinforce each other in the world trading system.


The republican congress rejected the ITO proposed by FDR and negotiated by Truman, precisely for the national sovereignty concern about a multilateral organization making decisions that would affect the US.

The IMF and World Bank were approved by congress while it was still controlled by Democrats. The negotiation of the ITO did not end until republicans had taken control of congress. GATT was a supposed to be a temporary part of the ITO. Truman authorized it by executive order since he thought the republican congress would kill that too.
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