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Member since: Sun Jul 1, 2018, 07:25 PM
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Journal Archives

The 'bazooka': Modern Monetary Theory in action

Peter Bofinger argues that large-scale injections of money to bring economies out of the coronavirus coma have vindicated Modern Monetary Theory.


Six months ago, I wrote a column for Social Europe with the title ‘Coronavirus crisis: now is the hour of Modern Monetary Theory’. While I think it is unlikely that the economists of the US government and the Federal Reserve read it, they seem to have come up with the same idea. In any case, the monetary and fiscal policies which have been pursued in the United States over the past six months are perfectly in line with the recipes of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

Let’s start with fiscal policy. In the second quarter of 2020 the federal government’s fiscal balance reached -30.2 per cent of gross domestic product. This value by far exceeds the previous quarterly record deficit of 11.6 per cent, in the second quarter of 2010. What did the government do with all the money? A large amount was used for transfers to private households. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted in March, gave the unemployed an extra $600 a week in benefits. This supplement played a crucial role in limiting extreme hardship; poverty may even have gone down.

What about monetary policy? In line with MMT the Fed started already in the first quarter to purchase huge amounts of Treasury securities. In a longer-term perspective the amount of these transactions far exceeded any historical precedent. During the ‘quantitative easing’ period in the first quarter of 2011, the Fed purchased a maximum amount of Treasuries, totalling 8.4 per cent of GDP. In the first quarter of 2020 the purchases reached 18.9 per cent and 21.2 per cent in the second quarter (see graphs). While MMT envisages direct central-bank lending to the government, the Fed typically purchases bonds on the secondary market from primary dealers—large, globally active banks. But if the banks know that the Fed is willing to purchase, in effect, unlimited amounts of Treasuries, this does not make an economic difference.

Immediate impact

What were the economic effects of this strategy? It had an immediate impact on disposable personal income—again, way beyond any precedent. Net transfers (after tax) reached almost one-fifth of GDP; in the Great Recession the maximum was 7.5 per cent, in the first quarter of 2010. Thus, the transfer payments did not only compensate for the decline in wage incomes: they boosted the disposable incomes of American households to a record high (see bar chart).


The Joke's on Us

In the 2010s, Hitler memes and “ironic” racism filled the internet. What if we had taken them seriously?


Remember when the internet used to be fun? Whitney Phillips does. The digital anthropologist was recently looking through a huge set of images from the late 2000s that had been posted to Reddit. The first comment described the era as “a more simple time,” and sure enough, the pictures were weird, silly, and creative. Talking cows. Cats playing video games. A bear on a golf course. A guy Photoshopped to have mouths for eyes. Then she noticed something else. Something disturbing. The thread began, she wrote recently, “with a lighthearted meme about Hitler.” After that was “dehumanizing mockery of a child with disabilities. And more sneering mockery of an old man hooked up to an oxygen tank. And date rape. And violence against animals. And fat shaming. And homophobia. And racism. And pedophilia. And how hilarious 9/11 was.”

If you’ve spent any time online, you will have imbibed both the aesthetic and, perhaps, the ethics of “meme culture” or “internet culture.” This is the mashed-up jumble of images, jargon, and folk art that gushed out of sites such as 4chan, Reddit, and Tumblr from the late 2000s. The look was lo-fi and absurdist, and the tone was eye-rolling, cynical, self-aware. Blocky white letter captions on pictures of exaggerated facial expressions. “HALP,” “OHRLY,” “KTHXBYE.” Adorable cat GIFs. In the 2000s and early 2010s, Phillips was one of a group of academics, activists, and intellectuals who studied memes, and promoted the idea of the web as a space of unfettered, anarchic creation. The revolution would be user-generated. (The founders of social networks—primarily young, carefree, middle-class white Americans—agreed.) Okay, the argument went, this outpouring of creativity had its darker elements, but that was part of its countercultural charm. The casual sadism of trolling was just “lulz,” which shouldn’t be taken seriously. Sexism, racism, and other hatreds were being invoked for nothing more than shock value. It was ironic, duh.

In 2009, she attended a live show called Meme Factory, which aimed to explain this new language of the internet. Three young men sat in front of microphones, talking deliberately fast, occasionally projecting pictures onto the screen behind them. There were “fails”; there were “owns”; the viewers didn’t have to think much about the people who were the butt of the joke. The first Meme Factory show began with a disclaimer about its offensive content, delivered in front of a picture of a white cat captioned with what was a popular phrase at the time: Internet. Serious Business. Phillips remembers laughing until she cried at a repeat performance the next year. There was an assumption that everyone in the room “got it,” that they understood who was being satirized—the racists and the homophobes—and that everything was just for lulz. But the blizzard of memes didn’t allow any time to distinguish between the cute and the offensive, the innocuous and the hateful. One section, Phillips recalled, showed “several internet-infamous young white women who had inspired widespread mockery online.” Such women, the three men explained, were referred to as “camwhores.” When the photograph of one flashed on-screen, the crowd booed. A man in the audience shouted: “Kill her!”

Phillips, an assistant communications professor at Syracuse University, now thinks she got it wrong. All that ironic racism doesn’t feel so ironic anymore. “I don’t even know exactly when it totally shifted,” she told me, from her yellow-painted living room in Syracuse, New York, her hands anxiously fluttering around her face as we spoke over Zoom. “What seemed to be fun and funny ended up functioning as a Trojan horse for white-supremacist, violent ideologies to shuffle through the gates and not be recognized.” The 2010s were the decade when internet culture ate real life; when the boundary between “IRL” and “on the internet” dissolved. By the time the decade ended, a certain kind of liberal was forced to accept that we had been far too complacent about how dark politics could get, and how the ironically awful parts of the internet helped that to happen. Many others have walked down the same path of recognition as Phillips. What was once dismissed as “trolling” is now recognized as harassment and abuse; where flat earthers and 9/11 truthers once seemed laughable, today’s conspiracy theorists commit acts of violence.


Vaccine Chaos Is Looming

The COVID-19 vaccines furthest along in clinical trials are the fastest to make, but they are also the hardest to deploy.


On the day that a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, a vast logistics operation will need to awaken. Millions of doses must travel hundreds of miles from manufacturers to hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies, which in turn must store, track, and eventually get the vaccines to people all across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with state and local health departments, coordinates this process. These agencies distributed flu vaccines during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic this way, and they manage childhood vaccines every day. But the COVID-19 vaccine will be a whole new challenge. “The COVID situation is significantly different and more complex than anything that we have had to deal with in the past,” says Kris Ehresmann, an infectious-disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health. The two leading vaccine candidates in the U.S.—one developed by Moderna, the other by a collaboration between Pfizer and the German company BioNTech—have progressed so quickly to clinical trials precisely because they are the fastest to make and manufacture.

They rely on a novel vaccine technology whose advantage is speed, but whose downside is extreme physical fragility. These vaccines have to be frozen—in Pfizer/BioNTech’s case, at an ultracold –94 degrees Fahrenheit, colder than most freezers—which will limit how and where they can be shipped. The ways these vaccines are formulated (without added preservatives) and packaged (in vials that hold doses for multiple people) also make them easier to develop and manufacture quickly but harder to administer on the ground. In other words, speed is coming at the expense of convenience. “For this first generation of vaccines, we won’t trade off safety. We don’t want to trade off effectiveness,” says Kelly Moore, the associate director of immunization education at the Immunization Action Coalition. So instead, the U.S. is planning for a vaccine that requires brutally complicated logistics. Public-health departments in states, territories, and major cities are currently drawing up vaccine plans for the end of October.

It’s still unclear whether these vaccines are safe and effective—and it’s extremely unlikely that data will be available by the end of October. But the departments are getting ready. Many are already stretched thin by the ongoing pandemic, and they are now helping plan, as Moore puts it, “the largest, most complex vaccination program ever attempted in history.” The leading vaccine candidates both deploy a new, long-promised technology. Their core is a piece of mRNA, genetic material that in this case encodes for the spike protein—the bit of the coronavirus that helps it enter human cells. The vaccine induces cells to take up the mRNA and make the spike protein and, hopefully, stimulates an immune response. By using mRNA, vaccine makers do not need to produce viral proteins or grow viruses, methods that are used in more traditional vaccines and that add time to the manufacturing process. This is why Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have been able to get their vaccines into clinical trials so quickly.

Moderna went from a genetic sequence of the coronavirus to the first shot in an arm in a record 63 days. To get a naked strand of mRNA inside a cell, scientists have learned to encase it in a package called a lipid nanoparticle. mRNA itself is an inherently unstable molecule, but it’s the lipid nanoparticles that are most sensitive to heat. If you get the vaccine cold enough, “there’s a temperature at which lipids and the lipid structure stop moving, essentially. And you have to be below that for it to be stable,” says Drew Weissman, who studies mRNA vaccines at the University of Pennsylvania and whose lab works with BioNTech. Keep the vaccine at too high a temperature for too long, and these lipid nanoparticles simply degrade. Moderna’s and Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccines have to be shipped frozen at –4 degrees and –94 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Once thawed, Moderna’s vaccine can then last for 14 days at normal fridge temperatures; Pfizer’s, for five days.


much more at the link

Trump Delivered Worst Debate Performance In Modern History

The president incinerated his one opportunity to catch up with Joe Biden in the polls with the worst performance in living memory.


The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was without a doubt the most horrendous in modern history. For those still scarred by the spectacle of Trump stalking Hillary Clinton on stage during their debate in 2016, this came as somewhat of a surprise. But no one should ever doubt Trump’s ability to lower the bar and drag everyone into the hateful sewer of his damaged psyche. Behind in the polls and desperate to claw his way back into the race, Trump’s game plan was to be aggressive with Biden and put him on the defensive. In Trump’s rage addled mind, this meant behaving like a domineering, sociopathic, bully for the entire duration of the debate. He refused to let Biden speak by aggressively interrupting him, attacked and insulted Biden’s family, accused him of being mentally unfit for office, and lied about every topic he was asked to speak about. Like a petulant child, Trump raged at not only Biden, but at bewildered moderator Chris Wallace, who completely lost control of the debate and was unable to reign in the president as he laid waste to the format of the event. Trump had agreed to set rules for his engagement with Biden, that included allowing his opponent to speak without interruption during his allotted time.

But Trump, unable to control his impulses, just shouted over Biden as he tried to make his points. The effect certainly rattled Biden, who it must be said, did not have a great performance last night. Biden was a little shaky, fumbled some of his answers, and looked his age as the furious Trump bore into him relentlessly. But the former Vice President stayed the course, kept his cool, and counterpunched well on occasion. “Will you shut up, man,” Biden even said at one point, speaking on behalf of the entire planet fed up with Trump’s belligerent lying. Biden, to his credit, was particularly effective during the Coronavirus Q and A, where he managed to take complete control of the narrative. He painted Trump as an inept liar who knew the dangers of the disease but refused to tell the public the truth about what he knew. More importantly, Biden took several opportunities to speak directly to the American public, asking them how they were doing during the pandemic and steering the conversation away from Trump’s favorite topic: himself. Biden came across as a decent, honorable man concerned about the welfare of the American people, and dedicated to making life better if he gets into office. While he was unable to stop the sneering Trump from controlling the debate, Biden got his message across and drew an effective contrast between himself and the president: Trump doesn’t care about you, but I do. It was more than enough to win the debate.

Trump had to deliver a breakthrough performance, a once in a lifetime showing to reverse his pathetic polling numbers and give himself a shot in November. But he couldn’t do it. Trump simply doubled down on everything that has made most Americans despise him. From the lying to the name calling and bullying, it was 100% Trump for a grueling two hours. And it failed spectacularly. Even Chris Christie, the dutiful henchman who had helped Trump prep for the debates was aghast after the debate ended. On ABC he was asked whether that had been the debate they prepared for. “No,” said a clearly rattled Christie. “It was too hot. You come in and decide you want to be aggressive, and I think it was the right thing to be aggressive. But that was too hot.” It wasn’t too hot. It was a train wreck, and everyone in Trump’s inner circle knew it. Sean Hannity desperately tried to clean up the damage, but even he struggled. “Some people probably think it was too hot,” he told Donald Trump Jr. “But it was both sides.”

The debate revealed the painful truth about Trump’s presidency and his floundering campaign: it is a fraudulent con. Trump has no policies, no substance, no plan, no ideas, and no strategy to move the country forward. Just more hatred, anger, and divisiveness. Capitalizing on this glaring weakness, Biden reminded voters what was on offer going forward. “Under this president, we have become weaker, sicker, poorer, more divided, and more violent,” he said. As if determined to prove Biden’s accusations right, Trump refused to condemn White Supremacy and sent a message to White Nationalist group the “Proud Boys”, telling them to “stand back and stand by” while people vote. And that summarized the sordid affair. There is a demented fascist in the White House intent on burning everything around him to the ground. Biden’s job going into the debate last night was to let Trump hang himself and present himself as a viable president for the next four years — and he did just that. Biden has to do two more debates in the coming weeks, but they likely won’t make any difference. Trump’s appalling performance means that only the most ardent political junkies will tune in to see what happens. The president basically had one shot to convert remaining independents and moderates, and he blew it in truly spectacular fashion.


Stacey Abrams to guest star in 'black-ish' animated episode


(CNN)Stacey Abrams, the former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, is about to enter the animated world of the Johnson family. Abrams, a former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate and chair of the voting rights advocacy group Fair Fight, is set to lend her voice to the upcoming animated episode of ABC's 'black-ish,'

CNN has learned exclusively. In the episode, which is the the second of two new episodes scheduled to air back-to-back on October 4, Dre (Anthony Anderson) begins to explore local politics and, at one point, seeks some advice from Abrams, the network said.

The two episodes are airing as a one-hour television special and will focus on following the family "as they navigate the upcoming presidential election," a description added. Both episodes will be directed by Matthew A. Cherry, whose animated short film "Hair Love" won an Oscar. Graham Towers & Ben Deeb wrote the animated episode.

The special will set the stage for the official return of 'black-ish' on October 21. This year, which is the show's seventh season, 'black-ish' will tackle current events like the global pandemic and "the movement for social justice and equality," according to ABC.


The First Hershey's Beer Is Finally Getting Released in Bottles

Two of the world's greatest are collaborating... beer and chocolate.


It was almost one year ago to the day that Hershey's announced its first-ever beer, a collaboration with Yuengling. The two big Pennsylvania brands were collaborating for the first time, and it made a whole lot of sense. Unfortunately, that beer was only available in draft form at select bars. That left a lot of chocolate lovers wanting.

On September 29, Yuengling announced another batch of the Hershey's Chocolate Porter is ready to hit palates. However, this time you're going to be able to get it in bottles and take a six-pack home. That, of course, makes a whole lot more sense than draft beer at a time where it's not advisable to spend time inside a bar. Though, you'll still be able to find it on tap at select locations as well.

It was just earlier in September that Yuengling announced a new partnership with Molon Coors that will bring its beers to parts of the US where it doesn't distribute. But that partnership's impacts won't be felt until the second half of 2021. So, for this batch, you'll only be able to find the Hershey's Chocolate Porter in the 22 states where Yuengling normally distributes its beers. (This release only reached 14 states in 2019.) The chocolatey beer will start hitting your favourite beer hubs in late September.


Fred Perry Will Denounce Proud Boys, But The President Won't


Fred Perry is pulling one of its polo shirts in the United States and Canada to break association with the far-right political group, Proud Boys, who have adopted the Black/Yellow/Yellow twin tipped shirt as their unofficial uniform and appropriated the laurel wreath into their logo. The all-male Proud Boys group, founded by VICE media co-founder Gavin McInnes in 2016, have been classified as an "extremist group" by the FBI and as an "alt-right fight club" by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

The Proud Boys are known for their violent clashes with BLM demonstrations. The group's "western chauvinistic" identity often coincides with racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and white nationalist ideologies. Meanwhile, their recruitment process – typically targeting 15-30-year-old suburban white males – includes taking a vow not to masturbate, being repeatedly punched while reciting cereal brands (actually), getting a tattoo, and getting into a fight with an antifascist.

In last night's parodical presidential debate, Trump refused to condemn white supremacy and the actions of right-wing militia in the United States. After a back and forth by moderator Christopher Wallace, Trump singled out the Proud Boys and ordered them to "stand back and stand by" – a message that has now been incorporated into the Proud Boys logo on Parler, a social media app popular with conservatives and Trump supporters. Fred Perry swiftly posted a statement to their website:

To be absolutely clear, if you see any Proud Boys materials or products featuring our Laurel Wreath or any Black/Yellow/Yellow related items, they have absolutely nothing to do with us, and we are working with our lawyers to pursue any unlawful use of our brand. Frankly we can’t put our disapproval in better words than our Chairman did when questioned in 2017: “Fred was the son of a working-class socialist MP who became a world tennis champion at a time when tennis was an elitist sport. He started a business with a Jewish businessman from Eastern Europe. It’s a shame we even have to answer questions like this. No, we don’t support the ideals or the group that you speak of. It is counter to our beliefs and the people we work with,” John Flynn, Fred Perry Chairman 2017.

Head over to Fred Perry to read the statement in full.


Jason Miller is the biggest piece of dogshit Rump spokesperson I have ever seen, and that is saying


Just now on Chuck Toad's show he went full Trump debate stylee. Insanity. Toad, to his credit, tried to punch back, but got steamrollered.

Trump tries to undermine the legitimacy of the election with baseless claims at debate


President Trump made several false claims about the accuracy and integrity of American elections during the first presidential debate on Tuesday night. “This is going to be fraud like you’ve never seen,” Trump said of the upcoming election. Trump offered no real evidence for this assertion, instead throwing out an array of one-off comments about small incidents that were largely examples of mistakes by election workers that represent a minuscule number of votes. “He’s trying to scare people into thinking it’s not going to be legitimate,” Democrat Joe Biden told the debate audience. “He cannot stop you from being able to determine the outcome of this election,” Biden said. “If we get the votes, it’s going to be all over. He’s going to go.”

But Trump also suggested again – as he has repeatedly in recent weeks – that he might not accept the election results. “If I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that,” Trump said. Trump’s untrue statements about voting continue a pattern this year of wild claims he has made about cheating and a rigged election. Ironically, the greatest threat to the election is not widespread or coordinated cheating. Instead it is the disinformation flowing from the country’s own president, according to election experts, including Republicans who have fought legal battles for their party for many years.

“For the first time, the president of the United States is denigrating the credibility of our elections and who the winners are, corroding a pillar of the country and the democracy,” Ben Ginsberg, who led the 2000 election recount effort and is one of the Republican party’s top election lawyers, said recently. FBI Director Christopher Wray said last week that comments about election fraud – like those made by Trump – are a form of “misinformation” and “will contribute over time to a lack of confidence of American voters and citizens in the validity of their vote.”

The president’s behavior is unprecedented in American history and has led to questions about whether he is preparing to excuse a possible loss to Biden or whether this is a more nefarious effort aimed at claiming victory on election night before all mail ballots are counted. The president’s false claims revolved largely around mail ballots. But even here he said Tuesday that his only problem is with “unsolicited” ballots. These are ballots that are sent automatically to all registered voters in a state. “A solicited ballot is OK,” Trump said. Almost every state in the country is sending out solicited ballots. Only nine states and the District of Columbia are sending out unsolicited ballots. None of these states are particularly competitive in the presidential election, and most of them have years of experience with sending out unsolicited ballots and have done so without problem.


Trump’s Repeated False Attacks on Mail-In Ballots


In the past 48 hours, President Donald Trump repeatedly has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, claiming that mail-in voting is a “disaster” and “out of control” and suggesting without evidence that Democrats are going to steal the election. The president repeatedly sows doubt about mail-in voting, echoing what intelligence officials have said is a Russian strategy to undermine public trust in the election.

At a Sept. 23 press briefing, the president said “we’re going to have to see what happens,” when he was asked if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power. “Get rid of the ballots,” he said, and there would be a “very peaceful … continuation” of power. “The ballots are out of control,” he said of mail-in ballots. “You know it. And you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else.” He doubled down the next day, saying mail-in ballots are “a whole big scam” when asked if he would only accept the election results if he wins. “We want to make sure the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be,” he told reporters on Sept. 24. “I don’t know that it can be with this whole situation — unsolicited ballots. They’re unsolicited; millions being sent to everybody. And we’ll see.”

We have been tracking the president’s remarks about mail-in voting. In late July, we wrote a story — “The President’s Trumped-Up Claims of Voter Fraud” — recapping his numerous false, misleading and unsupported claims to date about mail-in ballots. At the time, Trump had suggested the 2020 election should be postponed, claiming mail-in voting this year will result in the “most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.” Since then, the president has ramped up his attacks on mail-in voting on a near-daily basis. His attacks come despite a U.S. intelligence bulletin issued to law enforcement agencies on Sept. 3 warning that Russia wants “to undermine public trust in the electoral process” by “amplifying criticisms of vote-by-mail,” as first reported by ABC News.

At a Sept. 17 hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that “the steady drumbeat of misinformation … will contribute over time to a lack of confidence of American voters and citizens in the validity of their vote.” Here we recap the many stories we have done this year on the president’s false, misleading and unsupported statements about the potential for voter fraud. We also reviewed his statements about mail-in ballots this month and found he has been repeatedly spreading misinformation in particular about foreign governments making up “counterfeit ballots” and Democrats sending out “unsolicited ballots” to rig the election. He also has been repeatedly spreading false information about Nevada, saying he will “win this state easily,” if not for mail-in ballots — even though Trump lost Nevada in 2016 and is trailing in the polls there again this election.

‘Farcical’ Claims about Foreign Counterfeit Ballots..........


Pete-Rough night for the American presidency.Good thing we get to do something about that-right now



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