Local Man Who Pulled Out Has No Intention of Accepting the Consequences

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Local Man (shown above) pulled out earlier today, and has no intention of giving the consequences of his actions a second thought going forward.

Washington, D.C. — Earlier today a Local Man took absolutely zero precautions, nor will take any responsibility for the resulting developments after “pulling out.” Instead he refocused attention later on by commenting on the substantial growth that will occur by pulling out.

“Tremendous, tremendous progress, we’re growing so hard, and we’re going to grow even harder after pulling out”, said the Man in characteristic bluster.

Continuing, he added that he will “begin negotiations to re-enter”, although several nearby seemed skeptical that this was in good faith. According to several sources, there is little interest on either side.

“I promised I would pull out months ago, and I have fulfilled that promise.” 

Despite following through on earlier promises, studies show that pulling out and praying is the least successful method of avoiding disastrous or unintended consequences, both because science exists, and it is quite clear in the Old Testament and theological scholarship that God intended people to be stewards over creation, and co-creators if possible, especially in the areas of the new, living, and thriving, rather than the dead and buried.

When Local Man was asked whether he would offer support just in case predictable consequences did arise, the man responded: “Covfefe! I’ll be dead so the answer is no and it won’t matter.”

This journalist can be reached for comment at {redacted} or {redacted}. 

“Education Is The Key”, Says Politician With No Interest In Solving Societal Problems

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Richard Boone (D-R), speaking in front a podium at the capitol on Wednesday, offered several platitudes about education being critical, which will justify his decades-long inaction and destruction of several policy areas.

Washington, D.C. — In front of hoard of angry constituents, reporters who make five figures and are bizarrely more despised than politicians who make six figures, and several casual passer-bys, Rep. Boone from the state of Fremont, stressed that it was critical for the “next generation to receive a high quality education, and that the children are our future.” Statements like these make Boone, who has represented a midwestern district in the equally midwestern state of Fremont, feel better about his decades-long inaction in the policy areas of health care, energy, the environment, taxes, and jobs. From all appearances, his offering of this olive branch of “education” to constituents that have suffered greatly after the decades long outsourcing and automating of several factories in the district, landed mostly on deaf ears.

Boone, a member of the Democratic-Republican Party and co-chair of the Freedom and Liberty in the Same Sentence Caucus, will most likely be re-elected, with his particular brand of cultural populism that features literature, billboards, and T.V. ads every two years citing his critical work on “stopping the hipster invasion of Fremont.” This type of campaign may especially resonate this year, as Fremont youth have taken to starting bands, sitting at coffee shops, and painting graffiti on sidewalks with phrases like “All You Need Is Love” and “Make Peace, Not War”, rather than working two to three minimum wage service jobs to pay rent.

“There is a real youth crisis today, this generation just doesn’t know the value of hard work”, said local Rep. Boone supporter and sometimes staffer William Carlisle, who is paid handsomely each cycle to more or less drop litter on the ground in the form of “lit drops” that the heavy midwestern wind inevitably blows away into the street. These funds come mostly from pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies to kill health care reform, and from the chamber of commerce to kill increases to the minimum wage, “We’ve gotta re-elect Rep. Boone next fall”, exclaimed Carlisle. “He knows how to keep the hipsters out of Fremont like Jon Snow and the White Walkers.”

Rep. Boone plans to serve 6 or 8 more terms before turning things over to his staffer, who by then at the youthful age of 51, should be very adept at quoting platitudes about educating the next generation to do all of the work that he refuses do to do.

Rep. Boone could not be reached for a quote on this article, and this journalist kindly requests that hate mail sent by his supporters be kept within the realm of legality and respectability. 

This Week on the Interwebs

The Controlled Burn
A lot happened this week, but I keep coming back to the Joker line in The Dark Knight, sometimes people just want to “watch the world burn.” Not much unites the country these days, but one thing nearly everyone under the age of 45 can agree on, the status quo has not been working for some time.

Beginning a new regular-to-semi-regular series on this website, an internet and news of the week round-up that will be graph-laden and told in a very ad-hoc manner. For the article and commentary news round-up, Pat Meacham has you covered.

Depending on your perspective, this week was either the beginning of Watergate Part II (dir. by Oliver Stone, I’m assuming….), or just another week of the “liberal conspiracy media” trying to ruin the Trump agenda. We’re not doing a very good job as a society of “piercing bubbles” so far, although I will continue nonetheless.

Approval 2 (Boomer Division)
We just crossed the 100 days marker not too long ago, here is where Trump stands, and keep in mind this was before the Comey firing. Most importantly, look at the general trend of the erosion of trust and support for Presidents (in line with eroding support for other American institutions) over the years. Post-Watergate I, partisanship was high but then confidence was briefly restored before returning with a vengeance as soon as the boomer generation assumed complete control of all elected branches of government (Fmr. President Clinton and onward).
Approval 1
Yes, President Trump is different than previous times of polarization and partisanship. He is the most polarizing President in the history of polling. This graph is from right after the inauguration. 
Russia GDP Growth Rate
I don’t pay much attention to the particulars of the Russia investigations. I have no doubt in my mind Putin and Russia wanted Trump elected. Why? 7 straight quarters of negative GDP growth. Russia under Putin has not thrived at all, just the opposite. And if our nation emulates their system we will suffer the same fate (minus differences in natural resources, etc.) and even more stagnant growth (more on this later).

….while we’re on the subject of the future of U.S. public policy…

And America
From the Willy Wonka Honest Trailer on YouTube–check it out if you have time. Hilarious and also this…
What Obesity Used to Look Like
More than 1/3 of U.S. adults are obese and 17.5% of children, couple this with the damning statistic of 20% of U.S. children being in poverty (obviously, through no fault of their own), compared to 4.8% for the Netherlands, there is a lot of room for improvement beyond meaningless and mostly symbolic statements like: “the children are our future.” The obesity crisis has gone under-reported in the U.S. media and has been but one of many reasons that there is no easy fix to the U.S. health care system.

Speaking of….

Fate of 18 Midterms on Older Boomers
If you think the impact of the AHCA passing will surely deliver both houses of Congress to the Democratic Party, think again. You’re counting on a demographic who has voted reliably Republican or Democrat for some time. 
Truth
Ain’t this the truth….
The Pre-existing condition
Please tell me again how the “children are our future?” And why did Hillary Clinton not run on ending child poverty? “It’s Time” to do X, Y, and Z would have been a far better appeal than “I’m With Her” or “Stronger Together”, but I digress. All of this assumes the elites of the Democratic Party knew what they were doing.
Math Is Hard For Fox News
Fox News has had cosmic justice enforced on them in abundance lately. Scandal after scandal, but they can still trot out their old reliable trademark of using accurate statistics to incredibly mislead people. Jeez… if only former President Obama had pressed the job creation button on January 21st…

While we’re on the subject of President Obama, the following undermine GOP arguments that he spent too much during his administration.

So it looks like it wasn’t wild spending, but rather something else that has caused the new normal of sluggish growth. It certainly isn’t sluggish for the wealthy and big corporations….ah, the “job creator” class, what an utter myth.

Consumers create jobs for the most part and workers create value. And until even the so-called “capitalists” of this country understand that, we’re going to suffer from stagnant growth because…. the masses are nearly out of money because…. see below.

Distribution of Income During Expansion
The story since the late 70’s has been unequal growth, wages not rising with productivity and inflation, and its starting to catch up with us no matter who is in charge. Why? Because Tom Frank is right–there is no “party of the people” right now and hasn’t been for some time (circa late 70’s, notice a trend here?)

This has led to a distribution that looks like this….

wealth in america
Clearly, something will have to give here.

There are some that will keep banging the drums for the “magic”, but most working people pounding pavement and trying to take care of their families know the truth–the link between effort and reward is gone and has been for some time.

Want to know what’s behind the actual American carnage and why none of 45’s and the far-right to Alt-Right cabal’s policies will work? Because there is a fundamental disconnect between the world that elites inhabit, and organized money protects, and the actual reality of what is going on and has been the trend in American life for some time.

And this is why the most relevant historical force in the 2016 Presidential election was not Donald Trump–but rather it was Bernie Sanders.

He has proven that small dollar donations can break the donor class monopoly of our political system, or at the very least has proven you can put up one hell of a fight and maybe next (demographically speaking) things will break your way. If it is not broken up, it’ll be hard for much of anything to be made “great”again, although I’d very much settle for “good” outcomes at this point.

Indeed, Mr. Norris was right. We are cursed to live (or fortunate to live?) in interesting times. Anyone who has been following developments between the Alt-Right and far-left clashing on college campuses lately, or developments like this can conclude that we are cursed to live in interesting times.

So I keep coming back to the Joker and “watching the world burn.”

There are those who have settled into the world as it is and those (overwhelmingly under 45) who are dreaming of the world as it should be. I think the common thread that binds a lot of millennials, most Gen-X’ers, and younger folks together will be our desire to “burn it down.”

The key difference will be what type of burn. At the outset I showed a “controlled burn” that farmers utilize to help the soil and rotate crops. I believe the controlled burn is far preferable to what the Alt-Right is and wants, which I will call the “moral hazard burn.”

The Moral Hazard Burn
That’s all for now, folks.

Take care of each out there. And stay tuned for Agreeing Loudly and the Margin of Error.

Mark Zuckerberg Practicing Folksiness for Inevitable 2020 and/or 2024 Presidential Election Loss

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, seen here with Mayor Pete Buttigeg, is the subject of many speculative media articles, and is looking forward to making the Democratic Party look foolish in 2020, perhaps botching a second completely winnable election in a row.

Palo Alto, CA — Facebook CEO and future Democratic Party presidential loser Mark Zuckerberg has been busy lately, restructuring Facebook stock to ensure his control even after he plans to sell his stock, and also paving the way for a “leave of absence” in the event of government service. But the most telling sign Mark Zuckerberg plans to lose the 2020 or 2024 Presidential election is the above photo and this article which features videos of Mark, a Harvard drop-out who has become a billionaire getting people to willingly end all last vestiges of privacy in the 21st century, milking cows, riding tractors, talking to factory workers and veterans, and other faux-folksy things that such Presidential losers like Mitt Romney, John Kerry, and Michael Dukakis have done before him (who are all from Massachusetts as well by the way).

After an election cycle where an incredibly out-of-touch with the common people candidate was able to grab defeat from the jaws of victory against a reality T.V. star and professional grifter, the Democratic Party, currently desperately clawing to credibility, integrity, and backbone by hitching its expensive wagon to the citizen energy of the Resistance, Indivisible, and other grassroots organizing movements, is looking forward to nominating Mark Zuckerberg in either 2020 or 2024. It’s donor class is particularly fired up and ready to go! As long as they do not have to door knock and talk to a person.

Professional political liberal Alan Dershowitz, lawyer and current record-holder for the most number of times of publicly threatening to leave the party, is looking forward to fiercely advocating for Mr. Zuckerberg, before secretly voting for a Republican in the fall. Other establishment stalwarts like the 2008 architect and campaign manager for former President Obama, the eternally disappointing since 2014 David Plouffe, is looking forward to guiding the Facebook CEO, who was described in a Vanity Fair puff piece as wanting to be Emperor, to a landslide electoral defeat in either 2020 or 2024, ensuring continued one-party governance with Donald Trump or Mike Pence as head of state.

#CodingAndAlgorithmsWeCanBelieveIn

Conversations from the Ghost of America’s Future Past

America's Future Past
It’s the next night after the 2018 midterms and Carson and Troy recap what we just witnessed….

It’s nine o’clock on a Wednesday night, #HipsterJesus walks into a Brooklyn coffee shop that also serves alcohol at night (because of course they do) and in the corner the camera pans to Carson Starkey and Troy Olson. Carson is nursing a bourbon, and Troy, who had not drank alcohol in eight months, is drinking a Brooklyn Lager and talking about “Joe, Jane, and Union John.” His arms are moving wildly before Union “pounder of pavement” Carson interjects about the 2018 results:

Carson

That was a fine impersonation of the season 2 episode of The West Wing.

Troy

Right. The midterm episode. All that money spent by both sides. Few districts change. Here we are at the end of the road and Dems have barely climbed over the 200 seat mark. The GOP can only deal with 13 defections now…

Carson

Democrats lack a uniform message in Congress, other than restoring what Barry achieved in his first 2 years and refraining from destroying health care.

Troy

So many campaign groups started up in the wake of the ’16 result, so much grift, so few results. My flight to the nonprofit sector was well timed, where we… actually help people out. A foreign concept to investment bankers and real estate financiers and developers and inheritors of extreme comfort.

Carson

The disgruntled citizens… mostly disgruntled and white… are sad that NAFTA still exists. Because Mexicans and The Wall. And WalMart still pays badly. President Trump hasn’t made a deal to fix poverty because the Chamber is busy repealing minimum wage laws.

Troy

But what did we expect? As the Margin of Error pointed out last year, only people that went to Harvard and Yale think Donald Trump is a populist.

Carson

I’d like to think that it’s possible for me to get a job with Sherrod Brown’s presidential campaign as a policy analyst or speech writer. But that’s not certain post-2018. I’m inclined to stay in Minnesota now that Tom Emmer is governor. Too much work to be done here.

Troy

Well it’s good that he won’t have his senate duties to distract him from the campaign trail if he does run now that Senator Josh Mandel is in office. (Troy takes a drink of his lager, then a drink of tea, alternating) At what point did it set in for you that there would be no wave in ’18?

Carson

When Democrats settled on defending Heidi Heitkamp as the least bad option. And she lost. Because that’s what red states mean… tough terrain.

Troy

All those polls showing a generic ballot lead of 10 percent probably hurt. We still won the total ballot by 6 percent but that is not enough in a gerrymandered America.

Carson

We’re still in deep minority position across the states. Republicans outspend Democrats 3 to 1 in the legislatures and governors’ mansions. Which for the GOP, creates an endless pipeline of nutty Sam Brownback-style candidates. Infrastructure being what it is…

Troy

I wish the D-trip heeded our calls to think locally.

Carson

Colin Peterson will assume leadership of a rural think tank designed to “help” Democrats. Mostly to spew nonsense about the importance of the 2nd Amendment and why women are uppity.

Troy

What do you make of the surge in third parties on the left in safer seats? This falls along with my theory that although activism and involvement is at an all-time high, it’s independent and separate from the Democratic establishment, as may have given up on the party. Registration and caucus/convention turnout was down… people seem to be doing what Bernie is doing… a wait and see approach. Neither building the viable third party that is more progressive and populist nor effectively taking over the Democratic Party. Hurry Up….and Wait.

Carson

Well they can’t find regular access to parties, jobs in campaigns or activist groups. I don’t blame them for avoiding the regular channels of political organizing. Lord knows we’re familiar with that. Even if the WFP is a smaller outfit, it’s a platform for ideas. Ones that people believe in.

Troy

Right. I’m relatively convinced that if a neoliberal beats a progressive in the 2020 primary the party is done… sure it’ll limp along for a few more cycles, propelled by boomer lefty outrage… but the numbers will dwindle and so many younger folks will want out. And the resulting aftermath, well if you are well read on political problems in developing countries, if I may use that term here in the way academics and researchers have used it, you’ll know that revolutions are led by under and unemployed professionals and intellectuals. It’ll be fascinating to see neoliberals, Dukes and Earls that had the right last names and believe in the “magic”, let’s call in the Force, against a bunch of Han Solos cynically claiming that “hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster…

Carson

Maybe the residents of Williamsburg will be ready to join the military when Tom Cotton becomes President, if only to revolt and re-enact Les Miserables.

It was getting late and Carson had a plane to catch tomorrow morning at JFK, and a campaign to plan for. It was a foggy night and he walked slowly and carefully… with the magic of Bruce Springsteen in his ear and the words of the late, great Senator Paul Wellstone saying “we all do better when we all do better.” Troy watched from sidewalk and the scene looked not unlike this….

Young Paul Ryan Biopic Scheduled for Release in 2018

itls-can-you-find-14-year-old-paul-ryan-in-11186185
It was in his early years that Paul Ryan learned such immortal lessons like: “mercy is for the weak” and “an enemy deserves no mercy.”

Long before “serious person” Paul Ryan was Speaker of the House of Representatives and tasked with implementing the domestic agenda of the Trump administration, and long before he became a perpetual college sophomore really into Ayn Rand, he received an early education in philosophy, sociology, politics, economics, and especially martial arts at the “Cobra Kai” dojo. It was at this dojo where he learned such valuable lessons like “mercy is for the weak” and “an enemy deserves no mercy.”

Ryan (seen above, left) was an impressionable 15 year old youth when he observed his then God-Emperor Kreese and an older student, Johnny Lawrence, get their rightful title stolen from them and the dojo by East Coast elitist Daniel LaRusso, a transplant from Newark, New Jersey, and his mentor, a man LaRusso called “Mr. Miyagi”, who Ryan much preferred prior to this interaction, back when he was the owner of “Arnold’s Drive In” somewhere in his memories of Wisconsin.

Agreeing Loudly looks forward to reviewing this biopic of Speaker Ryan tentatively titled: Young Paul Ryan.

“The Ties That Bind” – A National Healthcare Act and More

IMG_0417
In light of the spectacular failure of the AHCA, which failed to garner any sort of support, despite being proposed under a one-party state, I’d like to propose what is the only real alternative to the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that is attractive to the public.

There are two truths that I’d like to bring up at the outset that provide context for not just the events of the past week, but also the entire Trump era.

1.) It can be argued that the people of the United States of America lean conservative philosophically, but they most certainly lean progressive, if not outright prefer progressivism, in policy-making and public policy.

2.) Every GOP policy proposal and new law will be an attempt to transfer yet more and more wealth to the richest Americans and corporations, under the auspices of “freedom”, “choice”, “responsibility”, and “effort.”

Earlier in the week on the Mark Zuckerberg machine I made the claim that I could come up with a better health care law in ten minutes. Later on I followed up on it and came up with this (slightly edited and italicized below):

Now that I’ve had ten minutes what I would do is merge federal health care bureaucracy under a Medicare-for-all plan with the option for states to pass and implement their own plan that goes further if they’d like. There would then be a multi-year phasing into period to allow for providers to adjust. The insurance markets would then compete on top of that. They’d have the same adjustment period that providers would have. Single payer would be better for employers, workers, certainly the uninsured, would be a big win for children and young families, and insurance companies would come out the biggest loser. Which I am fine with. States retain their autonomy by being allowed to make their own plan that could supplant but must cover all the parts of the federal (freedom to go further, not less) single payer. The same constitutional arguments made to defend Medicare for over-65 can then be applied to 0 to 65. Healthcare bureaucracy becomes leaner, more efficient, less complex. This along with programs like universal basic income through the social security administration would be the “social vaccine” that the 21st century requires. We can either go in this direction and come together or we’ll continue to be divided, disenfranchised and fail alone.

That’s basically the gist of it. That is the direction that I think the country should go, and the people of the United States of America agree.

Since then, the AHCA or “secret bill” that Speaker Paul Ryan had locked in the capitol basement, and the entire reason for the GOP being so irrationally opposed the ACA (“Obamacare”) for seven years (i.e. ACA is “government” and our plan is “not government”) in the first place, proved to be so historically unpopular with nearly every segment of the U.S. population and members of Congress, that they had to pull it from the house floor this last week. Allan, Carson, and I discussed in greater detail just how revealingly bad the AHCA proposed replacement to the ACA was in the most recent “Margin of Error” episode.

Revealing in the sense that any stated purpose for the bill, whether it be controlling government or private costs, health care coverage, improving health outcomes, or any other conceivable reason the federal government would have to take up passing any sort of health care law, by all objective measures, the proposed bill was a failure. Proving the majority party in Congress and the Trump administration to either be objectively bad at crafting sensible public policy, or just objectively declaring war on more and more sections of the American public. Taken with every other major proposal so far, it is quite clear what the true goal of the Republican Party is and has always been. Systematic deconstruction of government by any means necessary, and transferring that power to select large and already powerful corporations.

When crafting health care legislation, why is it even necessary or relevant to have tax cuts that benefit the very, very wealthy? In a bill that is only 60 pages long, why is it necessary to have 10 pages dedicated to lottery winners potentially on Medicaid? There are nearly more hall of famers that have played CF for the New York Yankees than there are lottery winners on Medicaid. How much money does that even save the government? It’s statistically negligible.

It’s not just health care, lets move to the proposed infrastructure bill. It puts the interests of private companies over the public interest in the form of allowing companies to recoup the return on their investment through fees and tolls. This is the sort of “forced consumerism” that has become more and more popular in GOP policy-making.

This week, the Senate and House repealed necessary FCC rules that protected internet privacy. A massive victory for the telecom industry and just another version of “forced consumerism.” Now more and more content will be directly delivered to your “digital doorstep” asking you to spend more and more money to enrich corporations, the massively rich and powerful, who will then turn around and ensure the political system continues to work for them rather than you. This country, even before the results of the 2016 Election, is at a cross-roads.

We can go the route of the above, more tax giveaways to the rich, more forever war, Gilded Age levels of economic inequality, and “forced consumerism”, or we can endorse “we all do better when we all do better”, recognize “the ties that bind” us all together, and build sustainable communities and locally-based economies that integrate when necessary, all while building a badly needed and necessary social safety net of the 21st century.

The Ties That Bind” us together as a community would have us move toward a universal health care centered around some version of a Medicare-for-all single payer plan. The Ties That Bind would further endorse universal basic income that would learn from the experiments of the Northern European social democracies with that very policy idea right now. One dollar spent on a child in poverty today saves society three to nine dollars when they are an adult.

Furthermore, rather than penalize the largest and most educated cohort in American history through mandated “forced consumerism” while they are already saddled with crushing student debt, stagnant wages and opportunities in comparison to their parents at a similar age, we should stimulate the economy, especially in the area of housing (the fourth largest sector and one of the only sectors of the “real and tangible” economy left) and have some version of a student loan bailout. We have bailed out banks that are “too big to fail” time, and time again, it is time to bail out people too. People are the reason for the government to exist in the first place, not big business.

A single payer Medicare-for-All system. It’s what the majority of the American people want. And if we are to continue to be a democracy at all it’s time for American policy-makers and members of Congress to respect the will of the people. Deal with it, hippies and yuppies.

The Greater Recession: Boomers and the 401(k) Cash-In

birth-rates
“Those born between roughly 1946 and 1964, are now 52 to 70 years old. Starting in 2015, more money is coming out of the 401K retirement market than will ever be going in for quite some time.”                                                                               Source for Birth Rate Graph: Wikipedia 

Months ago during the Presidential primary election, during the peak of this nascent website’s readership (so far, perhaps forever), I wrote about what could be appropriately called the “Greater Recession.” It’s detailed focus was on the millennial generation (those born between circa 1980/81 and 1998 or so) and housing and the role that will play in contributing to the next recession. At the end I teased that housing will not be the chief driving force however behind the next recession, rather it will be the fact that baby boomers, retiring en-masse starting a few years ago, will be cashing in their 401K’s and this outflow will outpace the money that is going into retirement markets. What sounds alarmist now and overly complicated will sound stupidly simple when history is written: retirement accounts need money in them. Duh.

In the wake of the silliest U.S. Presidential Election and national conversation on record and for a country whose youngest working generation and middle class is still reeling from the previous Great Recession, it’s completely understandable why no one wants to hear or read about the next one (don’t worry, they won’t). But demographics are still destiny.

They are a chief driving reason Italy cannot grow more than 1 percent annually because Italy cannot replace its own population. Birth rates. If it were not for their relatively more modern and diversified economies, France and Spain would suffer from similar systemic growth problems because most of Europe is suffering from historically low birth rates. The United States has its own birth rate crisis too, but at the other end of the spectrum. The post-World War II baby boom from 1946 to roughly 1964.

**********

As of mid-2015 withdrawals from 401K plans exceed new contributions, a shift that could shake up the U.S. retirement industry and a trend that will continue well into the next decade and perhaps beyond. Three to four million baby boomers will be retiring every year between now and 2020, and it is expected to accelerate beyond that. The direct result will be on asset management firms and the retirement portion of investment banks being squeezed of large amounts of money because they rely on fees charged to employers and investors as their chief profit engine. Before I move on, let’s go through a quick primer on the history of 401Ks.

401K retirement plans came into wide usage in the 1980s as more companies embraced them as a replacement to their more costly pension fund counterpart. In other words, 401Ks are the privatization of pension plans. Along with the general erosion of big labor and private (as well as some public) sector unions in the U.S., this trend has contributed to declining and stagnant middle and working class incomes. The financial capitalism model that rose in the United States in this decade coincides with globalization ascendent generally, with the post-War political and economic consensus fading into history. Pensions were out. Privatization was in. The prevalence of 401K plans coincide with the major working years of the baby boomer generation, the largest cohort in American history until millennials.

A 401K bubble, unlike the housing bubble, will be far more fundamental than Senator McCain could ever conceive of because it will be demographically and systemically driven. We have seen so many cracks in globalization’s inevitability this past year, whether it is Brexit, the rise of nationalism generally, or the entire 2016 Presidential Election cycle. The final nail in the coffin to its inevitability may very well be another recession, which will no doubt have global implications as well because nearly everything does now. If we’ve learned anything since 2007-09 it’s that globalization and interdependence is failing, and will likely keep failing, rightly or wrongly. We have also learned that nation-states still matter and they matter the most. Rising nationalism that borders on jingoism and xenophobia in some quarters is frightening to anyone who has read history, but at the most basic level–the primacy and importance of national leadership and its ability to control and secure national interests is still incredibly relevant. Much of this development is political and populist in nature, and often very much to the chagrin of the global system, especially those in the financial community.

It has been said, and I think this is still the best case for globalization (although slipping a bit each year), that countries that trade together and are dependent on one another will not fight each other. A free trade and globalized world order is a peaceful world. With each passing year though, this gets harder and harder to believe. When Iraqi civilian casualties are 1/4th the total of the holocaust, you know instinctively that you are not living in a more peaceful world. Rather, you are merely avoiding the most dangerous parts of the world.

**********

In fairness to those who would call this alarmist thinking, there are three economic developments and one political, that could at the very least, stem the tide. Starting with the most unlikely to succeed.

1. Millennials putting enough money into their own retirements (very unlikely).

Despite the demographic ability to do it, millennials are squeezed out of good paying jobs still and even if they obtain those jobs (a big “if”), significant student loan debt and other costs will limit our ability to save for retirement in the years to come.

 

2. Asset management firms reinvesting a good potion of boomer-held wealth back into the market (more likely).

This may not be enough either though. Aging costs money and boomers are not nearly as wealthy as we all think they are. After all, their entire working lives coincide with America going from an FDR / New Deal / “We take care of our own” – model to a Reagan / “trickle-down economics” / financial capitalism – model.

3. Wall Street downsizing (most likely, already happening). 

 

An interesting facet of the Greater Recession could very well be the great irony: just as the Great Recession could be characterized as Wall Street driving an economic recession that left millennials with few paying jobs, the Greater Recession could be characterized by millennials lacking the assets, paying jobs, and income to prevent an economic recession that will in turn, leave many on Wall Street without their high-paying jobs.

And then there is the political solution.

We all saw how swiftly both parties acted in the wake of the global financial meltdown in 2008. But even in success, we also saw how readily evident it was that the United States has a public policy that is so incredibly friendly to wealthy elites and corporations that more and more publications are taking to calling the United States an oligarchy. Furthermore, political gridlock in the Obama years has made another swift action in response to an economic crisis harder to imagine. It’s far more likely any political response is an incredibly partisan one, carried out by a Republican Party in complete control of the United States government after 2020.

Therefore it’s far more likely that social insurance programs get privatized due to the political winds of the time, bad luck, and poor party-building and planning by the Democratic Party, which will be the chief purpose of the third and final part of the Greater Recession article series. 

 

Corruption, Overreaction, and Fact-Free Politics at the New York State Senate

by Troy M. Olson

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Jay Gould, political cartoon retrieved at wikipedia.com and in the Public Domain.

In our great country, there are three main regions: New York City, Los Angeles, and the Midwest. Politically speaking, if you value vaguely responsive, effective, and non-corrupt governance, you’ll want to be somewhere in the Midwest, or as the “Agreeing Loudly” podcast now calls it—Central Earth.

I grew up in the Midwest, the part of the Midwest that in comparison to many other states, has relatively good governance and relatively active citizen populace. In my home state of Minnesota, voter turnout and citizen participation is routinely the highest or close to the highest in the United States. I have been spoiled.

In so many ways, I love the new city and state I am a resident of, but politics are not one of those reasons. As a (mostly) partisan Democrat this may come as a shock to some of you since I am now living in a deep blue state, having moved from a lighter blue state.

However, New York State and City politics have a long history of corruption, kickbacks, and shady business deals. The most notorious example being the subject of the above cartoon, Jay Gould. Gould was a first Gilded Age-era railroad developer and speculator who was so successful with his politico to corporate “grift machine” that he became the 9th richest American of all-time adjusted for inflation. 

Perhaps you’ll recall the “Tammany Hall” political ring portrayed in Martin Scorsese’s 2002 film “Gangs of New York.” While Gould did not feature in this fictional story inspired by true events, his political contact and professional “grift machine”-hack friend Boss Tweed, the head of the “Tammany Hall” political ring, was in the film. Perhaps you’ll recall him handing “vote Tammany” flyers out to the Irish immigrants as they were coming to New York City in droves during the 1840s to 1860s. Tweed’s main political opponent in the film is portrayed excellently by Daniel Day Lewis as William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting heading up the nativist faction of New York politics. Xenophobia or professional “grift machine” robber barons? Not very good options and probably not what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he envisioned a nation of enlightened citizens. However, this story is repeating itself in New York politics today.

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The High Price of Phantom Development

By Tom Goldstein

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Last August, after little discussion and no opportunity for public input, the Saint Paul City Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to support the construction of a professional soccer stadium in St. Paul on the old Bus Barn site in the Midway. The resolution, sponsored by City Council President Russ Stark, pledged to permanently exempt that site from property taxes so long as the city has “strong, specific evidence that the stadium and public infrastructure investments will help catalyze additional investments on the Midway Shopping Center site consistent with the Snelling Station Area Plan.”

Since that time, the city’s effort to gather that strong, specific evidence has consisted of presentations by city staff and Minnesota United FC owner Bill McGuire to the Mayor’s hand-picked Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC). The two “open houses” on the proposed soccer stadium have limited public participation to small-group breakout sessions, ensuring that any concerns about the stadium, or opposition to it, would not be voiced before a larger audience.

The CAC has conducted something akin to a “visioning” process for the Midway site at bi-monthly meetings since late December, but those discussions have been largely hypothetical because no master plan was forthcoming from the team or RK Midway, the owner of the adjacent and long-neglected Midway Center. Then, in late February, the team and R.K. Midway, produced attractive artist renderings of what the site could look like—provided RK Midway can round up the estimated $450 million for its end of the project.

Though the daily newspapers treated the artist sketches as evidence that a genuine master plan is falling into place, the only progress R.K. Midway has made to date is “talking quietly with some prospective developers,” according to an article in the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal. And as RK Midway’s Rick Birdoff himself acknowledged in the same article, there is “no timeline for when the area around the stadium would be developed” and any future development would be “based on market demand.”

In other words, like many grand visions—remember Jerry Trooien’s ill-fated $1 billion “Bridges of St. Paul” entertainment complex planned for the West Side Flats a decade ago?—what might be possible for the Midway is nothing more than a concept. The only commitment Birdoff has is from McGuire to build a soccer stadium primarily on land owned by the Metropolitan Council and leased to the city. And even that deal hinges on approval from the Minnesota Legislature to permanently exempt the site from property taxes and waive all sales taxes on construction materials.

No matter. The entirely speculative redevelopment vision was enough evidence for the City Council to approve—over the opposition of council members Dan Bostrom and Jane Prince—the expenditure of $18.4 million in infrastructure improvements around the proposed stadium.

For those familiar with how St. Paul government has operated for the past decade under Mayor Chris Coleman, this outcome should come as no surprise. Like other major projects for which the City Council has showed no interest in conducting its own due diligence or holding public hearings (e.g., approval of the $65 million Saints ballpark and last year’s 10-year cable franchise renewal with Comcast), the soccer stadium infrastructure giveaway was limited to a mere 15 minutes of opposing testimony before the council voted.

Although 30 years of economic studies have definitively shown that professional stadiums at most simply shift spending patterns around rather than spur bona fide development, the majority of the City Council is happy to throw the dice on yet another stadium project. As Stark acknowledged at the hearing: “it’s true we don’t have a specific proposal in front of us for what that additional investment will look like…only the potential for a ‘win-win’ of private investment.”

Ward 3 City Council member Chris Tolbert, who represents Highland Park, talked about the $18.4 million being a “a great investment in a neighborhood that will benefit all of our neighborhoods.” If it’s such a great investment, why hasn’t Tolbert pushed for the soccer stadium to be located on the Ford Plant site where it would occupy only a small portion of the land? We all know why: Highland Park neighbors would be in an uproar over traffic and parking issues, not to mention the prospect of devoting a prime piece of real estate to a soccer stadium.

But hey, it’s just the Midway, where no attempt has been made to gauge neighborhood sentiment beyond anecdotal testimony from soccer fans and business groups. Mayor Coleman assures us that 50 percent of fans will be taking public transportation to the stadium, a claim he has pulled wholly out of thin air.

The council was willing to support the stadium project even though no transportation or parking studies have been completed. Those who live in close proximity to the stadium know exactly what that means: They’ll have the pleasure of hosting the traffic and noise because the city has no plans for additional parking beyond a VIP lot that the city will be providing tax-free to the team.

City Council member Dai Thao, in whose Ward 1 the stadium would be built, believes that “people are smart enough to know this is a good deal” and that somehow a soccer stadium will address the 32 percent unemployment rate among teenagers. He praised former Ward 4 City Council member Jay Benanav and his former aide Prince for their efforts 15 years ago to lure Allina’s corporate campus to the Midway, citing the stadium as somehow the culmination of those efforts.

What Thao failed to mention is that Allina ended up relocating to South Minneapolis, where its presence has stabilized a crime-ridden neighborhood and helped turn the Midtown Global Market into a thriving hub of ethnic food establishments—the very thing that would have been ideal for the culturally diverse Midway area.

As council member Prince pointed out in her comments, the city created an “artificial deadline for a complex deal . . . before any serious expression of developer interest in the RK Midway site . . . and before independent analysis of this deal could be completed to guide against unintended consequences . . . including no estimates of public costs of plans for the northern half of Midway site.”

Of course, there is at least a sliver of a silver lining in this project—knowing that any environmental remediation for the site will be handled by the St. Paul Port Authority. That’s the same entity that acquired and demolished the Gillette Building to make way for the Saints ballpark.

Unfortunately, that decision resulted in a $7 million cost overrun because of a failure to include a standard clause in the purchase agreement to protect the city from any liability for the contaminated soil that everyone involved with the project knew existed.

You can’t make this stuff up. Even in St. Paul.

Tom Goldstein is a resident of the Hamline-Midway neighborhood, a lawyer and former St. Paul School Board member. He was a candidate for the City Council in St. Paul’s Ward 4 last fall.