Social Criticism

Social Criticism


Coronavirus Stretches America to the Limit

March 29th, 2020

I took a much-needed break from the media, politicians, and the disease COVID-19 last week. It felt pretty good! Perhaps because I’m lucky, because I chose not to have children, because I work from home, and because of the house my wife and I occupy, I can pull off “unplugging” from the Internet, phone, and cable news (mostly) for four or five straight days. I told my wife, “If we get a shelter-in-place order, hopefully you find out, because I won’t!” I was listening to the radio, watching movies and inane TV, reading, going to the gym (when it was still open), volunteering for Meals on Wheels, and so on. Gone was the “the sky is falling!” feeling that results from watching my wealth manager, whom I pay 1% of my stock assets to every year, having chose stocks that lost 30% in value in twenty days, hearing Donald Trump speak, and thinking of what the virus is doing to Italy and Spain. Now that I’m back, I feel like I’m back up on the cross, not only enduring raw facts about the disease, but all manner of bullshit from the land that invented steel-cage wrestling matches, Cheese-Puffs, and The Apprentice. Here are ten examples on my mind today:

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A New New Deal for the New Millennium

a new new deal March 21st, 2020

As of this writing, the economy—as well as society in many other ways— is melting down. The coronavirus is the pandemic we have long-feared. We are unfortunately seeing the chickens come home to roost in regard to things such as infrastructure neglect, economic insecurity, wealth disparities not seen since 1928, and a government that has been pared down by decades of misinformation campaigns, tax cuts, misplaced priorities, and demagogues in blue suits. It is a very hard time for America. In this blog, I go through a little historical perspective and then call for a major change in the very fabric of American society: a new New Deal for the new millennium.

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Trump Faces Demanding Test of Responsibility and Prudence

Trump February 28th, 2020

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 10% of its value this week, probably two or three trillion dollars of wealth evaporated. Now, I think that the stock market is a foolish “bet” but I do have all of my retirement income tied up in it (for some complicated reasons I shouldn’t get into). I feel this very keenly since I lost $100,000 in the time it took my orchid to put out a flower. However, now we know what is causing the global contraction and the loss of profit. Commentator Joe Scarborough talked of the market usually as being “like witchcraft” – capricious – but there is a clear cause for all this volatility and fear: Supply chains have been shattered. Conferences being cancelled. “This terrifies investors,” he said. It’s much about loss of profits and uncertainty – will this slow-moving and hard-to-contain disease last for longer than 6 or 9 months? Scarborough said, “the snowball is just starting to roll down the hill.” I think the major reason America is in jeopardy is that Donald Trump leading America during a major crisis. This is more or less the chickens coming home to roost when it comes to Republicans in power, though. At bottom, this crisis is both an opportunity and a danger, one in which Trump faces a demanding test of his responsibility and prudence. It is about wisdom and virtue and character. Don’t hold your breath. 

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A Millennial’s Political View of America

political February 24th, 2020

Millennial’s typically don’t have much political power. Whether this is because the “old guard” of mostly “baby boomers” is slow to relinquish control, or “Gen X’ers” are ahead of Millennials in the slow-to-change power structure is not clear to me. It’s becoming increasingly clear, though, that the old needs to make way for the new. I know, it causes the grey-haired, well-heeled set heartburn to think of letting a new generation of Americans take a shot at holding political power, but let’s face it: we’re not in a great position in 2020. Some would say we are looking at the mid- to final-stages of a long, grueling decline from cultural and ideological dominance of the world. From China to climate change to big money granting political power, the future is not necessarily going to be brighter than our past. And this might be the first time since maybe 1929-1945 that Americans have felt this way. Certainly, we have come a long way from union jobs, putting a man on the moon, virtually inventing the Internet, and little national debt! What follows is a personal political philosophy I think is characteristic of Millennials, those who were born in approximately 1990 to 2000. Think of it as a possible answer if I were to have asked a 25-year-old what they think of the United States, “socialism”, why they like Bernie Sanders more often than not, and where they see us going in the short term: 

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Political Extremism: The Authoritarian Voter

February 21st, 2020

Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tend to be the poster children of political extremism if you ask a partisan from the Right. You hear this repeatedly on Fox News — these are their main bogeymen/women. These hard-working patriots will be called frauds, hypocrites, radicals, Socialists (of the Communistic stripe, that is), traitors, and so on. I don’t want to make a defense of those on the far end of the political Left in this country, but I will in this blog highlight a dangerous style of thinking that is the garden of political extremism when paired with political power or demagoguery: the authoritarian mindset. 

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Progressive Economics: Bernstein & Herman (V&E-4)

progressive economics February 19th, 2020

Unless you’re quite wealthy, you probably feel an economic pinch— a job that’s not keeping pace, a fair amount of debt, insecurity about Social Security. The economic priorities of the Bush administration and Congress are fairly plain to see; the road to fiscal propriety in a more progressive America is not rocket science— it comes down to priorities and discipline. I’m happy to speak with two guests today who have decades of combined experience watching the economy, the media, and the rest of the factors that support it. Thank you for listening; we have to take a quick break, but when I return I will tell you about Jared Bernstein, Ph.D. and, then at the bottom of the hour, I will be speaking with Professor Edward Herman.

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Moral Dilemmas and Moral Hypocrisy: Politics in 2020

hypocrisy February 7th, 2020

Moral hypocrisy – basically making an exception of oneself when it comes to behavior that is wrong – is deeply embedded in political conservative ideology, in my opinion. In a written piece entitled “Why we are all moral hypocrites – and what we can do about it”, researcher Jared Piazza, who looked into morality, highlights the following: “In one study, we had people consider which traits they rate highest in people who occupied different roles in their life – from staff at the grocery counter to teachers, judges and parents. Moral traits, such as being honest, fair and trustworthy, were valued more than other traits, such as being sociable or intelligent, across these roles. We have also found that people with a moral failing are typically seen in a more negative light than people lacking other traits.” In this blog, I wish to think about politics in light of moral hypocrisy, inconsistency, bias, and a crass kind of moral reasoning that, not surprisingly, can be called quid pro quo.

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Critiques of Capitalism (Part 1)

critiques of capitalism January 30th, 2020

This blog is based on a paper entitled: Critiques of Capitalism. It is one of five parts in a series that takes a long, hard look at the economic system we have in modern America. Whether it goes by the descriptor free-market capitalism, laissez-faire capitalism, neoliberalism, classical liberalism, libertarian economic philosophy,  or its illegitimate children – crony capitalism, supply-side economics, or trickle-down economics – the economic theory that America is based on has a long, significant, storied past. Here is the introduction to the paper, Critiques of Capitalism:

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What Do We Deserve? Moral Desert & Entitlement

moral desert January 21st, 2020

What does a person – let’s confine it to Americans in this blog – deserve? In philosophy, it is termed moral dessert. That is, as a member of society, what rights does one have to goods and benefits and opportunities? Contrast dessert (sometimes spelled desert) with entitlement – the rights one has based on law, contracts, and agreements. In this piece, I want to dilate on this topic, and to that end, will share a brief discussion a friend and I had. You may not be surprised to learn that I take a generally liberal position, and my friend, a fairly libertarian one. I am more likely to see, optimistically, that people deserve opportunity, chances, and help from society at large (i.e., the institutions of government and associated social welfare provisions). You can expect, of course, to see apt quotations brought to bear on the dialogue.

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Realpolitik: The “Unwisdom” of Assassinating an Iranian General

realpolitik January 6th, 2020

Iran is a “bad actor”, I am completely up-front about. The arch-villain Solemani, whom Trump had assassinated a few days ago, was indeed a rotten apple. This is coming from a Jewish-American who has paid a fair amount of attention to politics, geopolitics, and war in the last 25 years. This blog is about the utter unwisdom of poking a bear in the eye for what amounts to no clear, justifiable reason. I don’t exactly consider myself a “dove”, but I certainly am skeptical of Republicans hatching Middle East operations (to be read in the cadence of “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts“).

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