Citizens United and Twelve Years of Unjustified Resentment

Citizens United and Twelve Years of Unjustified Resentment

It was 12 years ago this week that the Supreme Court handed down it’s notable, even infamous ruling in Citizens United v  Federal Elections Commission. Even after 12 years those who vilify the case are completely unable to accurately describe the legal questions at play, the Court’s primary holding, or what effect this decision has had in any applicable area of law or politics.

What was the Citizens United case was about? Well, the organization Citizens United challenged a Federal Elections Commission violation they were hit with. What FEC regulation did they violate? Did they bribe a politician? Did they give donations without disclosing them? Were they spending money that originally came from foreign governments? No, Citizens United got in trouble for showing a movie.

That’s right, “Hillary: The Movie” was a 2008 political documentary produced by the nonprofit organization. The movie was offered as an on-demand video on cable before the 2008 Democratic primaries and therefore it was considered electioneering. And the money that was spent on the film qualified as an independent expenditure. According to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, or McCain-Feingold, a corporation, including a nonprofit corporation, cannot advocate for or against a candidate running for office 30 days prior to a primary election, or 60 days prior to a general election. So under this law, a group of people needed the government’s permission regarding whether or not they could show a film critical of Hillary Clinton. That’s the law that the Citizens United case nullified and Citizens United is the case seemingly everyone on the left seeks to overturn.

Many of you likely didn’t know those details. Most people don’t. It’s one of the most misunderstood things in all of American politics. Most people think that this Court decision established that money is speech and that corporations are people. Amazingly enough, those two specific phrases that everyone associates with the case never actually appeared in either the decision or the dissent. Second of all, neither the concept of corporate personhood nor the connection between money and speech were ever disputed by either party to the case.

Most commenters, though not all, grounded their opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling in two rather absolute principles; (1) corporations are not persons and therefore have no First Amendment or free speech rights and (2) money is not speech and therefore restrictions on how money is spent cannot violate the First Amendment’s free speech clause. What makes those arguments so bizarre is that none of the nine justices, including the four dissenting justices, argue either of those propositions or believe them. To the contrary, all nine justices, including the four in the dissent, agree that corporations do have First Amendment rights and that restricting how money can be spent in pursuit of political advocacy does trigger First Amendment protections. As Justice John Paul Stevens who wrote the dissent says,

“Of course, speech does not fall entirely outside of the protection of the First Amendment merely because it comes from a corporation and no one suggests the contrary.”

Justice Stevens also wrote, “that even though the expenditures at issue were subject to First Amendment scrutiny, these restrictions on these expenditures were justified by compelling state interest.” In other words, Stevens believes that spending money on speech is covered under the First Amendment. Congress just has an interest in regulating it in some situations.

You see, the legal concept of corporate personhood goes back hundreds of years. Remember, a corporation legally speaking is just a group of people. Yes, it includes large, multinational for-profit corporations like Walmart and Exxon Mobil. But it also includes labor unions, nonprofit corporations like the ACLU, (which endorsed the Citizens United decision), and the Libertarian Institute itself is a 501(c)(3) that benefits from the First Amendment protections of this case—as well as small, limited liability corporations.

Granting these entities constitutional rights is simply predicated on the idea that individuals don’t sacrifice any of their civil liberties when they form into groups. So, to pose a simple question to all those who are against Citizens United and wish to see it overturned—and anyone who claims that since corporations are not persons, they have no rights under the Constitution—do you believe the FBI has the right to enter and search the offices of the ACLU without probable cause or warrants and seize whatever they want? Do they have the right to do that to the offices of labor unions? How about your local business on the corner which is incorporated? The only thing stopping them from doing that is the Fourth Amendment if you believe that corporations have no constitutional rights, because they’re not persons. What possible objection could you voice to Congress empowering the FBI to do these things? Can they seize the property, the buildings, cars, and bank accounts of those entities without due process or just compensation? If you believe that corporations have no constitutional rights, what possible constitutional objection could you have to such laws and actions?

Now to the point of money and speech. This is just the idea that engaging in speech in any meaningful way (anything more sophisticated than standing on the street corner and yelling) costs money, therefore regulations on the money somebody can spend on speaking is regulating speech by proxy. Think about it; printing a newspaper costs money, hosting an online news show costs money, placing a television ad costs money and so forth.

Regulating the amount of money someone can spend, where they can get that money, when they can spend it, and where they can spend it undoubtedly jeopardizes the speech itself. All nine justices of the Supreme Court at the time agreed. This actually goes back to the 1976 Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo.

Here, the majority ruled that limits on expenditures are necessarily at odds with the First Amendment because restrictions on spending for political communication necessarily reduces the quantity of that expression. The funny thing is, the Citizens United critics acknowledge this. So for Senator Bernie Sanders or Justice Democrats this is actually part of the point of their campaign finance efforts. In their understanding, if money is speech then the more money you have, the more speech you have. And if corporations are people, people who have a lot more money than you or I (ie corporations) have a lot more speech than the rest of us.

They think that it’s unfair that some candidates can purchase more advertisements than others and that needs to be corrected in Citizens United. The dissenting justices never said that money isn’t speech. What they did argue is that Congress had a compelling state interest in regulating it on the grounds of preventing corruption. So does this money in the system cause corruption? That’s what critics emphasized, arguing the Court’s ruling will produce very bad outcomes, primarily the exacerbation of corporate influence on the republic. Even if that is true, it’s not really relevant. Either the First Amendment allows these speech restrictions or it doesn’t. In general, a law that violates the Constitution can’t be upheld because the law produces good outcomes, or because its invalidation would produce bad outcomes.

Many think that America is too far gone in terms of corporate control of politics. I think it’s a very overrated problem. But it is a problem. And our current campaign finance regime contributes to that problem. But that’s not relevant to the speech question. We also have racism in this country. And that’s a problem too, and allowing the Ku Klux Klan to hold one of their stupid rallies contributes to that problem. That doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to hold it, and invoking the state interest isn’t really persuasive either. Virtually anything can be justified by that rationale. And that argument has been used to curtail civil liberties in other contexts. So when people talk about limiting independent expenditures, they’re actually talking about limiting your ability to engage in political advocacy.

Citizens United simply doesn’t stand for what many people say it does. Their erroneous lamentations are well characterized by President Obama’s famous statement during his 2010 State of the Union Address:

“The Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates of special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections.”

In that one sentence, the former law professor made four errors that are all too common.

First, Citizens United didn’t reverse a century of law. The president was referring to the Tillman Act of 1907, which banned corporate donations to campaigns. Such donations are still banned. Instead, the decision overturned a 1990 precedent that upheld a ban on independent spending by corporations. That 1990 ruling, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, was the only time the court allowed a restriction on political speech for a reason other than the need to prevent corruption.

Second, the “floodgates” point depends on how you define those terms. In modern times, nearly every election cycle has seen an increase in political spending, but there’s no indication that there’s a significant change in corporate spending. And the rules affecting independent spending by wealthy individuals, who are spending more, haven’t changed at all.

Indeed, much of the corporate influence peddling in Washington that has reformers concerned has nothing to do with campaign spending. Most corporations spend far more on lobbying lawmakers already in Washington than they do in political spending to choose which politicians come to Washington.

Third, Citizens United said nothing about restrictions on foreign spending in our political campaigns. In 2012, the Supreme Court summarily upheld just such restrictions.

Fourth, while independent spending on elections now has few limits, candidates and parties aren’t so lucky. Even last year’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, which struck down aggregate—not per‐candidate—contribution limits, only affected the relatively few bigwigs (about 600 in the 2012 cycle) who had hit the $123,200 cap. The amount that an individual can give to a single campaign remains untouched.

And so, if you’re concerned about the money spent on elections—though Americans spend more on Halloween—the problem isn’t with big corporate players. Exxon, Halliburton, and all these “evil” companies (or even “good” ones) aren’t suddenly dominating the conversation. They spend little on political ads because they don’t want to alienate half of their customers.

On the other hand, smaller players now get to speak freely: groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business, Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Rifle Association. Even if we accept “leveling the playing field” as a proper basis for regulation, the freeing of associational speech achieves that goal.

People don’t lose rights when they get together, be it in unions, advocacy groups, private clubs, for‐profit enterprises or any other group.

By removing limits on independent political speech—spending by people unconnected to candidates and parties—Citizens United weakened the government’s control of who can speak, how much, and on what subject. That’s a good thing.

In Ukraine, Biden Reaps What He Sowed

In Ukraine, Biden Reaps What He Sowed

Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell is given credit for popularizing the “Pottery Barn” rule of foreign policy. Though he denies using that exact phrase, in arguing against what became the disastrous 2003 U.S. attack on Iraq Powell made the point that, as in Pottery Barn, “if you break it, you own it.”

Bush and his neocons—ironically with the help of Colin Powell himself—did indeed break Iraq and the American people as a result “owned” Iraq for the subsequent 22 years (and counting). It was an idiotic war and, as the late former NSA chief Gen. Bill Odom predicted, turned out to be “the greatest strategic disaster in American history.”

Attacking and destroying Iraq—and executing its leader—not only had no value in any conceivable manner to the United States, it had negative value. In taking responsibility for Iraq’s future, the U.S. government obligated the American people to pick up the tab for a million ransacked Pottery Barns.

There was no way out. Only constant maneuvering and manipulation to desperately demonstrate the impossible—that the move had any value or even made any sense.

So it is with Ukraine. In 2014 the Obama/Biden Administration managed to finish what Bush’s neocons started a decade before. With the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Ukrainian government that year, the U.S. came to “own” what no one in their right mind would ever seek: an economic basket case of a country with a political/business class whose corruption is the stuff of legend.

Rather than admit what a colossal blunder the whole thing had been, the U.S. foreign policy establishment doubled down.

“Oh, this might be a neat tool to overthrow our own election: let’s pretend Trump is Putin’s agent!”

In fact Trump was impeached because a certain Col. Alexander Vindman—himself of Ukrainian origin and doing the bidding of a Ukrainian government installed by Washington—solemnly testified to Adam Schiff and his Democrat colleagues in charge of the House that Trump was clearly Putin’s puppet because his lack of enthusiasm for continuing to “own” Ukraine went against “the Inter-Agency Consensus.”

We “own” Ukraine and there is no way back—at least if the U.S. foreign policy establishment has its way.

That is why our hapless State Department today continues to peddle the fiction that Russia is about to invade – and thus “own”—Ukraine. U.S. foreign policy is one of projection: accuse your rivals of doing what you yourself are doing. No sane country would want to “own” Ukraine. Except the Beltway Think Tank class, thoroughly infused with military-industrial complex money.

That is why the U.S. government, though its Embassy in Kiev, is bragging about the arrival of $200 million in lethal aid, all pointed directly at Russia.

That is why the U.S. State Department is maintaining the fiction that Russia is about to launch a ground war to occupy Ukraine by dramatically announcing an “evacuation” of all “non-essential personnel” from its Embassy in Kiev.

It’s just too bad that we don’t share the opinion of who are really “non-essential” State Department personnel in Kiev: the last person out could be asked to turn off the lights.

By overthrowing an elected government in Kiev in 2014, the U.S. government disenfranchised millions of voters in eastern Ukraine who voted for the overthrown president. Those voters unsurprisingly came to view the U.S.-installed regime as illegitimate and sought self-rule under the concept of self-determination. As ethnic Russians, many of these successfully sought Russian passports.

Russia has been clear for a long time about Ukraine: it will not allow an armed invasion of eastern Ukraine that would result in the deaths of thousands of Russian citizens. Were the shoe on the other foot, the U.S.—and any country—could be expected to react the same way.

The U.S. is nearly the last country on earth that still holds to the WWII-era concept of war for territorial gain. Russia wants to “own” Ukraine like most people want to “own” a 2003 Saturn. That is why despite neocon/neo-liberal hype, magnified by the lock-step U.S. media, Russia is not about to invade Ukraine.

This fantasy is being pushed by those who desperately need to continue to gin up enthusiasm for a thoroughly idiotic and counterproductive imperial enterprise.

Biden while vice president sowed the regime change winds in Ukraine. Now his inept Administration will reap the whirlwind of that continuing train wreck and eventual dissolution of the country. No matter what Antony Blinken peddles to the contrary.

Even the comedian Zelensky knows this is a really bad joke.

This article was originally featured at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity and is republished with permission.

The War Over Your Mind

The War Over Your Mind

Attention is the new currency.

This isn’t an original thought. For decades there has been competition for your mind and attention on a multitude of fronts. With the popularity of social media and the twenty-four-hour news cycle the efforts have only accelerated.

The speed at which information travels today is exhausting. Information overload is a real thing, and everyone is feeling it.

The other day, a young man approached me and said, “Man, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I used to have so much energy, but ever since COVID I feel so tired all the time.”

At twenty-five years old, he should be hitting his prime, but instead he’s burdened by the weight of the ever-changing narratives, lies, and gaslighting coming at him from every direction.

Even as I sit here, I know the message I wish to convey, but my mind is a jumbled mess of information that is peripherally relevant to the burdens of the modern age.

How does one discern what to pay attention to and what to ignore?

Censorship

Over the last few years (after Trump’s surprising victory) the decision as to what information and news the masses ingest is being monitored by the elites and corporate press. The rise of alternative media, especially large podcasts, has fueled their panic, and pushed their attempts to control the narrative into overdrive.

The big tech companies took it upon themselves to determine what was allowable discourse. They ran mass censorship campaigns against anyone that said anything that challenged the power and prestige of the elites. What was once common speech among friends and colleagues is now hate speech. Comedians, politicians, and independent media personalities were depersoned and ostracized from the public square, social media platforms.

“It’s a private company, bro,” became the battle cry of the blue-check class and their useful idiots. But none dare take on the actuality that these “private companies” are funded and utilized by governments and intelligence communities around the world to track and trace dissidents.

This dystopianism didn’t stop with Julian Assange, Alex Jones, and Donald Trump. As more people have come to depend on Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter for news and information we’ve seen respected doctors and researchers deplatformed and search results throttled to curb “dangerous” voices and “disinformation” that challenges the approved directives of the elites. Even the Financial Times is publishing stories promoting psyops as crucial in the fight against disinformation. After Joe Biden asked publicly for tech companies to censor opposing voices DirecTV quickly announced they were dropping OAN, a right-wing populist news agency, from their list of networks.

In their attempts to control the information the elites are creating more division among the citizens. Soon there will be parallel societies in operation in these United States.

Alongside Right

In J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night an underground economy has been created by Agorists. The competing gray-market thrives while central planners destroy the nation’s economy. As the financial system crumbles the state attempts to crush the Agorists, but they’ve so effectively created a parallel marketplace that the state is helpless to stop the tidal wave. The state fails under the weight of its policies and the competing underground market.

In the late 80’s when Schulman wrote the novel revolutionary economic success was pie-in-the-sky, but today it is more attainable than ever. Crypto currencies and blockchain technology are becoming more popular; under COVID lockdowns small businesses were deemed nonessential while multinational corporations raked in more profit than ever, the Federal Reserve printed off trillions of dollars the political elites happily distributed to their cronies while throwing crumbs to the citizens they determined to be unnecessary, the supply chains were destroyed leaving shelves empty in cities across the nation; and the SEC quietly created an ESG taskforce to police the investments of Americans while the large corporations ushered in their own egalitarian standards that will surely devastate large swathes of the country.

Throughout the devastation of the COVID tyranny small business owners and workers that could not afford to sit around and wait for permission from the political class thumbed their nose at the lockdowns. There were surges of news stories about churches opening despite orders to close, the return of speakeasies, hairdressers arrested for daring to cut hair, and millions of people exchanging goods and services in an underground economy forced upon them.

All the while we were meant to believe that the virus made it too deadly for you to live your life while the rich got richer by the day, and if you questioned the motives of the COVID regime you were labeled a dangerous, science denying, right-wing conspiracy theorist that must be silenced.

This demonization of people, some very liberal, as right-wing, labeling half of the country as backwards hicks, and the unwillingness to allow people to choose their own risks created the environment for conservatives to become ever more rebellious to the regime. COVID transformed from a potentially deadly virus that people should be aware of to a political battle. One was either on the left, embracing the dictates of the political class and enrichment of their corporate masters, or they were on the right, battling the tyranny and carving out their own economic paths.

Gaslighting  

From day one the messaging around COVID was an obvious sham. There was little doubt that the entire goal was to instill fear into the public, exacerbate the virus into becoming the largest crisis known to man, and usher in a corporate-centric governance of equity among the citizens while the establishment remained on high collecting more wealth, power, and influence at your expense.

Unfortunately, the gaslighting didn’t start with COVID.

It would be impossible to trace back all of the propaganda of the U.S. government and how it has been utilized to rob people of their liberties, so I’m going to focus on the era at hand.

The modern era of gaslighting the public, and the way we see this psychological tactic used today was a response to Donald Trump’s presidency.

For years we listened to Democrats and media personalities decry Trump as a traitorous Russian puppet. When no charges were filed the pundits were in tears because the incompetent boob that couldn’t read presidential briefings had outsmarted the FBI. And though we’ve found out that the entire Russia investigation around Trump was a plot cooked up by the DNC and FBI there are those that still claim the most incompetent president ever is a brilliant criminal mastermind. (But you’re the crazy one.)

When Trump asked Ukraine to investigate the ties of Biden and Burisma due to a recording of Biden admitting to bribing Ukraine to fire the official investigating Burisma Trump was impeached for bribing Ukraine to investigate bribery… (But you’re the crazy one.)

When Time published an article admitting to the rigging of the 2020 election for Biden you were a crazy conspiracy theorist for referencing the article.

When you said they were not going to stop lockdowns after 15 days, you were crazy.

When lockdowns went on for a year and you pointed out that you had said that was going to happen, you were crazy.

When you said masks don’t work, you were crazy, and now that they admit masks don’t work, you’re still crazy.

When you asked about Moderna and the NIH sharing ownership of the MRNA vaccine patent, you’re crazy.

When you said COVID wasn’t deadly for children, you were crazy.

When you read data, you’re crazy.

When you point out the redistribution of wealth from the productive class to the parasitic class, you’re crazy.

When you say they are counting “with” COVID as “because” of COVID, you are crazy.

When BLM protested the virus couldn’t spread, but when conservatives rally or protest it is a super spreader event.

Natural immunity is no longer a thing and locking yourself in a dark room with bonbons is much healthier than going outside and exercising.

Everything you thought you knew is wrong, and the new science of totalitarianism is the truth.

Etc…I could go on all day.

The point is, the facts are not the facts until those with the monopoly on facts tell you that the facts are in fact the facts, and if you dare read, think, question, or disobey you are a dangerous biological weapon wanting to kill grandma.

You Are Not Alone

The effects of COVID, political oppression, and the corporate press’ agenda are evident in the eyes of everyone I encounter. The average person that does not regularly engage in political discourse or question authority has been completely demoralized and feels like they have nowhere to turn. They feel alone. They feel silenced. They feel insane.

If you’ve read this far, I suspect you, like me, are looking for people that are witnessing and feeling the pressure of the regime and are ready to push back against the narrative.

The fact is you are not alone. Millions of people around the world feel just as you do.

So, how can you fight back?

It would be easy to write a rant that left you seething and not offer any solutions, but I refuse to do that. Before we get to the solution, we must identify the problem.

America was founded on the idea of self-governance. As imperfect as the founding of the country was it was the founding of an idea to move forward and progress into more freedom and liberty for its citizens. God, family, and country were the hallmarks, and order of importance for which we were to live our lives and build the nation.

Over the last century the myth (by myth I mean the origin story not the derogatory perversion of the term) of God has been corrupted and dismantled, the family has been destroyed, and the idea of country has come to mean that your well-being is given its value and purpose by those elected to represent you.

The political class of parasites that feed on your labor and successes have spent the last few generations selling out the future for their own gains and comforts. Your children and grandchildren are expected to be sacrificed on the altar of their desires.

Parents are no longer expected to sacrifice themselves for the well-being of the children’s future, rather, children are to be tortured and psychologically abused by society so that the boomer generation may have everlasting life.

The destruction of trust in the political system and the corporate press has trickled down and eroded trust among Americans. Even those that should be allies are suspect of each other.

There is no more community structure in which citizens feel like they belong. The illusion of power and respectability of government is the only thread holding any of this together; the same government selling out the future to corporate interests.

If we are to retain any semblance of civility and liberty it is up to us to begin to repair the fractures that have torn families, communities, and allies apart. We must begin to interact and engage in our local communities, boycott corporations like Amazon, Walmart, Costco, and the U.S. government. Involve yourself in local elections, buy from your local markets, seek out small, specialized companies, and reject the lazy one stop shopping with the goal of strengthening the bonds of your community.

As long as we allow ourselves to be secluded and divided for convenience the power reserved for the people will continue to be consolidated. You are not alone, but if you don’t work to build and strengthen the bonds with those that share your values, ideas, and desire for liberty you may as well be.

News Roundup 1/18/2022

News Roundup 1/18/2022

Ukraine

  • A bipartisan group of seven Senators traveled to Ukraine. They met with President Zelenskyy and restated America’s support for Ukraine. [Link]
  • The UK will give Ukraine anti-tank weapons and deploy troops for training on the weapons. [Link]
  • Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko returned to Ukraine to face treason charges. [Link]
  • Germany calls for four-party talks – Germany, France, Ukraine, and Russia – to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis. [Link]

Russia

  • Russian forces are arriving in Belarus for war games. [Link]

Korea

  • North Korea says it test-fired tactical guided missiles. [Link]

Israel

  • The US denies brokering an energy deal between Israel and Lebanon. [Link]
  • A Palestinian family was forcefully evicted from their home in Sheikh Jarrah. [Link]
  • A 75-year-old Palestinian activist who was hit by a tow truck, contracted by the Israeli police, dies from his injuries. [Link]

Yemen

  • A UAE oil facility was damaged by a drone attack, killing three. The Houthi claim responsibility for the attack. [Link]
  • Saudi bombs Yemen’s capital after the drone attack on the UAE, killing at least six. [Link]
  • The UAE is calling on the US to label the Houthis as a terror group. [Link]

Middle East

  • Iran says nuclear talks are being stalled by the US. [Link]
  • The Wall Street Journal reports Iran is seeking a legal promise from the US not to exit the nuclear deal once an agreement is made. [Link]
  • Two members of Iraq’s parliament had their offices targeted with explosives. [Link]

Africa

  • Libya’s eastern parliament calls the internationally recognized government illegitimate. Presidential elections scheduled for December were canceled. [Link]
  • The UN is pushing for Libya to hold elections in June. [Link]
  • Biden names Lucy Tamlyn to head the US Embassy in Sudan. [Link]
  • Medics say seven protesters were killed by security forces in Sudan. [Link]
Price Inflation Hits 40 Year High; What Comes Next?

Price Inflation Hits 40 Year High; What Comes Next?

According to new data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, price inflation in December rose again to a new multidecade high, rising to the highest level recorded in nearly forty years. According to the Consumer Price Index for December, year-over-year price inflation rose to 7.1 percent. It hasn’t been that high since June 1982, when the growth rate was at 7.2 percent.

December’s increase was up from November’s year-over-year increase of 6.9 percent. And it was well up from December 2020’s year-over-year increase of 1.3 percent.

cpi

This surge in price inflation is likely to further increase political pressure on the Federal Reserve and Chair Jerome Powell to “do something” about price inflation. After months of insisting that price inflation is “transitory” and not a cause for concern, it became clear by October 2021 that price inflation was surging to some of the worst levels experienced in several decades.

Since then, the Fed has completely changed its tune, and Powell this week called inflation a “severe threat” and reiterated that the Fed plans to raise the target federal funds rate:

As we move through this year…if things develop as expected, we’ll be normalizing policy, meaning we’re going to end our asset purchases in March, meaning we’ll be raising rates over the course of the year.

Note the conditional “if things develop as expected.” Naturally, the Fed’s planned tightening will depend heavily on whether or not the Fed’s economic indicators show ongoing economic improvement and a bullish stock market.

For many Americans, though, the news is already bad, and inflation is taking a bite out of workers’ purchasing power. December’s numbers on average hourly earnings show that inflation is continuing to erase the gains made in workers’ earnings. During December 2021, average hourly earnings increased 4.7 percent year over year. But with inflation at 7.1 percent, earnings clearly aren’t keeping up:

cpi
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (table B-3, “Average Hourly and Weekly Earnings of All Employees on Private Nonfarm Payrolls by Industry Sector, Seasonally Adjusted“; last modified Sept. 15, 2015); Consumer Price Index.

Looking at this gap, we find that real earnings growth has been negative for the past eight months, coming in at—2.3 percent year-over-year growth for December 2021.

cpi
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (table B-3, “Average Hourly and Weekly Earnings of All Employees on Private Nonfarm Payrolls by Industry Sector, Seasonally Adjusted“; last modified Sept. 15, 2015); Consumer Price Index.

Combined with December’s unemployment rate of 3.9 percent, November’s inflation growth puts the U.S. misery index at 11. Those are “recession-like levels” and similar to the misery index levels experienced when the unemployment rate surged in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

misery

In addition to Consumer Price Index inflation, asset-price inflation will likely continue to be troublesome for consumers as well. For example, according to the Federal Housing and Finance Agency, home price growth has surged in recent months, with year-over-year growth now coming in at 16.4 percent.

Apparently, though, the earnings data isn’t capturing the reality of how great the economy really is. As Newsweek noted last week, much of the American public is unhappy with today’s economy in which earnings are falling behind thanks to inflation. But this doesn’t bother economists like Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution, who points to the stock market as evidence that the public’s “perceptions may not mirror reality.” More explicit was Paul Krugman, who declares: “[T]his is actually a very good economy, albeit with some problems.” Mark Zandy at Moody’s analytics insists “the economy is booming. It’s busting out all over.”

Many voters—who perhaps aren’t quite as prosperous and distant from the troubles of daily life as highly paid economists—disagree with these rosy assessments. And that will continue to result in additional pressure to both the administration and the Fed.

But we’ll find out very soon if the Fed agrees with the idea that the economy is “busting out all over.” Although Powell has stated that he believes the economy no longer needs emergency stimulus, that doesn’t mean the economy can tolerate anything more than a tiny amount of trimming to the Fed’s asset purchases, low interest rates, and other manifestations of quantitative easing. The fact is that in our bubble economy, the boom can only continue so long as infusions of newly created credit continue. The Fed likely won’t have to reverse course on quantitative easing for very long before the lack of ongoing stimulus puts the U.S. on a path to recession. And this likely ends up being the choice the Fed faces: Will it choose to keep the boom going by avoiding a real scaling back of stimulus? Or will it truly try to tackle inflation and set off a recession as a result?

Given that it’s an election year, it’s hard to see the Fed doing anything that might even risk a recession, but if Consumer Price Index inflation continues to climb, the Fed might be forced to do so.

News Roundup 1/18/2022

News Roundup 1/11/2022

Covid

  • Hospitals are allowing staff who test positive for covid to continue to work. [Link]
  • Biden will require health insurance providers to provide eight at-home covid tests per month. [Link]

US News

  • A court upheld the firing of two LAPD officers who ignored calls to respond to a robbery to play Pokemon Go. [Link]
  • Former Trump administration defense officials are joining the boards of small tech companies. [Link]

Latin America

  • A suspected member of the assassination team that killed Haitian President Jovenel Moise was arrested in the Dominican Republic. [Link]
  • The US sanctioned six Nicaraguan officials it accuses of rigging a recent election. [Link]

Great Power

  • National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan consulted with hawks on Russia policy. [Link]
  • US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman met with the Russian foreign minister for eight hours in Vienna. Russia says the US and Russia remain at opposite positions on Ukraine. The US discussed the possibility of reviving the INF Treaty and missile placements. [Link]
  • NATO says it is ready for a European war days before talks with Russia. [Link]
  • Kazakhstan announces Russian troops begin leaving the country. [Link]
  • Taiwan’s parliament passed a bill that authorizes an additional $8.6 billion in military spending. [Link]

North Korea

  • North Korea carried out a missile test. [Link]

Afghanistan

  • The US will provide Afghanistan with $300 million in aid and one million doses of a covid vaccine. [Link]

Middle East

  • Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says Israel is undergoing its largest rearmament in years. [Link]
  • Iran is not seeking an interim agreement with the US. [Link]
  • Army paratrooper Rob Nicoson was cleared of charges at a court-martial. Nicoson was accused of misconduct that caused a gun battle between US and Syrian forces in 2020. [Link]
  • Saudi Arabia used Iraq War footage as evidence of Iranian support for the Houthi. [Link]

Ethiopia

  • Biden spoke with Ethiopia’s president after Ethiopian government airstrikes killed scores of civilians. [Link]
  • Aid workers report a drone strike in Tigray, Ethiopia killed 17 people, mostly women. [Link]
News Roundup 1/18/2022

News Roundup 1/10/2022

Covid

  • Massachusetts hospitals will begin reporting different stats for those hospitalized because of covid and those who were hospitalized for a different reason and tested positive. [Link]
  • New York has canceled surgeries at 40 hospitals across the state. [Link]
  • Moderna says it sold $17.5 billion in covid vaccines in 2021. Moderna expects the number to increase to $18.5 billion – or more – in 2022. [Link]
  • The Pentagon awards a contract to Revival Health for 13 million at-home covid test kits. The amount of the contract was not disclosed. The tests will be counted as part of Biden’s plan to buy 500 million tests. [Link]
  • The Pentagon awards a $52 million contract to Goldbelt Security LLC for covid antigen tests. [Link]
  • US forces in Japan will stay on base for two weeks due to an outbreak in covid cases. [Link]
  • The US donated 2.7 million Pfizer covid vaccines to the Philippines through Covax. [Link]
  • The US donated 5 million covid vaccine doses to African countries through Covax. [Link]

US News

  • A US Cyber Command task force carried out its first offensive operation in 2021. [Link]
  • GEOST wins a $39 million contract from the Space Force for space-based sensors. [Link]
  • About 30% of former Gitmo detainees that were resettled to their countries lack proper legal status in those countries. Some former inmates were transferred to prisons in third countries that are worse than Gitmo. [Link]
  • Lithuania pays $113,000 to Abu Zubaydah because the CIA tortured Zubaydah in Lithuania. He is unable to access the money because he is still detained and his assets are frozen by the US. [Link]
  • The US is donating three warships to Uruguay. The original cost of the ships was $14 million. Uruguay will pay $5 million to upgrade the ships. [Link]

Russia

  • Kazakhstan reports 164 people were killed during a week of protests and riots. Some of the dead are members of security forces. [Link]  Nearly 8,000 people were arrested. The government says it now has firm control over the country. [Link]
  • The US warned Kazakhstan against inviting Russian troops to help quell riots. [Link]
  • Ukraine is pushing Congress to vote for a bill sponsored by Ted Cruz that would sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. [Link]
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejects a Russian security proposal to end eastward NATO expansion. [Link]
  • The US ruled out any troop cuts in Eastern Europe. [Link]
  • Russia says initial talks with the US in Vienna were “complex and business-like.” [Link]

Myanmar

  • Myanmar’s military sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to an additional four years in prison. She is currently serving a two year sentence. [Link]

Afghanistan

  • An Afghan baby that went missing while in the custody of US soldiers during the evacuation of Kabul has finally been located. [Link]
  • The Taliban say an explosion killed nine children near the border with Pakistan. [Link]
  • Israel is preventing replacement parts for damaged water and sewage lines from entering Gaza. [Link]
  • Israeli bulldozers and tanks destroyed Palestinian crops. [Link]
  • Saudi Arabia is going to run out of “interceptor” missiles within months. Saudi Arabia is seeking more Patriot missile ammo from other Gulf countries. [Link]
  • Saudi Arabia is pushing the US for more Patriot missiles saying the need is urgent. [Link]
  • France says progress was made in Iran nuclear talks. [Link]
  • Iran sanctions 52 Americans over the Soleimani assassination. [Link]
  • The US warns Iran of serious consequences if any Americans are killed. Drones and rockets have recently targeted bases housing US soldiers in Iraq. [Link]
  • Iraqi political leader Sadr says there is no place for militias in Iraq. [Link]
  • Three Turkish soldiers were killed by an IED. In response, Turkey killed 12 members of the PKK. [Link]
  • Saudi Arabia says Yemeni ports are legitimate military targets. Saudi alleged the Houthi have bases at the ports. [Link]

Africa

  • Somalia’s prime minister issues an apology to the UAE for his country seizing $10 million from the UAE in 2018. The prime minister said the money would be returned. [Link]
  • Ethiopia announced it would release some high-profile political figures from opposition parties. [Link]
  • At least 56 people were killed by airstrikes on a displaced persons camp in Ethiopia. [Link]
  • A block of 15 West African nations sanction Mali over the military coup’s leaders’ plans to hold elections in five years. [Link]
  • Militants killed over 100 people in a raid in Nigeria. [Link] Over 200 people were killed in Nigeria in the past week. [Link]
  • South Sudan is expected to face its most severe food shortage in 2022. [Link]
January 6th: A Turgid Anniversary

January 6th: A Turgid Anniversary

Last year’s Jan. 6 clash at the Capitol may be the most politically exploited ruckus in American history. Team Biden is doing a victory lap to mark the anniversary, but the feds continue covering up key information regarding that day’s events. Democrats are canonizing a false version of history to change voting laws to perpetuate many of the shoddy if not shady practices that tarnished the 2020 election.

After the fracas a year ago, Democratic members of Congress made ludicrous claims about the perils they faced that day. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said, “We came close to half of the House nearly dying” from the attackers. But the only person gunned down that day was 35-year-old Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, shot at point-blank range by a Capitol policeman.

While heavy penalties are justified for protesters who physically attacked police, President Joe Biden and his media allies portray clashes that day as an insurrection seeking to destroy American democracy. But Reuters reported in August that the FBI had found little or no evidence that the attackers were part of an “organized plot to overturn the presidential election,” with almost all protesters “one-off cases” unrelated to a grand scheme.

Read the rest of this article at The New York Post

Inflation Is Robbing Your Pocket, Whether You Realize Or Not

Inflation Is Robbing Your Pocket, Whether You Realize Or Not

All across the economic dashboard, inflation indicators are blinking red. Most recently, the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) index, calculated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, rose 5.7% from November 2020 to November 2021. That’s the biggest year-over-year surge since September 1983.

Many mistakenly attribute today’s rising prices solely to supply chain woes, and government officials are happy to fertilize that mythology—as Kamala Harris reflexively did last week in her rambling, didn’t-do-the-reading response to a question from Margaret Brennan:

The truth is, in the words of economist Milton Friedman, “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” In other words, today’s rising prices are primarily the result of the Federal Reserve’s relentless creation of new money, which serves to facilitate the government’s multi-trillion dollar deficit-spending addiction.

Note, the Fed’s rampant money creation facilitates deficit spending, but, in the end, it doesn’t actually pay for it. Instead, it functions as a massive scam that hides the price of deficit spending by ultimately passing it on to all of us via inflation.

While the new-money effect on prices is compounded by supply chain failures, those failures are themselves driven in part by higher demand fueled by the extra cash in circulation.

Manipulating Markets, Burying a Tax

When the government spends more than it takes in, the difference is funded by issuing Treasury bonds, bills, and notes.

In a rational, un-manipulated market, a profligate spender that’s already more than $29 trillion in debt would have to pay high interest rates to issue a new set of IOUs. Today’s 10-year Treasury rate, however, is just 1.5%. That utterly irrational rate is the direct result of the Federal Reserve’s manipulation of the Treasury debt market.

Specifically, the Fed routinely buys enormous amounts of Treasury debt, artificially pushing the interest rate down in the process. Because it’s prohibited from buying Treasury debt directly, the Fed contravenes the spirit of the law by buying it from large investment banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase—who profit from their role in what’s close to a money-laundering scheme.

What’s most critical to understand is that the Fed buys all those Treasury securities with new money created out of thin air. Unlike in earlier times, U.S. dollars aren’t backed by anything at all. Pouring trillions more of them into the economy can’t create enduring wealth, it can only sap the value of money that’s already in circulation.

Fed-created inflation thus functions as a stealth tax: Rather than taking your money directly and openly, the government reduces the value of your money through the opaque tax we call inflation.

As Friedman said, “Inflation is taxation without legislation.” Inflation is also taxation without any prescribed maximum rate. More ominously, nobody has any real control over the rate.

Once rightly charged with maintaining the value of the dollar—a mission it failed in spectacular fashion—the Fed now explicitly seeks to erode its value by 2% a year. However, with inflation accelerating well beyond that pace, it’s clear Fed officials appointed to play god with the economy have once again lost control, just as they’ve done through the cycle of booms and busts that have led us to this point.

Inflation Tax Hits Low-Income Americans Harder

Though inflation is a tax we all pay, the burden doesn’t fall evenly. With inflation assaulting American wallets at the highest pace in nearly four decades, a recently-published analysis finds that it’s taking a greater toll on lower-income Americans.

The study by Penn Wharton Budget Model found the average household will have had to spend $3,500 more in 2021 to achieve the same level of consumption as in 2020. However, “since lower-income households spend more of their budget on goods and services that have been more impacted by inflation…lower-income households will have to spend about 7 percent more while higher-income households will have to spend about 6 percent more,” wrote Zheli He and Xiayue Sun.

That’s not the only way the Fed printing press contributes to wealth inequality:

  • Since there’s a lag between money creation and the resulting price inflation, those who get to use the new money first have a leg up—and Wall Street investment banks and major government contractors are among the first in line.
  • The Fed’s creation of money and artificially low interest rates also disproportionately benefits the wealthiest Americans by inflating the value of their invested assets.

The Fed Has Painted Itself into a Corner

With inflation heating up, the Fed and its high-spending DC co-conspirators have boxed themselves in.

If the Fed stops printing dollars that finance runaway federal spending and force interest rates down, inflation may ease but the deficit will mushroom even larger due to higher interest rates on Treasury debt. Higher rates will also affect home and car buyers. Markets will crash and the economy too.

“Either the government is going to have to supply the money or the spending is not going to happen,” said economist and Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff on his podcast. “So, either we have a recession, or we have even worse inflation. Because if the government has to print more money to fund more stimulus spending so that consumers can afford to keep buying stuff at higher prices, well then we have an even bigger inflation problem on our hands.”

Though it would cause a major economic disruption, the healthy, long-term alternative is for Congress to embrace fiscal responsibility by sharply reducing the scope of federal government to what’s actually prescribed in the Constitution, slashing a couple trillion dollars from the budget, ending America’s sprawling imperial presence abroad, making the dollar real money again, and dramatically reforming if not eliminating the Federal Reserve.

Don’t count on reelection-minded politicians to do any of that anytime soon. Those measures may someday be adopted, but only after a major calamity gives America no alternative.

This article was originally featured at Stark Realities and is republished with permission.

12/30/21 Grant F. Smith on Israel’s Evolving Strategy to Sway American Politics

Scott is joined by Grant F. Smith to talk about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) new strategy for reaching U.S. politicians. AIPAC has largely operated as a lobbying group on behalf of the State of Israel. But, as Smith explains, they are now working to set up a network of Political Action Committees. This will give them more freedom to fund candidates they like, and support the opponents of candidates they don’t. Scott and Smith give possible reasons for the evolving methods. 

Discussed on the show:

Grant F. Smith is the author of a number of books including Big Israel: How Israel’s Lobby Moves America, Divert!, and most recently The Israel Lobby Enters State Government: Rise of the Virginia Israel Advisory Board. He is director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington, D.C.

This episode of the Scott Horton Show is sponsored by: The War State and Why The Vietnam War?, by Mike Swanson; Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom; ExpandDesigns.com/Scott; EasyShip; Free Range Feeder; Thc Hemp Spot; Green Mill Supercritical; Bug-A-Salt and Listen and Think Audio.

Shop Libertarian Institute merch or donate to the show through Patreon, PayPal or Bitcoin: 1DZBZNJrxUhQhEzgDh7k8JXHXRjYu5tZiG.

News Roundup 1/18/2022

News Roundup 1/3/2022

US News

  • The White House announces $1 billion in spending in an effort to bring down meat prices. [Link]
  • Twitter permanently suspends Congresswoman Majorie Taylor-Green. [Link]
  • Before 1/6, the Department of Justice approved deploying tactical law enforcement units, including the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, to the Capitol and other potential targets. [Link]
  • The Department of Justice says 725 people have been charged with crimes committed at the Capitol on 1/6. The DOJ has gotten 165 people to sign guilty pleas. The FBI is seeking more than 350 other people. [Link]
  • The Secretary of Defense will now have sole authority to approve requests for National Guard deployments to DC. [Link]
  • The US is building new courtrooms at Gitmo for $4 million. [Link]

Covid

  • A judge rejected Oklahoma’s lawsuit challenging the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate for the National Guard. Members of the OK guard will have to get vaccinated or will be unable to participate in required training. [Link]
  • Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin says he has covid. [Link]
  • 206 Marines have been discharged for refusing the covid vaccine. [Link]
  • Israel will begin administering a 4th dose of the covid vaccine. [Link]
  • The US donates 5 million Pfizer vaccine doses to Pakistan through Covax. [Link]
  • The US donates 1.5 million Pfizer covid vaccine doses to Egypt through Covax. [Link]
  • The US donates 2.5 million vaccine doses to Angola and Ghana through Covax. [Link]

Russia

  • Estonia will give artillery systems and other weapons to Ukraine. [Link]
  • Russia says it was happy with the Biden-Putin call, but warned the US against sanctioning Russia over Ukraine. [Link]
  • The US says Biden told Putin there were two paths for the relationship going forward, diplomacy or deterrence. [Link]
  • Rep Adam Schiff says Russia will likely invade Ukraine without massive sanctions. [Link]
  • Biden told Ukrainian President Zelenskyy that the US will respond decisively if Russia invades Ukraine. [Link]

China

  • China told the US to end military operations near its borders. [Link]

Korea

  • South Korea says it has reached an agreement in principle with the US for a formal end to the Korean War. [Link]
  • South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in – whose term will expire within a few months – is seeking to make a final push for Korean peace. [Link]

Afghanistan

  • The Pakistani Taliban killed four Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan. Pakistan said one militant was captured. [Link]
  • The US is considering strikes against the ISIS-K cell it believes carried out the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport. [Link]
  • Hundreds of Afghans have their application for humanitarian entry into the US revoked. [Link]

Soleimani Assassination

  • The Jerusalem Post’s website was hacked and displayed an image of assassinated Iranian General Soleimani on the anniversary of his death. [Link] 
  • The Houthi seized a UAE ship off the coast of Yemen and two suicide drones were shot down near the Baghdad airport. [Link]

Israel

  • Israel signs a $3.1 billion deal with the US for military helicopters and refueling planes. [Link]
  • Israel tells the US it will inform it of all major deals with China and will reconsider the deal if the US objects. [Link]
  • The US announces it will send $99 million to the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees. [Link]
  • Rockets fired from Gaza land in the Mediterranean Sea. [Link]
  • Israel bombed Gaza. [Link]
  • Israeli officials threatened to attack Iran. [Link]

Yemen 

  • The UN calls on the Saudi-backed government of Yemen to allow new communications equipment to be flown into the country’s capital airport. Saudi airstrikes damaged the communications system at the airport in recent weeks. The damaged equipment makes communicating with aircraft challenging and caused the airport to close. [Link]
  • Saudi Arabia killed 12 Yemen government soldiers. [Link]
  • Saudi Arabia and allied government forces claim to kill 200 Houthi fighters and seize some key positions. [Link]

Middle East

  • Iran says nuclear talks have made relatively satisfactory progress. [Link]
  • The Guardian reports that the Saudi execution team members who killed Jamal Khashoggi live in luxury villas. [Link] 
  • Iraq’s military says it still requires US air support. The US mission in Iraq recently rebranded from combat to training. [Link]
  • At least 34 people were killed in several conflicts between various groups in Iraq. [Link]
  • Over 1,600 people were killed by warfare in Iraq in 2021. [Link]
  • The al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria – al-Nusra or HTS – is planning elections to court Western support. [Link]
  • ISIS killed five Syrian soldiers. [Link]

Africa

  • An al-Shabaab attack killed four near Mogadishu. [Link]
  • A Kenyan official says a suspected al-Shabaab attack killed six. [Link]
  • Armed militants killed eight soldiers in Mali. [Link]
  • Security forces killed five protesters in Sudan. [Link]
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the US is prepared to respond to deadly crackdowns on protests. [Link]
  • Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok resigns. [Link]
  • The US is supporting Rwanda’s military in Africa’s Great Lakes region. [Link]
COI #206: Libya’s Election Called Off

COI #206: Libya’s Election Called Off

On COI #206, Kyle Anzalone breaks down recent developments in Libya. The election – planned for December 24th – has been called off. The Western states say they will still recognize the interim government. However, the government will likely face increasing legitimacy challenges. Migrants, attempting to flee to Europe, continue to drown off Libya’s coast. 

Kyle updates the investigation into the assassination of Haiti’s President Moise. In July, several gunmen killed Moise. His wife gave an interview to the NYT suggesting her husband was murdered for investigating Haiti’s corrupt elite. 

Kyle discusses Operation Whistling Pig. Whistling Pig was created by Jeffery Rambo, a CBP agent. The operation spied on journalists and attempted to use US mainstream journalists in psyops. 

Kyle talks about the LAPD killing a 14-year-old girl in a department store dressing room.

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