Opinion | American Companies Are Sick. Here’s How to Cure Them. – By Tim Wu – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Wu is the author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.”

Credit…Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

“Many companies in the United States are currently in a particular kind of distress. They have solid business models for normal times, yet as the pandemic lingers they are slowly dying, victims of weak demand or supply problems. These businesses are not broken or fundamentally flawed; their health is jeopardized only by exceptional circumstances. They are not doomed; they’re just sick.

Many of these companies are on the lookout for survival strategies that would avoid a ruinous liquidation of their assets. This means they may be more open than they ordinarily would be to private buyouts and mergers. But a wave of buyouts and mergers, though seemingly better than letting struggling companies die, would only intensify the economic inequality that has become this country’s curse.

That is why we need to rethink what rescuing companies looks like in this moment.

The danger is that the cure will be as bad as the disease. A rescue of struggling businesses fueled by cheap debt will lead to a restructuring of the American economy into fewer and fewer centers of corporate control. That consolidation, in turn, will increase the already excessive power of corporations and widen the already yawning gap between rich and poor.

This is a lesson taught by the previous economic crisis, 12 years ago, which also left many fundamentally sound companies weak or in a state of distress. Part of the government’s implicit and sometimes explicit solution was to encourage buyouts and mergers, by making debt cheap and keeping merger enforcement tepid. Those conditions catalyzed a major concentration of industries during the 2010s, leaving many sectors of the American economy with just three or four “majors,” or with regional monopolies. This was the story for the airlines, cable service, big agriculture, mobile phone carriers, pharmaceuticals, meat processing and many more industries.

That same approach also ushered in what the financial journalist Joe Nocera, a former columnist for The Times, has called the decade of private equity. Taking advantage of cheap debt, the industry spent trillions of dollars (nearly $6 trillion, by one estimate) buying and reorganizing thousands of companies.

The problem was that, by the mid-2010s, many economists (including many at the White House, where I worked at the National Economic Council) started to be concerned that the restructuring of the economy was contributing to inequality of both wealth and income. Ideally, a private buyout makes a company more efficient and poised for growth and hiring. But in practice buying a company in semi-distress with the goal of cutting costs can mean large-scale firings, weakening or destroying unions, and seizing pension funds.”

It’s Friday, and the world is looking better. Frank Bruni just wrote a column titled, Is Donald Trump Toast? “A New York Times/Siena College poll finds that Biden is ahead of the president by 14 points” nationally and by double digits in the six crucial swing states. I want to have a party and cook out in my backyard tomorrow, but it is not part of social distancing. Since I read this piece by Tim Wu last Tuesday, I’ve been thinking about it, and how it dovetails with another I recently posted, called, “The Neoliberal Looting of America,” by Mehrsa Baradaran. These are important thinkers, and income inequality is a many headed hydra, that has survived since cities were created, and elites took power. I don’t care who Biden picks as his VP, as long as he crushes Trump, and then tries to clean up the Augean Stables, mitigate climate change, and elevate the ideas of regulating over-powerful corporations and billionaires, using the ideas of such thinkers as Baradaran, Wu, and Elizabeth Warren.

Opinion | “Respect science, respect nature, respect each other,” Should Be Biden’s Bumper Sticker – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York Times

“I almost — but not quite — feel sorry for Donald Trump. He’s at war with two “invisible enemies” at once — the coronavirus and Joe Biden — and both remain highly elusive, the pathogen by nature and the politician by design.

Biden, who made a rare public appearance on Tuesday, has been wise to stay out of sight. Trump is now in a full-on race to the bottom with himself, pushing uglier and uglier positions that appeal to smaller and smaller segments of the American public. Why get in his way?

Of course, eventually Biden will debate the incumbent and will need a simple, clear message to counter Trump’s tired “Make America Great Again” trope.

I have an idea for Biden’s bumper sticker.

As I think about what kind of president Biden wants to be and what kind of president America needs him to be, the slogan that comes to mind was suggested to me by the environmental innovator Hal Harvey. Harvey didn’t know he was suggesting it; he just happened to sign off a recent email to me by writing: “Respect science, respect nature, respect each other.”

David Lindsay: Thomas Friedman keeps getting great ideas from the environmentalist Hal Harvey, whose short plan for saving the planet is called the four zero’s, and has been incomporated into the show Kathleen and I present on nature and climate change.

Opinion | Has Trump Already Lost the 2020 Election? – By Frank Bruni – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

“Only two of the past six presidents before Donald Trump lost their bids for re-election. That’s good news for him.

But their stories are bad news for him, too.

In their final years in office, both of those presidents, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, experienced a noticeable slide in popularity right around the time — early May through late June — that Trump hit his current ugly patch.

According to Gallup’s ongoing tracking of the percentage of Americans who approve of a president’s job performance, Carter’s and Bush’s numbers sank below 40 percent during this period and pretty much stayed there through Election Day. It’s as if they both met their fates on the cusp of summer.

And the cusp of summer has been a mean season for Trump, who has never flailed more pathetically or lashed out more desperately and who just experienced the Carter-Bush dip. According to Gallup, his approval rating fell to 39 percent in early June from 49 a month earlier. So if Carter and Bush are harbingers, Trump is toast.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Frank Bruni. I hope for the United States, the world, and the planet, that you are completely right. I also hope, that one day, I write something as well you do. You truly have a way with words, and a roledex so impressive, as to be make most comparisons to small fry unfair.

Did Floyd Protests Lead to a Virus Surge? Here’s What We Know – The New York Times

Last night Paul McGuire and I taught morris jigs on zoom to the New Haven Morris and Sword Team, for the last time till we resume in September. However, in September, I will argue that we can meet and practice outside. I am now playing tennis regularly outdoors, and as the article below suggests, outdoors is much safer than indoors, may 18.7 times safer.

“. . . .   Outdoor transmission is more rare.

Conditions at the demonstrations may not have been conducive for transmission, mainly because the protests occurred outdoors, epidemiologists said.

The virus spreads far more easily indoors than outdoors, and close contact indoors is believed to be the main driver of transmission, epidemiologists say. One study based on a review of 110 cases in Japan found that the odds of transmission were 18.7 times higher in closed environments — everything from fitness studios to tents — than in open-air environments. Another study involving a review of thousands of cases in China found only a single instance of outdoor transmission.

In Minnesota, where Mr. Floyd was killed, cases among young adults climbed substantially over June. But officials said that gatherings in re-opened bars were partly to blame.”

Opinion | America Is Facing 5 Epic Crises All at Once – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

“There are five gigantic changes happening in America right now. The first is that we are losing the fight against Covid-19. Our behavior doesn’t have anything to do with the reality around us. We just got tired so we’re giving up.

Second, all Americans, but especially white Americans, are undergoing a rapid education on the burdens African-Americans carry every day. This education is continuing, but already public opinion is shifting with astonishing speed.

Third, we’re in the middle of a political realignment. The American public is vehemently rejecting Donald Trump’s Republican Party. The most telling sign is that the party has even given up on itself, a personality cult whose cult leader is over.

Fourth, a quasi-religion is seeking control of America’s cultural institutions. The acolytes of this quasi-religion, Social Justice, hew to a simplifying ideology: History is essentially a power struggle between groups, some of which are oppressors and others of which are oppressed. Viewpoints are not explorations of truth; they are weapons that dominant groups use to maintain their place in the power structure. Words can thus be a form of violence that has to be regulated.

Fifth, we could be on the verge of a prolonged economic depression. State and household budgets are in meltdown, some businesses are failing and many others are on the brink, the continuing health emergency will mean economic activity cannot fully resume.

These five changes, each reflecting a huge crisis and hitting all at once, have created a moral, spiritual and emotional disaster. Americans are now less happy than at any time since they started measuring happiness nearly 50 years ago. Americans now express less pride in their nation than at any time since Gallup started measuring it 20 years ago.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
I love this column by David Brooks, even though most of the criticism in the comments are are either correct, or have some merit. Basically, I have to agree with Brooks in general, while specifically, he rushed his writing, went too lightly on his Republican party, and continued to leave out climate change and the 6th extinction. How could such a brilliant, well read, and sensitive man, sound so blind to our poisoning of our own environment? And yet, in his defense, you can’t say everything in 800 words. In Hamden CT, there are new members of the Town Legislative Council who have many of the ugly traits that Brooks describes in the the social justice and politically correct movement. There is a profound truth in Brook’s statement, that the real work will be hard, long and feel boring, like on C-span, rather than flash mudslinging and cancelling on social media like on Instagram. You have to actually learn the details of local and state government, not just tear things up.

Opinion | Trump Is Feeding America’s Coronavirus Nightmare – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

“President Trump says the coronavirus is “fading away” and pats himself on the back for “a great job on CoronaVirus” that saved “millions of U.S. lives.”

“It’s going away,” Trump said Tuesday at a packed megachurch in Phoenix where few people wore masks.

That’s what delusion sounds like. We need a Churchill to lead our nation against a deadly challenge; instead, we have a president who helps an enemy virus infiltrate our churches and homes. Churchill and Roosevelt worked to deceive the enemy; Trump is trying to deceive us.

For a reality check, look at this map by my colleague Nathaniel Lash showing how much of America is trending in the wrong direction.”

David Lindsay:  This dark op-ed reminds me that I read a piece about an actor discussing the teaching dialects. He said he had a favorite off color joke about giving someone a good Irish accent, only I don’t remember it well, something like, just say the following words quickly, and sort of run them together.
Weave,     beaf,      hooked.

 

Opinion | Who Are the Key Voters Turning Against Trump? – by Ruy Teixeira – The New York Times

by Ruy Teixeira, who is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

“. . . . But the Democrats have a secret weapon in 2020 on the other side of the age spectrum: senior voters. Among this age group — voters 65 and older — polls so far this year reveal a dramatic shift to the Democrats. That could be the most consequential political development of this election.

The bipartisan States of Change project estimates that Mrs. Clinton lost this group by around 15 points. By contrast, the nonpartisan Democracy Fund + U.C.L.A. Nationscape survey, which has collected over 108,000 interviews of registered voters since the beginning of the year, has Mr. Biden leading among seniors by about six points. We are looking at a shift of over 20 points in favor of the Democrats among a group that should be at least a quarter of voters in 2020. That’s huge.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Hear ye, hear ye, I don’t have good news, I have great news. Older Americans are coming to their senses! Thank you Ruy Teixeira. “The bipartisan States of Change project estimates that Mrs. Clinton lost this group by around 15 points. By contrast, the nonpartisan Democracy Fund + U.C.L.A. Nationscape survey, which has collected over 108,000 interviews of registered voters since the beginning of the year, has Mr. Biden leading among seniors by about six points. We are looking at a shift of over 20 points in favor of the Democrats among a group that should be at least a quarter of voters in 2020. That’s huge.” DL; Ya, that’s huge! The article is full of wonderful details, and so are the comments, for the most part. Also, note the data on how very conservative this group is by and large. They are strongly against many of the far left ideas of Bernie Sanders. Joe Biden is according to this massive poll of 108,000 interviews, their type of conservative, liberal progressive.

Opinion | China and America Are Heading Toward Divorce – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“My favorite story in John Bolton’s book about the Trump Fun House — sorry, White House — was that President Trump appealed to China’s leader to buy more U.S. agricultural products to boost Trump’s farm vote and his re-election.

Donald: Stop begging. Both Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have decided to vote for you. Don’t worry!

They know that as long as you’re president, America will be in turmoil. For Xi, that means we’re a less formidable economic rival, and for Vlad, that means we’re a less attractive democratic model for his people. They also both know that as long as you’re president the U.S. will never be able to galvanize a global coalition of allies against them, which is what China fears most on trade, human rights and Covid-19 and Russia on Ukraine and Syria.

Don’t take it from me. Here’s what Zhou Xiaoming, a former Chinese trade negotiator and deputy representative in Geneva, told Bloomberg’s Peter Martin: “If Biden is elected, I think this could be more dangerous for China, because he will work with allies to target China, whereas Trump is destroying U.S. alliances.”

Chinese officials, Martin reported, see a unified front on trade or human rights by the U.S. and its allies as “Washington’s greatest asset for checking China’s widening influence,” and Trump’s behavior ensures that will never come about.”

David Lindsay:

It has become clear to me that Bolten’s publisher sent free advance copies of his new book to every columnist at the NYT who writes about foreign policy ever. I should complain to my own publisher, and perhaps fire them, for not doing the same courtesy for my book, The Tay Son Rebellion!

Opinion | The Doom Where It Happened – by Bret Stephens – The New York Times

“. . . . It took cynicism to work for a president whose character he disdained and whose worldview he opposed. It took gullibility to think he could blunt or influence either. It took cynicism to observe the president commit multiple potentially impeachable offenses and then sit out impeachment on the pathetic excuse that Democrats were going about it the wrong way and that his testimony would have made no meaningful difference. It took gullibility to assume his book would have any effect on Trump’s re-election prospects now. It took cynicism to reap profits thanks to a president he betrayed and a nation he let down. It took gullibility to imagine he’d be applauded as a courageous truth-teller when his motives are so nakedly vindictive and mercenary.

Above all, it took astonishing foolishness for Bolton to imagine that his book would advance the thing he claims to care about most — a hawkish vision of U.S. foreign policy. That vision will now be forever tarred by its association with him, a man considered a lunatic by most liberals and a Judas by many conservatives.

I write all this as someone who shares many of Bolton’s hawkish foreign-policy views. I’m also someone who urged Bolton, while he was still in office, to resign on principle. It’s a shame he didn’t do so while he still had a chance to preserve his honor, but it isn’t a surprise. Only the truly gullible can act totally cynically and imagine they can escape history’s damning verdict.”

Seth Bates, I enoyed what you wrote earlier about Bolten, and I do hope you find the time to read this. Even though Stephens and I often have very different policy views, I second his opinion of Bolton, who he describes as a pathetic opportunist. I am disgusted by Bolten’s position that Trump as president is a menace to the United States, but that he, as a pure hard-liner hawk, would never vote for Joe Biden. Bolten implicates himself in the mud slung by his accusers.

Opinion | Why Do We Pay So Many People So Little Money? – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Brittany Newman/The New York Times

“With notable abruptness, thanks to the advent of the coronavirus, much of the public has become aware its dependence on hospital orderlies, cleaners, trash collectors, grocery workers, food delivery drivers, paramedics, mortuary technicians, and postal, shipping, maintenance, wastewater treatment, truck stop and mass transit employees — on what, to many, had been a largely invisible work force.

As Tony Powell, a 62-year-old hospital administrative coordinator, told Molly Kinder, a fellow in the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, in a taped interview in May:

People are not looking at people like us on the lower end of the spectrum. We’re not even getting respect. That is the biggest thing: we are not even getting respect. Nobody is listening to their voices. Maybe they’ll wake up and see: Oh, these are the people that are actually taking care of the people that need to be taken care of.

A paper published that same month, “The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis,” by Anna Stansbury and Lawrence H. Summers, economists at Harvard, describes conditions on the bottom rungs of the job market:

The American economy has become more ruthless, as declining unionization, increasingly demanding and empowered shareholders, decreasing real minimum wages, reduced worker protections, and the increases in outsourcing domestically and abroad have disempowered workers — with profound consequences for the labor market and the broader economy.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Excellent research and writing, thank you Thomas Edsall. I propose we consider and try to implement a new employment tax that goes up as the unemployment rate goes up, and retreats as the unemployment rate goes down. The funds would help pay for a federal work program for every American that needs a job. One of the many benefits of such a tax and spend system, is that it would put pressure on companies and small business people to hire workers, since if they don’t, the tax goes up. Supermarkets that replace cashiers with robots would see their taxes go up, unless those workers quickly found other work.