Something for everyone

Janet Yellen will lead Joe Biden’s Treasury. What does she stand for?

Both progressives and conservatives can find things to like about the former chair of the Fed


IN THE FIRST instalment of the “Harry Potter” series, the protagonist stumbles across the Mirror of Erised. Anyone who looks into the mirror sees the “deepest, most desperate desire” of their hearts reflected back at them. There is a touch of Erised about President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to nominate Janet Yellen as America’s next treasury secretary, reported on November 23rd. 

No economist is more qualified than Ms Yellen, a former chair of the Federal Reserve and a respected academic, for the job. Perhaps more important, however, for what is a political role as much as an economic one, people from the progressive left to the conservative right can find something to like about her.

In today’s political configuration, that matters. Mr Biden must bridge a split in the Democratic Party between run-of-the-mill centrists and tear-it-down millennial socialists. And before she becomes treasury secretary, Ms Yellen must be confirmed by the Senate, which Republicans currently control. 

That hurdle ruled out candidates such as Elizabeth Warren, a senator from Massachusetts whom many Republicans would never confirm because she is seen as too hostile to free markets and the financial industry.

In the days before the announcement Washington insiders believed the race was between Ms Yellen and Lael Brainard, a governor of the Fed. Some favoured Ms Brainard on the grounds that she had more expertise in trade economics, others because she is younger than Ms Yellen, and would therefore do a better job at balancing out an elderly president. Left-leaning Democrats were particularly taken with Ms Brainard’s monetary doveishness.

Yet Ms Yellen has many advantages of her own. She is an accomplished economist, originally specialising in labour economics, and is the president of the American Economic Association, the field’s pre-eminent learned society. (There are also few better liked people in the profession; wonks pop their collars in homage to one of Ms Yellen’s sartorial quirks.) 

She was a highly competent chair of the Fed between 2014 and 2018, communicating the central bank’s intentions clearly in advance so as not to take investors by surprise. 

She is less likely to get herself into the sort of scrapes that Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, has found himself in. The latest is a tussle with the Fed over the proper direction of economic policy.

The genius of choosing Ms Yellen lies in the fact that people of all political persuasions can find some reason to cheer her appointment. That means she will almost certainly be confirmed by the Senate. Take monetary policy. 

Hawks point out that on Ms Yellen’s watch the Fed raised rates from near zero to 1.25-1.5%. Doves counter that hawks were over-represented in the rate-setting panel at the time, and that Ms Yellen did a good job of keeping them in check.

It is a similar story on fiscal policy. Shortly before Mr Trump became president, Ms Yellen argued that “fiscal policy is not obviously needed to provide stimulus to help us get up to full employment”. She is on the board of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an organisation that spends a lot of time warning people about the dangers of high public debt. 

Yet during the pandemic Ms Yellen has argued for “extraordinary fiscal support”. In June she co-signed a letter arguing that “Congress must pass another economic recovery package.”

Passing another stimulus bill may be her first big task. Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on a replacement to the bill passed in April, with particular disagreement on the size of the eventual package, even as it is now clear that the economic recovery is slowing. 

It is a lot to expect that the sheer force of one person could help break the deadlock, not least because Republicans are likely to retain control of the Senate for a while yet. 

But if anyone can do it, it may be Ms Yellen.

ALL 3 RESETS LEAD TO GOLD

by Egon von Greyerz


There are three major Reset themes for the financial system, all with dire consequences.

So let’s look at the First Reset:

The current global crisis situation is almost as unreal as the 1964 Bond film “Goldfinger” in which the old 007 villain Auric Goldfinger plans to attack Fort Knox.

The world already has a “real Goldfinger” in the World Economic Forum (WEF) German founder and globalist, Klaus Schwab.


IS SCHWAB A MODERN GOLDFINGER?

Schwab’s “Great Reset” agenda sounds more suitable for a coming Bond film than for our World. It certainly has all the ingredients of a Bond film including dismantling the current capitalist system achieving world dominance with the assistance of implanted computer chips in every human being in order to control and programme the human race.

Just to be clear, the preceding sentence is Schwab’s plan and not Goldfinger’s.

The real life plans of Schwab’s “Great Reset – The Fourth Industrial Revolution” are beyond belief and frightening? His plan certainly would be much more suited for a Bond film than for the world.

Every year Schwab manages to gather a global elite in Davos, consisting of billionaires, corporate and political leaders and many other hangers-on.

It is hard to determine how many of the participants actually believe in Schwab’s agenda and how many are there to rub shoulders with the global elite. Most seem to be there because it is the place to be seen and “network”. You would have thought that there must be better places for important meetings than when the whole world is watching you.

IMPLANTABLE MICROCHIPS

Goldfinger’s Schwab’s agenda according to his “Great Reset,” under the umbrella of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” is a “fusion of our digital and biological identity”. 

This will include “active implantable microchips that break the skin barrier of our bodies.”

On the WEF website, Covid-19 is used as the pretext for the revolutionary reset. The agenda is based on dismantling the current capital system in favour of a centralised technocrat rule which will lead to fewer civil liberties, lower living standards, less fuel consumption and accelerated automation of jobs.

The purpose is clear, Schwab’s Great Reset will involve “implanted devices that will likely help to communicate thoughts normally expressed verbally ….. and potentially unexpressed thoughts or moods by reading brain waves and other signals.”

“Even crossing national borders might one day involve a detailed brain scan to assess an individual’s security risk.” Schwab also states that implantable microchips will be the cornerstone of a transhumanist agenda that will merge man with the machine. This will force us “to question what it means to be human” says Schwab. It seems that Schwab definitely doesn’t believe that we humans have a soul.

AIM TO ROBOTISE HUMANITY

The Fourth Industrial Revolution provides the potential “to robotise humanity and thus compromise our traditional sources of meaning – work, community, family, identity.”

Many of the technological developments that are part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are clearly positive if handled correctly. But Schwab’s vision of a dystopian Marxist society controlled by an almighty elite would lead to a collapse of the economy just like communism did.

So there we have it, Orwell’s 1984 has finally arrived with Big Brother not just watching every step of human beings but also every thought even before it has been expressed. Obviously it will also become a two-way system so that humans can be programmed to do whatever the elite decides. Frightening thought!

SCHWAB’S DYSTOPIA TO FAIL

Clearly, Schwab’s dream is the perfect script for the next Bond film with the old villain Blofeld executing Schwab’s Great Reset. But the big consolation is that so far has the villain in the Bond films never succeeded to conquer the world and control humans and I am quite convinced that Schwab’s Great Reset will fail too.

SECOND RESET – CBDC


The Second Reset involves Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC). Since the current financial system is bankrupt, the IMF, BIS and the leading central banks have realised that the present currency system needs to be replaced. So rather than a currency system based on paper money the central banks would instead create digital money.

Most of the major central banks are already working on CBDC. On top of national CBDCs there would be an IMF/BIS digital currency which would replace the present special drawing rights.

Currently central banks don’t directly print money to inject into the system. Instead they create money through open market operations. This involves purchasing securities in the market using new money or by creating bank reserves issued to commercial banks.

COMMERCIAL BANKS ARE THE BIGGEST MONEY PRINTERS

These reserves combined with deposits allow commercial banks to be the biggest money printers. Their reserves are multiplied through fractional reserve banking, allowing them to lend a proportion of their deposits and reserves.

In simple terms, if a bank receives a $100 deposit, it can lend or create $90 and retain $10 in reserves. The borrower of the $90 then uses the money and either directly or indirectly (e.g. buying goods), the $90 comes back into the banking system as a deposit. 

Thereafter, 90% or $91 are lent again and so it goes on thereby expanding the banks’ balance sheets exponentially.

This makes the commercial banks the biggest printers or creators of money and has led to the explosion of debt that the world is experiencing.

CENTRAL BANKS – THE NEW LENDERS

The new CBDC system will eventually lead to commercial banks ceasing lending activities. Instead central banks will print money and directly lend/give the money to individuals or companies. This is what the MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) is all about.

As the central banks take over the loans of the commercial banks, they will most probably offset depositors’ funds which then would be worthless. Many commercial banks would be allowed to go under.

CENTRAL BANKS TO HAVE ULTIMATE CONTROL

It would be an ingenious system since the central banks would now control all money transactions including tax collection. They would control every single bank account and could charge any tax, government levy or fine directly without authorisation of the accountholder

The central bank could never go bankrupt as it would just write off any bad debts and print more money in a never ending virtuous circle of unlimited money printing and debt creation.

The problem is that debt can never vanish without severe consequences. If you write off major debts, the assets that the debt were backing would also be worthless. But the unlimited ability of central banks to create new debt would supposedly solve any of these problems. At least, that’s what they believe!

MONEY PRINTING IN THE 2000S ONLY FOR THE WEALTHY

Money printing in the 2000s never acted as stimulus but rather as a life raft for the financial system which has been under constant threat of bankruptcy since 2006.

This is why there has been no consumer inflation (but massive asset inflation) since the printed money never reached the public. Instead it temporarily propped up the banks and allowed the ones nearest to the printing press to create massive wealth.

The privileged few with access to the printed money includes the banks themselves and their top management, hedge funds, private equity as well as major investors and businesses. The consequences have been a massive gap between the haves and the have nots which will lead to much bigger civil unrest than we are currently seeing.

BRETTON WOODS II – WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING


So what is wrong with this system? It appears to be the perfect Shangri-La where money can be created at will, bringing total bliss to the world.

Well, there is one major problem. This new Bretton Woods II or Reset is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It would be just a new construction to give the impression that the old system is now history and debts have been conveniently parked where they can make no harm.

NO ROLE FOR GOLD?

In my view, gold is unlikely to have an official role in the Second Reset and that is just as well. Whenever gold is officially backing the system, the risk of cheating or manipulation would be even greater than today. We must remember that before 1971, there was not the sophistication in the system to manipulate markets.

All this Second Reset would be is a digital form of fiat money, allowing central banks to flood the system directly with digital money instead of paper money. So the benefit for governments and the central banks is that they have just modernised and streamlined money printing.

CBDC WILL LEAD TO HYPERINFLATION

But there are no benefits for the world. The CBDCs will just increase debt and the velocity of money, eventually leading to hyperinflation and the total debasement of the digital currencies. So in effect just an acceleration of the problems in the current system.

THIRD & DISORDERLY RESET

Finally we have the Third Reset. This is a disorderly reset with the debasement of currencies accelerating, leading initially to hyperinflation and eventually to a systemic collapse and implosion of the financial system. 

In the third reset, the central banks would totally lose control. After the hyperinflation there would be a deflationary implosion of asset values, leading to precipitous price declines.

Gold would obviously be life saving during the hyperinflation but also be the only form of real money during the deflationary implosion as fiat money in the system disappears or becomes inaccessible.

SUMMARY

So in summary there are three potential resets. The WEF or James Bond type reset, is in my view just a dream that is unlikely to happen.

The CBDC reset might start but will be far from implemented before the Third Reset starts. This Third Disorderly Reset is in my view inevitable and will happen whatever else the powers that be or central banks attempt.

The consequences of this reset is that global debt will actually implode and so will most bubble asset values. This will give rise to a new system that will not be encumbered by massive debt. Only after having got rid of the debt shackles can the world economy again grow soundly, albeit from a much lower level.

NEW SOUND MONETARY SYSTEM WILL ARISE

As always in history resets don’t arise “sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion” but rather “later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved” (von Mises).

But the great benefit with the disorderly reset is that out of the ashes of the current diseased system a new sound and non-debt based currency system will arise.


It will obviously take time and the transitional period will involve a lot of suffering for the world. But in the end the Phoenix will rise out of the ashes. This is what history has taught us.

PRECIOUS METALS – LIFE INSURANCE

No one can with certainty say how the next 2-5 years will evolve or how the reset will develop. What is certain is that risk is currently massive and will increase with every day that passes as more money is printed and debt goes exponential.

What we do know is that physical gold and silver is the best protection against an unstable and soon totally bankrupt system. 

Fiat currencies have declined 80-85% against gold in this century. 

In the next few years, they will decline another 95-100% whether they are paper or digital.

Xi’s aim to double China’s economy is a fantasy

The idea that GDP can be twice as big in 2035 faces two significant obstacles: demography and politics

Michael Pettis

Warehouse employees work in Hengyang, Hunan province. A declining working population requires that the pace of the decline in productivity drops by nearly two-thirds if China is to double GDP by 2035 © STR/AFP/Getty


Will China double the size of its economy by 2035, as President Xi Jinping proposed at a Communist party conference three weeks ago? 

To do so, the Chinese economy must grow annually by just over 4.7 per cent on average for the next 15 years. It grew by 6.1 per cent last year, and by 6.7 per cent annually over the previous five years.

In that context, 4.7 per cent a year seems quite manageable. But while the calculations may seem straightforward, there are economic and demographic constraints that are not.

Every country that followed the high-savings, investment-led growth model that China adopted in the early 1990s — such as Japan in the 1970s and 1980s, or Brazil in the decade before — has gone through three distinct stages. 

The first stage, characterised by heavy investment in badly-needed infrastructure, delivered many years of rapid but unbalanced growth. In that stage, debt grew in line with the economy because when debt mostly funds productive investment, gross domestic product grows faster than debt.

In the second stage, as each country sought to rebalance demand away from investment, typically with little success, growth remained fairly high, although now driven increasingly by non-productive investment. When this happens, total debt in the economy must grow faster than GDP. So the debt burden rose.

Finally in the third stage, the country either reached its debt capacity limits or a worried government took steps to prevent debt from rising further. Either way, the economy was forced finally to rebalance away from investment and towards consumption amid far slower, sometimes even negative, growth.

China today is clearly in the second stage. Between 1980 and 2010, Chinese GDP doubled four times, but debt levels were low and rose slowly. However, between 2010 and 2020 when GDP doubled again, China did so by tripling its total debt burden to $43tn, so that it now stands, officially, at over 280 per cent of GDP.

Assume conservatively that the relationship between debt and growth doesn’t change, and China’s debt-to-GDP ratio will have to rise to over 400 per cent by 2035 if it is to double GDP again. This is a level that would be unprecedented in history. Everywhere else, growth collapsed long before debts reached levels close to this.

China can in principle reduce its dependence on debt by shifting domestic demand from investment to consumption, as Beijing has long proposed. Yet this requires that the household income share of GDP rise from roughly 50 per cent today to at least 70 per cent.

Beijing has long wanted to do this but with limited success, despite a decade of trying. 

There is still little to suggest the party is willing to tackle the institutional implications of the large wealth transfer from local governments and elites to households this entails.

There is also a demographic problem. From the late 1970s, China benefited from a rapidly rising working-age population, but this reversed around a decade ago. In fact, over the next 15 years, while China’s population will grow by an estimated 1.5 per cent, its working population will decline by an astonishing 6.8 per cent, and will continue to decline for the rest of the century. 

To put it in context, while today there are 4.7 Chinese of working age for every equivalent American, by the end of the century there will be only 2.4.

This has economic implications. Achieving GDP growth of 4.7 per cent with a declining working population requires as much productivity growth per worker as 5.2 per cent GDP growth with a stable working population. Growth in Chinese labour productivity has in fact fallen steadily since 2010. 

Looking ahead, a declining working population requires that the pace of this decline in productivity drops by nearly two-thirds if China is to double GDP by 2035.

None of this means that Mr Xi’s goal is impossible, but we must recognise the constraints. Absent China discovering an entirely new engine of economic growth to absorb the huge amount of debt-financed spending that now goes into non-productive investments, China can double GDP by 2035 only under one of two conditions.

Either there is in effect no limit to China’s debt capacity, or Beijing boosts consumption by managing a massive redistribution of income to ordinary households. 

History suggests that the former is very unlikely, and that the latter will set off substantial and unpredictable political and social change. Either way, it is an unlikely bet.


The writer is a finance professor at Peking University and a senior fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center.

White House Offers $916 Billion Stimulus Proposal, Cutting Jobless Benefits

The proposal by Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, was the administration’s first substantive engagement with Congress on a stimulus deal since the election.

By Emily Cochrane

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s proposal came as lawmakers raced to reach a deal on another round of coronavirus relief.Credit...Al Drago for The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Jump-starting negotiations with days to spare, the White House on Tuesday offered Democrats a $916 billion pandemic stimulus proposal that would meet their demand to provide some relief to state and local governments and include liability protections for businesses that have been a top priority of Republicans.

The offer from Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, to Speaker Nancy Pelosi was the first time since November’s elections that the Trump administration has engaged directly in talks on Capitol Hill about how to prop up the nation’s flagging economy. It came as lawmakers raced to reach a deal on another round of coronavirus relief before they conclude this year’s session, now expected to happen next week.

The plan does not include a proposed revival of $300 weekly enhanced unemployment benefits, though it would extend other federal unemployment programs set to expire in the coming weeks. Instead, it would include another, smaller round of direct payments to Americans, amounting to $600 per person.

The original $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March distributed a round of $1,200 stimulus checks and established the enhanced unemployment benefits at $600 a week through July, which President Trump later extended at $300 a week for most workers. 

The proposal put forward by Mr. Mnuchin would not address the lapsed benefit and would halve the one-time payment.

“The president’s proposal must not be allowed to obstruct the bipartisan congressional talks that are underway,” Ms. Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said in a statement, calling the cuts to unemployment insurance benefits from a proposed $180 billion to $40 billion “unacceptable.”

In a statement issued after his conversation with the speaker on Tuesday, Mr. Mnuchin offered little detail other than his intent to offset the cost of the package in part by repurposing $429 billion in funds from earlier legislation and using unspent funds from a popular federal program for small businesses that lapsed this year.

The proposal emerged as a bipartisan group of moderate lawmakers was meeting virtually to work toward an agreement on the details of its $908 billion compromise plan. It was unclear how Mr. Mnuchin’s proposal would affect discussions on that package, which Democratic leaders on Tuesday said “are the best hope for a bipartisan solution.”

The two provisions Mr. Mnuchin singled out as part of his offer — what he called “robust” liability protections for businesses, schools and hospitals, and funds for state and local governments — have been the largest sticking points in efforts to reach a compromise.

The administration’s proposal also included funds for vaccine distribution and the revival of the Paycheck Protection Program, the small-business loan program.

“It’s a very good offer,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, who, along with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, was briefed on the plan by Mr. Mnuchin and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff. “It focuses on the things that need to be there.”

Earlier Tuesday, Mr. McConnell signaled openness to a deal, floating the possibility of removing both the liability provision and funding for state and local governments. He argued that dropping both parties’ top priorities could smooth the way for a narrower deal with funding for vaccine distribution, schools and small businesses.

“We know the new administration is going to be asking for another package,” Mr. McConnell said on Tuesday, offering an implicit acknowledgment of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. “What I recommend is we set aside liability, and set aside state and local, and pass those things that we agree on, knowing full well we’ll be back at this after the first of the year.”

The idea amounted to the first significant concession in months from Mr. McConnell, who had previously called the legal protections a “red line” in stimulus talks. But Democrats scoffed at it, after months of insisting that any stimulus agreement include funds to bolster state and local governments that have lost hundreds of billion of dollars during the pandemic and are facing devastating budget cuts. Republicans have branded the provision a “blue-state bailout,” though state officials in both parties have lobbied for additional relief.

“He’s sabotaging good-faith bipartisan negotiations because his partisan ideological effort is not getting a good reception,” Mr. Schumer said. In her own statement, Ms. Pelosi declared that “Leader McConnell’s efforts to undermine good-faith, bipartisan negotiations are appalling.”

Mr. Schumer said Democrats’ proposals for funding state and local governments had “broad bipartisan support,” unlike Mr. McConnell’s liability proposal. The measure would provide five years of legal protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits for businesses, schools, hospitals and nonprofit organizations that make “reasonable efforts” to comply with government standards.

But many Democrats have rejected what Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, derided as “a get-out-of-jail-free card to companies that put the lives of their workers and customers at risk.” And while Mr. McConnell has warned of a wave of lawsuits related to the pandemic, economic data shows that there have been only a relatively small number so far.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers is discussing liability protections in its outline of the $908 billion compromise, as well as how to allocate $160 billion currently set aside for state and local governments.

But after unveiling an outline this month, the group has not yet completed text.

“I hope that we can come up with an agreement,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, told reporters when asked about Mr. McConnell’s suggestion. “If we can’t, then I see a certain logic in passing what we do agree with, given that there’s widespread support for another round of P.P.P., helping our schools, our health care providers, providing more money for testing and vaccine distribution.”

Leaders of both parties have agreed that some form of relief needs to be approved before Congress departs at the end of the year, and to work toward attaching it to a catchall government spending package. Lawmakers and aides are still working to resolve a number of outstanding issues in the dozen must-pass bills that keep the government fully funded.

Both chambers are expected to approve a one-week stopgap bill in the coming days to avert a government shutdown on Friday and buy additional time for negotiators.


Reporting was contributed by Luke Broadwater, Nicholas Fandos, Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappeport. 

Technologies Of Freedom, Substack Edition

BY JOHN RUBINO 


Imagine that you’re trying to do actual investigative journalism at, say, the New York Times or Fox, and you propose a story that threatens the interests of your outlet’s audience or advertisers. Chances are you’ll be shut down by your editors, if not fired and blacklisted for going beyond the boundaries of permissible reporting.

Your response to this might depend on your place in the journalistic ecosystem. If you’re just building your career or trying to hold on to a mid-level niche, you’ll probably go along to get along, since it’s not clear where else you can go and still make a living.

If you’re near the top of the food chain, however, you now have options, in the form of new platforms that allow you to speak directly to your audience without mediation by corporate censors. One such platform is Substack, which is gaining popularity with prominent reporters fleeing what they see as increasingly outrageous mainstream censorship. 

Two quick examples:

Glenn Greenwald was the reporter Edward Snowden contacted when the latter was trying to expose blatantly unconstitutional NSA spying on US citizens. A few years later, Greenwald founded The Intercept as a home for old school “adversarial” journalism.

But the people he hired were eventually co-opted by corporate media, and when he tried to mention the Hunter Biden corruption allegations in a post, they rebelled. 

Greenwald left (see more on that acrimonious split here) and set up shop at Substack, where he is now a top-10 draw. 

Here’s a short excerpt from his latest:

A Long-Forgotten CIA Document From WikiLeaks Sheds Critical Light Today on U.S. Politics and Wars

One WikiLeaks document that particularly caught my attention at first: a classified 2010 CIA “Red Cell Memorandum,” named after the highly secretive unit created by Bush/Cheney CIA Director George Tenet in the wake of the 9/11 attack.

What made this document so fascinating, so revealing, is the CIA’s discussion of how to manipulate public opinion to ensure it remains at least tolerant of if not supportive of Endless War and, specifically, the vital role President Obama played for the CIA in packaging and selling U.S. wars around the world. In this classified analysis, one learns a great deal about how the “military industrial complex,” also known as the “Blob” or “Deep State,” reasons; how the Agency exploits humanitarian impulses to ensure continuation of its wars; and what the real function is of the U.S. President when it comes to foreign policy.

What prompted the memo was the CIA’s growing fears that the population of Western Europe — as evidenced by the fall of the Dutch Government driven in large part by the electorate’s anger over involvement in Afghanistan — was rapidly turning against the War on Terror generally and the war in Afghanistan specifically. The CIA was desperate to figure out how to stem the tide of anti-war sentiment growing throughout that region, particularly to shield France and Germany from it, by manipulating public opinion.

The Agency concluded: its best and only asset for doing that was President Obama and his popularity in Western European cities.


Matt Taibbi built a following as Rolling Stone’s political correspondent, where he routinely insulted both other reporters and the political hacks they covered. He also took on Wall Street, famously referring to Goldman Sachs as a “vampire squid.”

His book Hate Inc explained how the modern news media has jettisoned the search for truth in favor of reinforcing the preconceptions of narrow target audiences. The book’s cover enraged his colleagues by including a picture of MSNBC’s Russiagate superstar Rachel Maddow alongside Fox News attack dog Sean Hannity.

This, among many other things, poisoned the well at Rolling Stone, and Taibbi moved to Substack, where he, like Greenwald, is a big draw. 

From his latest:

For What Are America’s Wealthy Thankful? A Worsening Culture War

Self-described “elected DNC member” and Washington Monthly contributor David Atkins tweeted this last week, garnering a huge response:

David Atkins @DavidOAtkins

No seriously…how *do* you deprogram 75 million people? Where do you start? Fox? Facebook? We have to start thinking in terms of post-WWII Germany or Japan. Or the failures of Reconstruction in the South.

You have to read the full thread to grasp Atkins’ argument, a greatest hits collection of DNC talking points. Conservatives, Atkins writes, have no beliefs, being a “belligerent death cult against reality and basic decency.” 

There’s no reason to listen to them, since the “only actual policy debates” are “happening within the dem coalition between left and center-left.” He had over 61,000 likes last I checked.

Meanwhile, as Donald Trump kept describing the election as a “hoax,” newly re-upped South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted this, perhaps offering a preview into Republican messaging in the post-Trump era:

Lindsey Graham @LindseyGrahamSC

I can understand why the Squad doesn’t want me in the Senate – because I’m going to bury your agenda. You’re a bunch of Socialists. You would transform America and make it Venezuela. I’m gonna stand in your way. I’m not going anywhere!

From the “vast right-wing conspiracy” through the “basket of deplorables” to now, the Democratic message increasingly focuses on the illegitimacy of the ordinary conservative voter’s opinion: ignorant, conspiratorial, and racist, so terrible that the only hope is mass-reprogramming by educated betters.

On the other hand, Republicans from Goldwater to Trump have warned that coalitions of “marauders” from the inner cities and “bad hombres” from across the border are plotting to use socialist politics to seize the hard-earned treasure of the small-town voter, with the aid of elitist traitors in the Democratic Party.

Spool these ideas endlessly and you get culture war. Any thought that it might abate once Trump left the scene looks naive now. The pre-election warnings from the right about roving bands of Pelosi-coddled Antifa troops looking to “attack your homes” haven’t subsided, while the line that Trump voters are not a political group but a stupidity death-cult is no longer hot take, but a mandatory element of mainstream press analyses.

Though the oft-predicted breakout of Yugoslavia-style sectarian violence hasn’t happened yet, it’s not for want of trying on the part of both politicians and the bigger media organizations, which couldn’t get enough of the stories of “on edge” and “nervous” citizens boarding up storefronts on Election Night. They keep playing up these tensions as click-generating theater, not caring about the consequences of wishing actual sectarian battle into existence.


Substack is just one of many new platforms and technologies that are offering real reporters an end-run around both left-and-right-wing corporate media. Stay tuned for profiles of some of the others.