michael meeropol

Michael Meeropol: President Trump Must Be Impeached

Dec 6, 2019

On May 23, 2017, I delivered a commentary in which I tried to argue that attempting to impeach Trump was a waste of time --- and potentially would do more harm than good.

Today I am presenting a very personal commentary.    Last May, I lost Annie, my darling life-partner of 53 years.   On November 2, former colleagues from both the Springfield and Longmeadow school systems as well as from the University of Massachusetts and the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center joined with family, friends and acquaintances at Mount Holyoke College’s Willetts-Hallowell Hall to honor her and celebrate her life.   I am taking this opportunity to share with my listeners a few things about this amazing wonderful beautiful human being --- a woman with whom I have been privileged to share over five decades of my life, a woman who lived a wonderful --- but of course much too short --- life.

Michael Meeropol: The Many Lives Of Roy Cohn

Oct 4, 2019

Today, I would like to take off my economist’s hat and put on my proud papa’s hat.   My daughter Ivy has just finished a documentary about the life of right wing Republican lawyer-fixer Roy Cohn.   The film is one of two documentaries about the former Joseph McCarthy and Donald Trump consiglieri.  Hers is entitled “Bully, Coward, Victim, The Story of Roy Cohn.”  The other is called “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”  (The title for that film comes from a quote from an exasperated Donald Trump as he complained bitterly that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not sufficiently “protective” of him [Trump].)

On August 27, the economics profession lost a great man, Martin Weitzman, Professor Emeritus at Harvard University.   The world has also lost a very important citizen.   I was at Swarthmore College with him in the early 1960s and even then, he displayed a creative brilliance.   He never became a pundit on television or in the newspapers, but in many areas of economic research he left his mark.   His most important contribution, in my opinion, was in making it crystal clear that the cost of doing nothing to drastically cut carbon emissions in order to head off global warming ---no matter how uncertain the potential damages and no matter how far in the future those damages will occur will be so high that we must make the changes that reduce those emissions now.   For that contribution, he deserved the Nobel Prize in economics.  The entire world needed his strong voice to add support for the growing chorus --- led today by the young people of the world who have the most to lose from the inaction of the politicians – demanding action.

[This commentary was recorded before the terrorist attack in El Paso Texas and the subsequent one in Dayton, Ohio.]

Last week (ten days ago) , I watched the CNN debates and follow-up coverage and I’m so mad, I could spit!

On June 30, 2019, the Sunday Review section of the New York Times ran a front page article entitled “Want to be Less Racist?  Move to Hawaii.”   [Authored by Moises Velasquez-Manoff, the article runs from Page 1 to pages 6 and 7]

Michael Meeropol: How To Pay For The Green New Deal

Jun 7, 2019

In my last commentary delivered in March, I focused on critics of the Green New Deal.  I argued that the demonization of federal budget deficits was a red herring not to taken seriously when discussing the pros and cons of the series of proposals called the “Green New Deal.”

Michael Meeropol: The Green New Deal

Feb 15, 2019

I assume most listeners have heard of the proposed GREEN NEW DEAL.   The proposal was mentioned by three separate OP ED columns in the New York Times on February 12.

Michael Meeropol: Support For TSA Workers Who Call In Sick

Jan 16, 2019

I am sure virtually all listeners to this commentary are disgusted by Trump as he holds hundreds of thousands of federal workers hostage to his demand for $5 billion to build part of his ”wall” on the southern border.  On January 12, the shutdown became the longest in history.  The amount of damage being done to our fellow citizens in terms of lost income (government contractors) deferred income (government workers), lost services (people in Section 8 housing who stand to lose their HUD rent subsidies and food stamp recipients), deferred income while being forced to work without compensation (“essential” government workers)--- ALL of those costs are horrifying.

We all know that Donald Trump is an authoritarian (I say fascist) ignoramus who is only interested in himself.   His policies are terrible and have already done great harm to our country and the world --  His deregulations have helped polluters and criminals ---  His foreign policy has enabled dictators – including the Saudi government with its famine-inducing war in Yemen. 

Michael Meeropol: Mark II

Oct 5, 2018

Even with a fake investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, he is obviously unfit for the Supreme Court.

I have read the New York Times op-ed by an anonymous Trump Administration official and I am disgusted --- not by the behavior of Trump whose actions are beyond disgust --- but by the self-congratulatory tone of the author.

Michael Meeropol: Once Again, Trump Contradicts Trump

Aug 3, 2018

Listeners may be forgiven if a July 21 article in the New York Times has been long forgotten. However, for this economist, the topic --  Trump’s complaints that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policies were dampening economic growth -- was significant. Once again, President Trump was contradicting candidate Trump.

When I gave my last radio commentary five weeks ago, I decried the awful policy that was separating children from their parents at the border.   I had no idea that the revulsion I and many others (in fact the majority of Americans) felt would actually cause the Trump Administration to retreat – at least on paper.   Attorney General Sessions actually claimed --- falsely --- that family separation was NEVER the policy of this administration --- despite is promise --- that was video-taped --- that the government was prepared to separate families when they crossed the border.

My wife Annie and I are no doubt like many listeners to WAMC.   We find ourselves watching a lot of television –  especially the cable network MSNBC that feature exposes of the latest atrocities committed by Trump, his cabinet and the Republicans in Congress.  This, unfortunately, requires us to constantly watch Trump himself.   This is true even on the more “balanced” network CNN.   (We don’t think we could stomach watching FOX, but we occasionally enjoy the late night comedians and the biting critics such as Trevor Noah of Comedy Central, Samantha Bee on TBS and John Oliver.)

Have you ever heard of the Economic Policy Institute? As their name indicates, they do research on economic policy. Their goal is to “…include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions.” In other words, they don’t write for the one percent. I have often utilized their research in my classroom. Every time I want to show that the minimum wage in purchasing power is lower today than it was in 1968 despite decades of nominal increases, I utilize EPI’s tables.

Michael Meeropol: Don't Be Fooled By The Story Of Bonuses

Mar 2, 2018

In January 2018, I delivered a commentary in which I quoted economist Dean Baker comparing the savings that major corporations were getting from the tax cut with the amount of money they were committing to the highly touted bonuses they were giving out.   It appeared that about ONE TENTH of the benefit from the increase in after-tax profits was going to these one “time bonuses.

On Tuesday, January 23, Trump imposed tariffs on solar components.   As usual, most of the news media was distracted by the latest bright shiny object – this time, the end to the government shutdown and the question of who won or lost.  Fortunately, the New York Times decided on January 24 to explore the impact of the solar component tariff on the US solar industry.  The headline says it all, “Steep tariffs threaten growth of solar industry.”  (The New York Times, January 24. 2018, P. A1)

Michael Meeropol: The Facts About The GOP Tax Cut

Jan 5, 2018

When the Republicans claim that the tax bill they just passed will be a great Christmas gift to American workers and members of the middle class, they are being cynically dishonest.   Everyone knows, correctly, that the major gifts are for high income taxpayers and large corporations.

Michael Meeropol: Start The Bandwagon Without Me

Nov 14, 2017

Forgive me if I do not join in the almost universal commendations for Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker because they have made speeches attacking Trump.   Once more, I am sorry to say, the media has seized upon the latest bright shiny object in the sorry saga of the Trump Presidency.  Focusing on these two men and the speeches they made attacking Trump obscures the fact that they have both been reliable votes for the tremendous damage that Trump and his appointees are doing to the United States.

On September 24 something beautiful to behold happened.   A group of black athletes and some white allies refused to be bullied by our so-called President.  Even more stepped forward on October 1.  Of course I am referring to the group of football players who took knees in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.   Ever since September 24, Donald Trump has railed against the players and particularly Kaepernick because he was allegedly disrespecting the flag, the military, first responders and the entire nation.   This is so typical of Trump that it should not require explanation but here goes anyway:   Kaepernick was very explicit in stating that he took a knee during the playing of the National Anthem as a way of protesting the wanton unpunished killing of too many unarmed black people by police officers.   He was also protesting police brutality in general.   Trump, of course, ignores this completely and has turned the entire story into one of “disrespect.”   Too many people have fallen for this “misdirection play.”

So Donald Trump has tried to have it both ways. He is ending the DACA program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy established by the President Obama in June 2012 because Congress had failed to pass the Dream Act. In 2010, a version of the Dream had passed the House of Representatives and came just five votes short of shutting off an anti-immigrant filibuster in the Senate. In other words, a minority of US Senators prevented this eminently reasonable proposal from becoming law.

Much of the discussion of the Trump Administration’s proposed budget has focused on the extremity of the cuts to the civilian side of the discretionary budget.   By some calculations, if the budget were adopted, the discretionary budget would be cut almost in half, making the Federal Government almost completely unable to function.  

Michael Meeropol: Wag The Dog

May 5, 2017

WAMC listeners in the mid-Hudson Valley are probably acquainted with the free monthly lifestyle magazine Chronogram.   Available from Northern Westchester to Columbia County as well as Orange to Ulster counties, it provides a window into a variety of local activities from music to business to education.   It also is the home of some biting political commentary by the novelist/journalist and Woodstock resident Larry Beinhart.

Have you ever heard of an economist named Arthur Laffer? Back in the 1970s he created a story about the effect of income tax rates on high income people. Because the rates were allegedly too high, incentives had been damaged and the wealthy were refraining from saving and investing. This caused the economy to grow slower. Laffer convinced Congressman Jack Kemp that permanent dramatic income tax cuts would create such a big improvement in incentives that the resulting increase in economic activity would raise the tax base so much that even with lower rates, revenues would actually rise. (The principle is the same as with a sale – the discounted price is more than made up with an increased volume of purchase. In the case of a tax cut stimulating activity, say a 10% cut in tax rates produces income increases of 20% (raising the amount subject to the tax) --- revenues actually go up.)

Michael Meeropol: A Proposal To Retrain Coal Miners

Apr 7, 2017

There are approximately 65,000 coal miners working today in the United States.  (Adding employment in coal fired electrical plants brings the number connected to coal to about 150,000.)   In 1985, the number of coal miners was 173,700.   By 2003 it had fallen to 70,000.   Donald Trump and Republicans have made a big deal about President Obama’s so-called “war on coal” and that propaganda had been very effective.   Republicans carried West Virginia and Kentucky against President Obama, and Donald Trump won Pennsylvania as well.  He parlayed his cynically false promise to bring back coal jobs into big electoral majorities in coal country --- carrying West Virginia for example with 69% of the vote.   And yes, coal mining jobs were at 65,400 in 2015 indicating that the downward trend in coal employment had continued under President Obama, though the major declines were much more precipitous before 2008.  (These numbers are available from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis).   Coal production on the other hand rose steeply from the late 1960s to 2008 reflecting increased productivity as strip-mining began to replace deep-shaft mining and equipment made the old pick and shovel image of a coal miner completely obsolete.   Total production was 1.172 million short tons in 2008 falling to less than 900,000 in 2015.  (The numbers are available from the U.S. Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Form 7000-2, “Quarterly Mine Employment and Coal Production Report”).    Though the fall has been blamed on the “war on coal” in fact it is the result of cheap natural gas as a result of fracking.   The only way to bring back coal jobs is to impose onerous taxation on natural gas so that utilities will cease switching over.   Imagine how well that would play with natural gas companies.

Michael Meeropol: What A Decent Society Looks Like

Mar 24, 2017

[Between the time this was taped for delivery on March 24 and the writing of this longer version, the Republicans pulled their bill repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.   The principles enunciated here and the argument that seniors who receive Medicare are receiving the same kind of social insurance subsidies from current taxpayers as are Medicaid recipients remain very important.   It is also important that people who struggled to protect the Affordable Care Act from being replaced by Trumpcare remain vigilant.  The promise by the Trump Administration that the will do everything in their power to destroy the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act should be taken very seriously.] 

What is the difference between Medicaid and Medicare?    The major difference is that Medicare is an earned entitlement while Medicaid is a means-tested entitlement.  Working ten years and paying payroll taxes qualify you for Medicare’s hospitalization insurance without having to pay out of pocket premiums.   Paying those payroll taxes also entitles seniors to enroll in Medicare Part B which covers physicians’ services and Part D which is the prescription drug plan.   These programs are yours regardless of your income, so long as you have paid the payroll tax during ten years of your working career.  Billionaires get free hospitalization and access to Medicare Parts B and D along with the rest of us, just by virtue of having paid the payroll tax.  Because of this fact, people who receive Medicare (and this applies to Social Security pensions as well) believe they have “paid for it” with their taxes and are not, therefore, receiving “welfare.”

On January 31, there were two articles about Donald Trump that had him saying two diametrically opposed things. The topic was whether or not Medicare should be able to negotiate the price of drugs bought for the Part D insurance program. Under the 2003 law which set up Medicare Part D, Medicare is explicitly barred from negotiating drug prices with their suppliers. The Veterans Administration, by contrast, is permitted to do so and saves about 40% compared to Medicare, Part D. For details see “What if Medicare’s drug benefit were more like the VA’s” at http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/what-if-medicares-drug-benefit-was-more-like-the-vas/

Michael Meeropol: Showing Up

Feb 3, 2017

Many members of my extended family participated in demonstrations on Saturday, January 21 pledging resistance to the far right agenda of the Republican Congress and their leader, Donald Trump.  We marched in solidarity with women disgusted by the thought of a sexist, sexual predator in the White House.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Michael Meeropol is professor emeritus of Economics at Western New England University, and the co-author of Principles of Macroeconomics: Activist vs. Austerity Policies. He is also a long-time WAMC commentator. But the topic that brings Mike back to WAMC's studios today is his late parents: Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Here in the waning days of the Obama administration, Mike Meeropol and his brother are working to exonerate their mother.