michael meeropol | WAMC

michael meeropol

The Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats are rightly being praised for passing the American Rescue Plan.   Most efforts to use federal spending or tax policy to stimulate the economy – going all the way back to the Kennedy-Johnson tax cut of 1964 -- were usually focused on the middle and upper classes.   The last big program that was focused specifically on lower income Americans was the passage of Medicaid back in 1965 --- which in terms of spending was dwarfed by Medicare which benefits everyone, even those who could afford all their medical expenses out of pocket.

I wonder how many readers have heard of N. Gregory Mankiw.   He had a very distinguished career as a macro-economist in the 1980s and then in the 1990s was given a $1.4 million advance to write a textbook in Principles of Economics.  This was almost three times the previous high advance and it made him a celebrity.  That, plus his commitment to “Republican” principles of economics --- the negative effects of high marginal tax rates, the blame of persistent unemployment on the inability of prices to adjust completely – led to his being appointed head of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers in 2003.   He is now back teaching at Harvard and writes a regular column for the NY Times Sunday Business section.

On January 26 Inequality.org released a report entitled “10 months into the crisis:  660 Billionaires see wealth rise 40%”.   The information contained in that report is quite dramatic.

Michael Meeropol: Yellen Speaks Truth At Senate Hearing

Jan 22, 2021

I have to admit that I was quite moved by President Biden’s inaugural address.   It just seemed right that we had a “normal person” as President.   I agree that he may very well be much too optimistic about the possibility of working with Republicans to enact his policy wish list.   Much of what he wants to do as part of the nationally organized fight against the Coronavirus can be done via executive order (activating the Defense Production Act to speed the production and transportation and administration of the vaccine in sufficiently large numbers).  However, even the Coronavirus fight involves appropriating money which involves Congress.   Beyond that, there is also the need for a massive relief bill (the $1.9 trillion proposal).   And I haven’t even mentioned laws like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, both of which are sure to meet strong Republican opposition.

On December 22, President – elect Biden delivered a Christmas message to the country.  He very soberly asserted that:

I gave my first commentary back in 2005. In it, I identified Alan Greenspan and John Kenneth Galbraith as economists occupying two ends of the spectrum of economic policy choices discussed within the economics profession in the US. I ended the presentation with the following sentence:

Michael Meeropol: In Praise Of Black And Brown Voters

Nov 6, 2020

So I watched hours and hours of coverage of the election between 6:00 PM on Tuesday, November 3 and 4:30 PM on Wednesday, November 4.   I got about 2 and a half hours sleep over night on Tuesday and woke up early enough (at 4:15 AM)  to see the counting of votes from Milwaukee Wisconsin flip that state from a Trump to a Biden majority giving Wisconsin’s electoral votes to Biden.  By then I had endured the loss of Florida, North Carolina and (I feared) Georgia.  I also saw the apparent re-election of Thom Tillis in North Carolina, John Cornyn in Texas, Joni Ernst in Iowa and the loss of the Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama.   These early results dashed my hopes for a Senate majority and with it hopes for judicial reform and a whole series of hoped for progressive legislation.

What is socialism?   I watched the Republican convention and though the word was spoken often, the only thing I learned about it was that it is very bad. According to the speakers at the Republican Convention, if the United States became a socialist country, we would become like Stalin’s Russia, Castro’s Cuba, or Maduro’s Venezuela.

Who said this?

"They want three and a half billion dollars for something that'll turn out to be fraudulent, that's election money basically. They want three and a half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, [sic!] for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,   But if they don't get those two items that means you can't have universal mail-in voting because you they're [sic!] not equipped to have it," [grammatical errors included verbatim.]

When I first started these commentaries back in 2005 I noted that one of the major points of disagreement within the economics profession had to do with how much government intervention into “the market economy” was necessary.   Of course, there are anarchists who believe that there should be no government what so ever.   (In my opinion, the most detailed explication of how such a society would exist in reality is the fictionalized presentation by the anthropologist turned fantasy writer Ursula K. LeGuin in The Dispossessed.   It still makes a fabulous read almost 50 years after publication!)   In addition, supporters of the planned economy introduced into the Soviet Union in 1928 and copied by various communist governments between World War II and the 1990s (with North Korea still claiming to be centrally planned) believed that the government should make little or no provision for anything resembling a “free market.”

Michael Meeropol: "This Is How It Starts"

Jul 24, 2020

Early in the campaign for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, I stated that I believed Donald Trump was a fascist. Some people for whom I have a great deal of respect said that I was giving him too much credit --- that he was too dumb to really be a fascist. After, all, Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy from 1922 to 1943, was a theorist of fascism. [Anyone interested can see the book he is credited with writing: The Doctrine of Fascism.]   Even insanely crazy Adolf Hitler had written Mein Kampf.   Trump, as his many ghost writers can attest, doesn’t have the attention span to write a decent set of paragraphs, let alone develop any coherent theory about anything.

On June 23, David Brooks published an article on The Atlantic website entitled “Bruce Springsteen’s Playlist for the Trump Era.”Brooks introduced the article thusly:

Michael Meeropol: The Promise Of Juneteenth In 2020

Jun 19, 2020

June 19th is an important date in American history.  For my brother, myself and our families, it is the anniversary of the judicial murder of our parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, 67 years ago.   What he and I lived through as a six-year old and a ten-year-old back in 1953 never goes away.   [Calling it murder is not hyperbole.   For the facts underlying the reasoning behind this conclusion as well as details of what actually happened in the case, see Meeropol, Michael, “‘A Spy Who Turned His Family In’: Revisiting David Greenglass and the Rosenberg Case,” American Communist History Volume 17, Issue 2 (May 31, 2018) .]

Like most Americans, I have been heartbroken by the loss of over 110,000 of our fellow citizens to the coronavirus over the past four months. I have also been outraged and anguished by the continued killings of unarmed black people at the hands of police or vigilantes. 

On April 10, 2020, Senator Bernie Sanders (I, Vermont) teamed up with Representative Pramila Jaypal (D. Washington) to introduce the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act.   The point of the bill is to make sure that until the FDA certifies that there is a well-tested vaccine for COVID-19, the coronavirus that is causing the current pandemic, not one penny of out of pocket medical expenses will be charged to any individual seeking medical care or prescription drugs.  In short, health care will become a right at least temporarily.

If you watch enough television, you will often see a doctor or nurse describing in agonizing detail the pressures they are under treating Coronavirus patients.  I am in awe at their courage, their devotion to their calling, and the risks they take to care for patients.

Michael Meeropol: Lives Versus Economics

Mar 29, 2020

So I was watching TV the other night when they showed a clip from the appearance of Dan Patrick the Lieutenant Governor of Texas on the Tucker Carlson show.

Today, I am focusing on the ‘‘Families First Coronavirus Response Act,’’ passed by the House early Saturday morning, March 14 and by the Senate Wednesday afternoon, March 18.  [For the full text see https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/13/politics/read-bill-text-families-first-coronavirus-response-act/index.html]   With this focus, I am moving away from the theme of my March 6 commentary in which I lamented the failure of the federal government to engage in sufficient preparedness spending.   That failure is based on a simple cliché that has been attributed to former President Ronald Reagan – “Government is not the solution.  Government is the problem.”   This is actually an incorrect version of Reagan’s economic philosophy because in fact he supported significant increases in federal government spending on the military.   But saying that “government spending to help people is the problem” doesn’t have the same political cache that the more universal statement has.   (There are a few sincere libertarians --- I have met a few --- who are more consistent than Reagan --- wanting to cut the defense budget as well as the rest of the budget.)   Ever since the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s, there has been a consistent effort to cut back on the civilian side of the federal government.   My focus back on March 6 was on how easy it is to cut spending on aspects of the federal government that satisfy what public finance economists call “option demands.”  

I am old enough to remember that shortly after the 1968 election of Richard Nixon to the presidency, his campaign manager (and future US Attorney General) John Mitchell said, “Watch what we do not what we say.”  He was asking the public to in effect disregard some campaign rhetoric as a guide to actual government policy.  I think this advice is particularly useful for the general public in the era of Trump.    He is at the same time a thoroughly ignorant individual and a pathological liar.   Thus, it is impossible to learn anything of value by just listening to him.

I assume most listeners have heard of Bret Stephens.  He is a conservative columnist for the New York Times and recently he has appointed himself the chief adviser to Democrats on how to defeat Trump.  Stephens’ column on December 26 introduced an interesting metaphor.   What we need to defeat Trump, he opines, is SOAP.   His point is we don’t need to make any major changes to our economy and society --- such as a wealth tax, Medicare for all, a Green New Deal.   (No surgery needed!)   All we need is to have a Democrat running for President who promises to wash away the “dirt” of the Trump presidency and leave us Americans, clean (and pure?) again.

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.