michael meeropol | WAMC

michael meeropol

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. 

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.

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