Michael Meeropol | WAMC

Michael Meeropol

The House of Representatives is getting ready to pass the American Rescue Plan. This is the $1.9 trillion dollar proposal from the Biden Administration to provide relief payments to individuals, expanded unemployment benefits, an expansion of the child tax credit, aid to state and local governments, an increase in the minimum wage and other expenditures.

According to a recent Fox News poll, 68 percent of Republicans believe that the Presidential election was stolen --- that Donald Trump actually won.   This, of course, fits with the fact that the vast majority of people who voted for Trump believe many (most?) of his lies.   A recent article in the New York Times interviewed a group of pro-Trump demonstrators in Washington, DC and found that a good percentage of them were a bit more uncertain. 

On Tuesday, December 1, the New York Times published an article entitled, “Biden Team Re-envisions A Covid-Era Inauguration,” (written by Michael Shear and Nicholas Fandos. It was on page A19). The head of the Biden inaugural committee stated, “We will honor the American inaugural traditions and engage Americans across the country while keeping everybody healthy and safe.” A number of traditional events (the signing ceremony in the President’s room off the Senate floor, the inaugural balls for example) might get cancelled. A Biden inauguration spokesperson “said the trick would be to combine in-person elements ….with virtual Internet-based moments that bring in voices of people who cannot travel to attend the celebration.

How many of those reading this have seen the 1915 D.W. Griffiths film BIRTH OF A NATION?   This film is a classic.   It is also a disgusting celebration of the Ku Klux Klan.   Purporting to tell the story of both the Civil War and the Reconstruction era, this film presented the racist view of Reconstruction.   Unfortunately, that was the view that dominated American historiography from 1900 to the 1960s.   This analysis was known as the “Dunning School” after a professor at Columbia University William A. Dunning.   He and his Ph D students developed a “story” about Reconstruction after the Civil War that had at its jumping off point the “inability” of black Americans to “handle” the right to vote and other political opportunities.  This led, according to the writers in the Dunning School, to corruption, mismanagement of government, and social atrocities such as the legalization of intermarriage.   Manipulated by people coming South (dubbed “carpetbaggers”) and white Southerners (dubbed scalawags) who joined with carpetbaggers and ignorant blacks to form “radical Reconstruction” governments, the freed slaves brought a reign of corruption and debauchery down on the South.   Historian Claude Bowers summarized the views of the Dunning School in his 1929 book The Tragic Era, The Revolution After Lincoln.   Some have argued that he wrote the book to flesh out the theme of Griffith’s movie.

The Trump Administration and some of the companies that run large meat-packing plants are behaving reprehensibly towards their workers. When hot spot outbreaks of COVID-19 began to occur at many meat-packing plants, some of them closed down temporarily. As more and more workers got sick, some started to stay home out of fear for their own health. The result was a decline in production. It got so bad, that farmers – particularly those that raised pigs for slaughter – found no place to sell their maturing products.

In a recent Commentary, I argued that the Democrats in Congress needed to stand strong against Republican efforts, led by Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, to push through bills that bailed out the giant corporations leaving ordinary people to fend for themselves.   To a certain extent, they were able (by standing strong in the Senate) to force compromises on the last two bills passed. 

I didn’t watch the State of the Union.    I am glad I didn’t.   I cannot imagine the frustration of Democrats who sat there (some couldn’t take it and walked out --- a few decided to boycott it) listening to lie after lie after lie.

Michael Meeropol: Demonizing "The Squad"

Jul 26, 2019

By now everyone has heard of “the squad” ---  Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, NY), Ayanna Pressley (D, MA), Ilhan Omar(D, MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D, MI) – four young left wing Democratic women of color.   Ocasio-Cortez is Puerto Rican, Pressley is African American, Omar is Somali-American and Tlaib is Palestinian-American.   All are citizens – all except for Omar were born here in the United States.

Michael Meeropol: Lies About The Alleged Migrant Invasion

Nov 2, 2018

What does the migrant caravan have to do with the recent murderous rampage in a Pittsburgh synagogue?    And what do either or both of these events have to do with economics?   There is an unfortunate linkage that I will attempt to demonstrate.

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.)

So the Department of Commerce has decided to add a question about citizenship to the Census short form. A number of states have either sued or threatened to sue arguing that this is in contradiction to the whole point of the census as stated explicitly in the Constitution.

 [Please note:   The commentary was recorded on Thursday, November 30 before the final version of the bill was even released.   The written expansion was created before the Senate vote.   In the commentary, I assumed it would pass the Senate and be headed to a conference committee.]

I recently asked three expert economists to identify the worst element of the horrible tax bill that is going to a conference committee soon. They all agreed that the most egregious, dangerous change to the tax system contained in that bill is the lowering of taxes on pass-through business income.

On June 26, 2017, forty economists including six Nobel Prize winners sent a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell voicing strong opposition to the bill that was crafted in secret by the Senate and made public the week before the July 4 recess.   McConnell had initially hoped to sneak the bill through before the Senators went home for that recess because he feared that when they were home they would hear so much opposition that some of them might lose their nerve and vote against it.   As it was, by the time he had pulled the bill and sent it back to be re-worked (which is still happening as this commentary was being delivered), nine Senators had (for varying reasons) announced opposition to it.

On February 21, David Brooks wrote an OP ED for the New York Times entitled, “This Century is Broken.” 

According to the polls, a high percentage of the population has negative views of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  As a result, the Libertarian candidates Gary Johnson and William Weld are getting a good look from many voters.   Though national polls have them well below the 15% threshold for the Presidential debates, they are polling over 30% among young voters.   (Jill Stein, the candidate from the Green Party is polling in the low single digits and has not generated anywhere near as much support.)   I want to focus this commentary on some of the substance of Libertarian Party proposals.

Michael Meeropol: Debunking Trump's Slogan

Jul 12, 2016

Do you know who Patrick Buchanan is?  In many ways, he is a former incarnation of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate.  He began his career as a political operative working for Richard Nixon, and became a well-known right-wing pundit on television in the 1970s before going to work in the Reagan White House during the 1980s.  In 1992, he challenged President George H.W. Bush in the Republican primaries.   In an attempt to build up Bush I’s bona fides with the right wing of the party (Reaganites mistrusted Bush I’s conservatism), Buchanan was given a prime time speaking slot at the 1992 Republican Convention.  In his speech he proclaimed that there was “culture war” in the United States. Bill and Hilary Clinton were identified with the “wrong side” and, in a backhanded compliment, Buchanan magnanimously proclaimed that “George Bush is on our side.” The negativity of the speech and the attempted demonization of the Clintons and the “side” of various issues they presumably represented caused some commentators to snarkily remark that the speech sounded better “in the original German!”Like Trump, Buchanan preached divisiveness and attacked the Republican establishment.  In 2000 he actually ran for President on a third party ticket.

Michael Meeropol: Economists And Climate Change

Dec 4, 2015

There is a joke that defines an economist as a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Economist jokes often suggest that they are just ivory tower professors --- not to be taken too seriously. Yet in fact, the opposite is true. Economists are everywhere. (For example, the entire Federal Reserve is run by economists – both as members of the Board of Governors and as staffers.) Economists as intellectual hired guns provide supposedly “scientific” rationalizations for most policies. They are more powerful than we might think.

Michael Meeropol: GOP Tax Plans

Nov 6, 2015

On November 2, 2015 Josh Barro wrote a column in the New York times presenting details from some Republican candidates’ tax proposals.  (See “Republicans’ Talk of Taxes Leaves Much Unsaid,” New York Times, November 2, 2015, P. A 3)   Instead of being satisfied with sound bites, Barro does readers a service by going into some of the details.  The tax plans I want to highlight are those of Dr. Ben Carson and Senator Ted Cruz.  (He also discusses the plans of Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul and Governor John Kasich.)

After the Labor Day weekend, both the House and Senate will begin debating a resolution of disapproval of the nuclear agreement between Iran and China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the United States and the European Union.  Later they will vote on the deal.  Millions of dollars are being spent by various lobbying groups to defeat it.  Much less is being spent by supporters.   (It is important to remember that this is not an agreement just between the US and Iran --- the US had many partners in this negotiation.)

Michael Meeropol: Black Lives Matter

Aug 7, 2015

Recently, at the convention of Netroots Nation Presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders were confronted by members of the audience demanding that they address the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement.   Both men missed the opportunity to show that they GOT IT.

Michael Meeropol: Required Reading

Jul 3, 2015

I would like to strongly recommend that everyone listening to this broadcast immediately go out and buy a short book (you can read it in one sitting) called THE COLLAPSE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.  (NY:  Columbia University Press, 2014)  They had previous collaborated on a highly regarded book MERCHANTS OF DOUBT (NY and London:  Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011) in which they investigated the ability of large corporations (initially tobacco companies) to sow doubt about strong scientific findings that would, if followed, cut into their bottom lines.  In the case of tobacco, the companies were able to stave off the day of reckoning for decades.  Their success literally killed people. 

Like many in the Hudson Valley, I took the loss of Pete Seeger personally.  He was a great national and international figure having received over 20 honors and awards including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, the Harvard Arts Medal, the Kennedy Center Honor and been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame to name a few.   For us who lived in and near Beacon, NY where he had lived for 65 years, he was a local hero.  The sloop Clearwater and the attention it brought to the Hudson River actually led to an actual clean-up of terrible pollution.  Now, the river can be fished and it’s safe for swimming.

If this commentary sounds like a broken record, it’s because the folks who are out to gut Medicare  --- the “let’s have a grand bargain and introduce more austerity” crowd --- have returned with a vengeance.   Because of the current stand-off between the President and House Republicans, the two leaders of the failed Simpson-Bowles Commission are back at it again.   Over the summer, the White House has hosted dinners with Senate Republicans in hopes that a new grand bargain can be reached.   Former Senator Alan Simpson and former Clinton Administration Official Erskine Bowles, in a recent OP

Have you ever heard of Leon Cooperman?  He is a billionaire whose 1500 word letter of complaint to President Obama has made him the darling of the top one tenth of one percent.  In the NEW YORKER’s October 8 issue he is profiled in a fascinating article that quotes from his letter.

I am reprinting the entire letter with my comments interspersed: