December 21, 2017—Despite efforts by the Trump administration and a hostile Congress to undermine the Affordable Care Act, close to 9 million Americans, mostly low-income, have signed up for plans so far this year, roughly on par with 2017 figures. The national enrollment, cut in half by the Trump administration, ends with the calendar year, but several states, including California, have extended enrollment through January.
December 16, 2017—Since abandoning their effort to repeal Obamacare in September, congressional Republicans have been focused on legislating a significant reduction in taxes, especially for corporations and the wealthy. With the two houses of Congress having reconciled their separate bills, the deed is done. In essence, the bill forgoes revenues that otherwise would flow into the federal treasury, by most accounts adding $1.5 trillion to the existing $20 trillion federal debt over the next ten years. This piece in the Chicago Tribune nicely lays out the major provisions.
December 8, 2017—Just-released jobs and growth figures indicate that the U.S. economy continues the expansion begun in 2009. Employers added jobs for the 86th consecutive month, with 228,000 new positions filled in November. Wages for the average worker, however, have not seen gains above inflation. Astute observers question the wisdom of cutting taxes with labor markets already near technical full employment.
November 29, 2017—Senate Republicans tax plan squeaked through the chamber's Finance Committee yesterday on a party-line vote, increasing the odds that the measure will become law. The Guardian article nicely sums up the extent to which the bill represents an assault (not surprisingly) on social democratic principles and programs. The Denver Post piece reports on COB findings that show low-income households losing ground under the plan, while Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls the plan out for the incoherent scam that it is.
November 23, 2017—Up until now the Internet has been treated like a public road, where no one can be excluded and none given special privileges. If Trump FCC appointee Ajit Pai's plans withstand court challenges, Internet service providers will be able to block access to competitors, charge higher rates to smaller companies doing less volume and scrap privacy and other consumer protections that have regulated the information superhighway in recent years. Of a piece with the rest of the Trumpian agenda, moneyed interests will run roughshod over every other consideration. The Guardian article looks at the probable effects on one rural area in the Northwest.
November 22, 2017—The 23rd global conference on climate change (COP23) concluded in Bonn this week, where the focus was on implementing a "rule book" to reduce carbon emissions sufficiently to keep warming under 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). This Deustche Welle article sums up the proceedings.
November 21, 2017—The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it will bring a suit in federal courts to block AT&T's $85 billion purchase of Time Warner Corporation, which owns CNN, HBO and other media companies along with Warner Brothers Pictures. At issue is whether AT&T's control of both distribution, through its DirecTV satellite service, as well as content providers it would gain through the merger, would reduce competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. A federal court will decide. Some see a tougher stance on monopoly power, others Trumpian pique over CNN's coverage of his administration.
November 21, 2017—Since German parliamentary elections in September, German chancellor Angela Merkel, whose CDU party did not gain enough seats to form a government alone, has been in negotiations with the Green and Free Democratic parties looking to a governing coalition. It was announced yesterday that those negotiations have collapsed over disagreements on immigration policy and the environment, with the Free Democrats, a center-right party, playing the spoiler. Merkel's way forward—as well as her survival as chancellor—is now unclear.
November 18, 2017—With the Trump administration and its Republican allies across the country unable to shake themselves from our civilization's carbon nightmare, others are forging ahead. Tesla Corporation has now unveiled its latest contribution to sustainable transportation: a fully electric 18-wheeler with a 400-mile capacity battery that can be charged in a half-hour. The truck sports faster acceleration and better hill-climbing capacity than today's deisel models.
November 17, 2017—Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both lambasted U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multi-national trade pact championed by President Obama. The Trump administration has withdrawn from the treaty negotiations, but other participants, including Australia and Japan, have forged ahead. Earlier this month 11 countries agreed to the basic outlines of a treaty which will have to be ratified by each of those nations' governments. While many on the left opposed the TPP and other such agreements, others caution that the U.S. will lose economic gain as well as political and cultural leverage in staying outside the pact.
November 16, 2016—Thoughtful observers have had a chance to digest the Senate version of a Republican tax "reform" unveiled last week, and the verdict is in. The plan will add $1.5 trillion to a federal debt that is already too large; it will raise taxes for many middle- and working-class families; and it will do little or nothing to spur economic growth. It's chief function will be to place more resources in the hands of the idle rich, further exacerbating the increasing level of inequality in American society. Just as troubling, many are concerned that the projected deficits will soon be used as a pretext to attack vital government services like Medicare and Social Security. The New York Times column by Thomas Edsall ("Story at"), one of the most astute and thorough commentators on social democracy priorities, discusses the House version, but the basic outlines are the same as the Senate plan. In the Washington Post piece, former treasury secretary Robert Rubin pinpoints the five greatest dangers of the proposals to a cohesive and well-functioning nation.
November 16, 2017—We realize that "dog bites man" is not news. Nor is "Trump lied." We could not resist, however, passing along this bit of analysis from the Washington Post: 1,618 false or misleading statements in less than 300 days, or roughly 5.5 per day.
November 15, 2017—The Guardian offers an update on the presidency of Emanuel Macron, now in its sixth month. Measures taken by the centrist social democrat to create what he considers a more eonomically viable France, particularly his government's revision of France's highly restrictive employment code, have not been an easy sell to the French left. Tilts to the right, with lower taxes on wealth and a minor adjustment in housing credits, though largely symbolic, have given Macron's political enemies plenty of easy fodder and frankly puzzled The Social Democrat. Macron's government has promised a major inititiative aimed at connecting French citizens with employment opportunities, through training and apprenticeships, early in 2018. The Social Democrat eagerly awaits the contours of an effort that should be at the core of any social democratic government.
November 15, 2017—Someone once said that though the cost of living keeps going up, it remains popular. Something similar can be said today of the Affordable Care Act. Despite the best efforts of the Accidental President to permanently disable it, with the enrollment period cut in half, a negligible marketing effort and, most importantly, the withholding of cost-sharing subsidies, this year's enrollment figures are on target to best last year's by a wide margin. Will this put an end to Trumpian rhetoric about a death spiral? Of course not.
November 12, 2017—The Accidental President is moving aggressively to fill federal judgeships held vacant in the final two years of the Obama administration by a contrarian Senate. Working rapidly with the Republican-controlled Senate, Trump is on pace to invest with lifetime tenure a record number of what the New York Times calls "a particularly conservative group of judges." These judges will make their mark on legal matters as diverse as gerrymandering, the rights of criminal defendants and abortion law. If Social Democracy can ever recover in America, there will be much damage to undo.