I developed a soft spot in my political heart for Thomas Frank after he published What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America in 2004. It seemed to me that he correctly identified how the Republican party uses culture-war politics to stir up white working-class voters, and that such support usually comes at the expense of their economic well-being. True, I was rather critical of Mr. Frank's handling of the importance of religious conviction, but there is much in his book that I still find convincing. Be that as it may, I take his views seriously, and so I'm always happy to come across new work from him.
In that spirit, then, I recommend that you read this article on the role that the rejection of trade agreements plays in generating white working-class support for Donald Trump's presidential campaign. It's not the whole story, of course, and Mr. Frank knows as much, but he is clearly correct to pay attention to what Trump is actually saying on the campaign trail, and if you look at videos or read speeches, you'll see that Trump spends a lot of time denouncing trade agreements that he and his supporters hold responsible for gutting American manufacturing.
By the way, just so you know, both of my parents were born and raised in Kansas. I too was born there, but I grew up in Texas.
Senator Elizabeth Warren just released a report (PDF, 1.2 MB) that discusses twenty civil and criminal cases from 2015 in which, according to the executive summary, "the federal government failed to require meaningful accountability from either large corporations or their executives involved in wrongdoing."
If that little snippet isn't enough for you, then here's an eye-opening paragraph:
Under the current approach to enforcement, corporate criminals routinely escape meaningful prosecution for their misconduct. This is so despite the fact that the law is unambiguous: if a corporation has violated the law, individuals within the corporation must also have violated the law. If the corporation is subject to charges of wrongdoing, so are those in the corporation who planned, authorized or took the actions. But even in cases of flagrant corporate law breaking, federal law enforcement agencies – and particularly the Department of Justice (DOJ) – rarely seek prosecution of individuals. In fact, federal agencies rarely pursue convictions of either large corporations or their executives in a court of law. Instead, they agree to criminal and civil settlements with corporations that rarely require any admission of wrongdoing and they let the executives go free without any individual accountability.
Just more evidence for the proposition that we are currently living in a plutocracy.
While you're pondering all of this, take a look at Senator Warren's op-ed in The New York Times.
Paul Waldman wonders why so many politicians and policy makers think that the US needs a bigger military. After all, he asks, which of our many wars of the past half century was started because our military was too small? Precisely. So it's not really about defense, is it?
Mr. Waldman's article reminds me of something that I read years ago. Unfortunately, I don't remember the details, but it goes something like this. Lord Salisbury, who was the British Prime Minister several times between 1885 and 1902, once said in exasperation that his military advisers would garrison the moon to ward off an attack from Mars.
I think of Salisbury's remark whenever I read of renewed calls to enlarge our already huge military.
Once you've warmed to the topic after reading Professor Krugman's article, then you might want to look at another post on the austerity delusion. There you'll find an informative video from Professor Mark Blyth on the politics of austerity.