Author: Evan Rose

Defunding Public Health? One County Tried. It Didn’t Go Well.

In This Episode of America Dissected: Ottawa County, Michigan made national news last year after a MAGA take over of its County Commission. Their first major act? To try to defund their public health department. Abdul reflects on the impending risk of this across the country. Then he sits down with Adeline Hambley and Marcia Mansaray, the leaders of the Ottawa County Health Department to learn what happened — and what they did next.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Why Are Corporate Profits Soaring? Because You’re Getting Fleeced

The near-record profits of large corporations are coming, in part, out of the paychecks of average Americans — who are still struggling to get by.

I apologize for beginning this letter to you with a graph. But this is a very important one. It shows corporate profits after taxes, from 1946 through the third quarter of 2023 (the most recent data available).

Notice something?

Corporate profits are near a record high.

Inflation is dropping, but prices aren’t coming down because corporations have enough monopoly power to keep prices high. (Or they’re shrinking the size of the products you’re buying without lowering their prices — a variant of the same thing.)

This is one of the biggest reasons the American public is not crediting Biden with a great economy. Most people aren’t feeling it.

Here’s just one example that will make you fizz: Pepsi.

In 2021, PepsiCo, which makes all sorts of drinks and snacks, announced it was “forced” to raise prices due to “higher costs.” Forced? Really? The company reported $11 billion in profit that year.

In 2023 PepsiCo’s chief financial officer said that even though inflation was dropping, its prices would not. Pepsi hiked its prices by double digitsand announced plans to keep them high in 2024.

How can they get away with this?

Well, if Pepsi were challenged by tougher competition, consumers would just buy something cheaper. But PepsiCo’s only major soda competitor is Coca-Cola, which — surprise, surprise — announced similar price hikes at about the same time as Pepsi, and also kept its prices high in 2023.

The CEO of Coca-Cola claimed that the company had “earned the right” to push price hikes because its sodas are popular. Popular? The only thing that’s popular these days seems to be corporate price gouging.

We’re seeing this pattern across much of the economy — especially with groceries.

The rate of inflation is down. The rate of inflation measures how quickly prices are rising: Prices are now rising far more slowly than in the past couple of years.

And while supply chain disruptions really did make it more expensive to produce a lot of goods, the cost to produce them now is rising even more slowly than prices.

But consumer prices are still elevated — allowing most corporations to keep their profit margins near a record high.

They can get away with overcharging you because they have monopoly power — or they have so few competitors that they can easily coordinate price increases with them and avoid price decreases.

If Pepsi and Coca-Cola had lots of competitors, they wouldn’t be able to raise prices so high because someone would make cheaper substitutes, and consumers would buy those instead. But Pepsi and Coke own mostof the substitutes!

This isn’t happening just with Coke and Pepsi.

Take meat products. At the end of 2023, Americans were paying at least 30 percent more for beef, pork, and poultry products than they were in 2020.

Why? Near-monopoly power!

Just four companies now control processing of 80 percent of beef, nearly 70 percent of pork, and almost 60 percent of poultry. So of course it’s easy for them to coordinate price increases.

And this goes well beyond the grocery store. In 75 percent of U.S. industries, fewer companies now control more of their markets than they did 20 years ago.

So what should be done?

First, antitrust laws must be enforced.

Kudos to the Biden administration for using antitrust more aggressively than any administration in the last 40 years. It’s taken action against alleged price fixing in the meat industry — which has been a problem for decades.

It’s suing Amazon for using its dominance to artificially jack up prices — one of the biggest anti-monopoly lawsuits in a generation.

It successfully sued to block the merger of JetBlue and Spirit Airlines, which would have made consolidation in the airline industry even worse.

But given how concentrated American industry has become, there’s still a long way to go.

Secondly, big corporations must not be allowed to use their power to gouge consumers.

Senator Elizabeth Warren and others recently unveiled the latest version of their Price Gouging Prevention Act.

“Giant corporations are using supply chain shocks as a cover to excessively raise prices and sometimes charging the same price but shrinking how much consumers actually get,” Warren charges.

The bill would empower the FTC (which would also get $1 billion in additional funding) and state attorneys general to stop companies from charging “grossly excessive” prices, regardless of where alleged price gouging took place in a supply chain.

(The legislation would also protect small businesses — those earning less than $100 million — from litigation if they had to raise prices in good faith during crises.)

The bill would also require public companies to disclose more about their costs and pricing strategies.

I don’t have any illusions that this bill will find its way into law soon. Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate, and not all Democrats support it. Meanwhile, Republicans and their business backers are dead set against it — and are eager to blame continued high prices on Biden, not on corporations.

But this bill is just as necessary as aggressive antitrust enforcement — and an example of what could and will be done if Democrats sweep the 2024 elections.

The near-record profits of large corporations are coming, in part, out of the paychecks of average Americans — who are still struggling to get by.

Biden and the Democrats must say this loudly and clearly, and tell the public what they are doing — and will do — to stop it.

Protesters Disrupt Bernie Sanders’ Discussion Of The Personal In The Political

United States Senator Bernie Sanders sat down with Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole on Friday evening to discuss the personal aspects of his political life, his journey from Vermont to Washington and the vision underpinning his work. A partnership with the Ireland.New York Project (I.NY), Catapult and the Sanders Institute, the event was held in the Exam Hall in Trinity College in anticipation of the release of Sanders’ new book, entitled It’s OK to be Angry About Capitalism.

As a long queue of guests formed through and beyond Front Square on Friday evening, protestors gathered outside the Exam Hall asking those attending the event to question the Senator about the current situation in Gaza. Protesters’ chants included “Bernie Sanders you can’t hide, you’re denying genocide”, and urged those queueing to attend the National Demonstration, starting at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square at 1pm on Saturday.

The event began with a speech from Sanders, wherein the Senator expressed his desire to see better relationships between the United States and Ireland. Sanders spoke of the “joys and sorrows of being a United States Senator”, a job which, in his view, has “increasingly more sorrows than joys”.

Sanders further expressed his desire to shed light on the structural issues facing the United States and the world, stressing that “the more important an issue is the less it is discussed”. He stated that the United States and the global economy are moving rapidly towards an oligarchic form of society: “today on this planet, the top 1 per cent own more wealth than the bottom 90 per cent”. This means that the working class is falling further behind as the growth of oligarchy accelerates.

Sanders also noted that “the status quo is working phenomenally well for the people on top”. Crediting this increasingly apparent disparity to the growth of right-wing extremism, Sanders lamented this “distrust in democracy”.

Speaking to the growing urgency of climate change, the Senator mentioned that his home state of Vermont experienced its “worst natural disaster in a hundred years”, with devastating flooding. Sanders noted that “the challenge is that America and Ireland alone cannot solve the climate crisis, every country in the world is going to have to transform their energy system”.

Sanders also touched on the growth of artificial intelligence which, in his view, “gives an unprecedented opportunity to make life a lot better for ordinary people”. The challenge rests in the question of who will benefit from this explosion of technology.

Sanders had to cancel a number of events to vote against a US national security bill in the Senate, which allocates around $14 billion in military aid to Israel. Although the bill passed by 70 votes to 29, Sanders acknowledged that it was “not an easy vote”. While the bill provided support to Ukraine and provisions for humanitarian aid, Saunders explicitly opposed the direct funding of Netanyahu’s government.

Having only recently started touching on the Holocaust and his family connections to it, O’Toole asked: “How much was that a shadow over your own consciousness?” Sanders told the journalist that “it made me do my best to fight against all forms of racism and bigotry that exist”. He continued, noting that “it pains me very much to see demagogues like Trump try and divide people up”.

Saunders also credits his working-class upbringing for providing him with an understanding of the effect of money and a lack of money on your life. He explained that “life expectancy is declining in the US right now”, with the rise of “diseases of despair”, notably drugs, alcoholism and suicide, while medical costs are a major factor in bankruptcy rates.

Sanders tells O’Toole about his involvement in the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement in the Vietnam War, a “devastating war” for his generation, he draws connections to the current political climate. He asserts, “This so-called bipartisan policy has been wrong and wrong”, citing American involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Chile and criticising the country’s $900 billion military budget.

As the protestors’ sirens and chants gradually make their way into the hall, O’Toole asks about the Senator’s lack of interest in “protest for protest’s sake”. Sanders explains that “politics is more complicated than protesting, change never takes place without years of struggle”.

Sanders fundamentally maintains that the “political system is corrupt in the US”, adding that “it takes a huge amount of money to get elected”. It is from this basis that he defines himself as “proudly independent”, while being the longest-serving independent in American congressional history. In his analysis of the state of American politics, Sanders feels that both the Republicans and the Democrats have been corrupted by “big money”, albeit from different sources. The House of Representatives is “dysfunctional”, in his view, whilst the public is “politically divided”.

O’Toole drove the conversation to the “trap of the two-party system”, asking how the Senator morally navigated the choice of “critically support[ing] Biden”. Sanders acknowledged that “it’s a difficult path to walk down”, recalling his decision not to run in 2016: “I did not want to see Trump get elected by splitting the vote”. Despite having worked together on the American Rescue Plan during the pandemic, Sanders remains critical of President Biden. Sanders stressed that he is “working hard to change his [Biden’s] stance on Israel”.

Looking towards the upcoming presidential election in November this year, Sanders pledges that “I will do my best to defeat Trump, understanding that Biden has not by any means done what I want him to do”. Nevertheless, the Senator stresses that, “Trump is not a typical candidate, it is a debate over whether the US remains a functioning democracy”.

Following two audience questions, posed by O’Toole, a protester stood and questioned why Sanders would not call for a ceasefire in Palestine. The woman then strode through the central aisle further questioning the Senator, prompting O’Toole to call on her to calm down, saying “let him answer the question”.

Although the Senator initially said “I’m not going to answer the question because I don’t like people disrupting me”, he continued, arguing that “I’ve led the effort in the Senate to try and end this war”. He continued, explaining that “I’ve talked about my views on Gaza and I’ve done everything I can”. Sanders tells O’Toole that what is happening is “a horror”, saying that he has “nightmares every night”. He further states that “my dream would be if tomorrow the president woke up to what the people actually want”.

Joe Biden Just Did The Rarest Thing In US politics: He Stood Up To The Oil Industry

Ten days ago Joe Biden did something remarkable, and almost without precedent – he actually said no to big oil.

His administration halted the granting of new permits for building liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, something Washington had been handing out like M&Ms on Halloween for nearly a decade. It’s a provisional “no” – Department of Energy experts will spend the coming months figuring out a new formula for granting the licenses that takes the latest science and economics into account – but you can tell what a big deal it is because of the howls of rage coming from the petroleum industry and its gaggle of politicians.

And you can tell something else too: just how threadbare their arguments have become over time. Biden has called their bluff, and it’s beautiful to watch.

To give you an idea, politicians beholden to the industry are using this week and next to hold hearings about natural gas in Congress. Joe Manchin – who has received more lobbying money from big oil than anyone else in Congress, and is the founder of a coal brokerage business – is convening a session in the Senate on Thursday, but on Tuesday the House began the action with a hearing before a subcommittee of the House committee on energy and commerce.

One “expert” summoned by the panel, Toby Rice, owns the company that produces more natural gas than any other in the country. And he immediately deployed the sleight of hand that his ilk have used over and over again. I’ll try and slow it down enough that you can see the hand dealing from the bottom of the deck.

The fracking revolution, Rice said, “has powered our economy and prevented us from being reliant on foreign sources of natural gas – all the while driving over 60% of the emissions reduction the United States experienced since the turn of the century by displacing coal-fired power generation”.

The key word here is “emissions”, by which Rice means carbon dioxide. And indeed fracked gas, when burned in a power plant, produces fewer emissions than coal. But there’s another major greenhouse gas – methane – and that’s basically what “natural gas” consists of. When it leaks from a well or a pipeline, it’s 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, molecule per molecule, at trapping heat.

And so much is leaking that – when you combine those emissions with the carbon that still comes from burning gas – America’s total contribution to global warming has probably not gone down at all over the last two decades. Far from being a boon, natural gas has been a trap, one that the industry now wants to catch the rest of the globe in.

What’s more – as new research this fall showed – when you put fracked gas on a boat and send it on a long ocean cruise, so much leaks out that it’s far worse than coal. If the White House had kept granting all the permits that industry wanted, within a decade US natural gas would be producing more greenhouse gas emissions than everything that happens on the continent of Europe. It’s the biggest fossil fuel expansion project on Earth.

That’s half the problem with Rice’s argument. The other half is, it’s not coal that Rice’s gas mostly undercuts. We now live on a planet where the cheapest way to produce power is to point a sheet of glass at the sun; there’s no reason not to go straight from coal to renewable energy, with no intermediate stop at gas. The idea that it’s a “bridge fuel” is a decade out of date, but it’s an argument that big oil wants to extend four or five decades into the future, because that’s how long this new infrastructure is supposed to last.

If Rice’s arguments were deceptive, the other industry witness was simply sad. Eric Cormier represented the Chamber Southwest Louisiana, where most of this infrastructure is located. It’s his neighbors – environmental justice crusaders like Roishetta Ozane and James Hiatt – who have led this fight, pointing out the damage that these installations are doing to the air and water. Cormier, though, said LNG development was necessary because the region had taken such an economic hit from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, which had caused $17bn in damages, damaged 44,000 homes, and dropped the population by about 7%.

He’s not wrong about the damage – Lake Charles, the big city in the region, is arguably the blue tarp capital of the planet. But think about his argument for even a second: the climate crisis is causing such grievous loss along the coast of Louisiana that … we need to make the climate crisis worse to pay for all the damage.

What? If any place on Earth should viscerally feel the urgent need to get off fossil fuels, the disappearing Louisiana coast would be it. But if you’re the Chamber SWLA, short-term profit is the only metric you understand.

This brand of greenwashing has been going on for years, of course. But big oil is having an ever-harder time making their argument, especially after a new economic survey published last week showed that continuing to build out the LNG export infrastructure would raise energy costs for Americans by 9 to 14%. And polling shows pretty conclusively that Americans don’t want to frack their country to send cheap gas to China.

That won’t stop the industry from shouting. At this point, bypassed by new renewable technology, their only real hope is political gamesmanship. But it’s getting far easier for enlightened leaders to stand up to them. In December, in Dubai, the world signed a pledge to “transition away” from fossil fuels. Last month, in Washington, Joe Biden started to show that he meant it.

Statement On Retirement Of Mary Kay Henry

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) released the following statement regarding the announcement that Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will step down from her role in May 2024:

“Mary Kay Henry is a visionary, game changing organizer and powerful voice for justice and progress and has been for the nearly 14 years she’s led SEIU. Her role in leading our country forward cannot be overstated. She has led and inspired so many with her strong moral compass and her articulated vision for incorporating inclusivity and intersectionality into unions, workplaces, and communities across the country. Her years of service have had a direct impact on so many workers’ lives and I thank her for her leadership.

“I have had the honor and pleasure of working with her on the Biden-Sanders Unity Taskforce on Healthcare in 2020, where I served as Co-Chair, and we worked to collectively endorse a plan for long-term care that meets the needs of our country and the workforce. During our push for Build Back Better and critical investments in the care economy, Mary Kay was a top leader in ensuring we pushed for the most progressive policy to be included, as the Progressive Caucus held the line to ensure passage of Build Back Better in the House. On immigration, as the leader of a union made up of millions of immigrant workers, Mary Kay has never wavered in the moral necessity of passing humane immigration reform and never throwing immigrants under the political bus. I have been grateful to call her a close friend, advisor, and partner in building progressive power since coming to Congress. Her work has changed lives and laid the foundation for a better tomorrow.”

Mary Kay Henry has served since 2010 as the International President of SEIU and under her leadership the union led the charge to include a historic federal investment in home-based care and child care and to raise the wages of child care and in-home care workers in the Build Back Better Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2021.

Sanders To Introduce Amendment To End U.S. Complicity In Netanyahu’s War On The Palestinian People

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today released the following statement announcing his plan to introduce an amendment to the foreign aid supplemental package that would remove $10.1 billion in offensive weaponry funding for Netanyahu’s right-wing government. The amendment preserves funding for defensive systems that will protect Israeli civilians against incoming missile and rocket attacks. Sanders’ statement is as follows:

“27,000 dead – two-thirds of them women and children.

67,000 wounded.

1.8 million displaced from their homes.

70% of housing units damaged or destroyed.

And now, hundreds of thousands of children facing starvation.

This is unacceptable. The United States cannot be complicit in this humanitarian disaster.

That is why I will be offering an amendment to the supplemental bill to ensure zero funding for the continuation of Netanyahu’s illegal, immoral war against the Palestinian people.”

The Key To Electric Grid Reliability? Renewables.

February 2021. A rare Valentine’s Day winter storm wallops Texas with snow and a deep freeze.

The storm knocked out power for at least 69 percent of people across the state. More than 200 Texans died.

That was Winter Storm Uri. Many of us probably remember it as the storm that sent Senator Ted Cruz packing for a vacation in Cancún while his constituents suffered.

Captain Selena Xie, president of the Austin Emergency Medical Services Association, was enraged when she read from a local reporter at the time: “One reader who emailed me about the issue described the power and water outages as a ‘minor inconvenience’ for most Texans.”

One of Xie’s first calls the morning after the storm was for a man who had planned to die at home, peacefully and surrounded by loved ones. That didn’t happen.

Xie recounted, “When his oxygen, which was making him comfortable, went out, he started making awful grunting sounds. It is not acceptable to die like that, in agony. We had no other options at the time than to take the person to the hospital to keep him comfortable, but not before we let his wife cry against his chest for five minutes, which was all we felt comfortable sparing at the time.”

Emergency responders started receiving carbon monoxide calls that evening. With the power out, people were so desperate for heat they burned furniture in their homes to keep their families warm. That caused carbon monoxide poisoning.

Just last week, much of the country got pummeled with below-freezing temperatures and winter storms. Many are rightly nervous about the reliability of their power grids.

When grids fail, people die. Medical equipment like dialysis machines and oxygen pumps cannot run without power.

What’s the best way to protect grids and make them more reliable? Power them with renewable energy sources like solar and wind, which are far more resilient than coal, oil, and gas.

The five winter storms we have had since 2011 that knocked down power grids should be a lesson to us all. Fossil fuel power plants are prone to mechanical and supply failures in extreme cold, when energy demands are often at their highest.

Just look at what happened during December 2022’s Winter Storm Elliott in the eastern and central US. In the mid-Atlantic, nearly 90 percent of the power plant outages when demand was highest were coal and gas plants. In the central region, coal and gas plants accounted for 75 percent of the power plant outages during peak demand. In Kentucky alone, more than 1.5 million homes lost electricity in sub-zero temperatures due to coal and gas failures.

Increasing the use of renewable energy sources is one part of the solution. Incorporating green technologies in demand response, energy efficiency, storage, and upgrading our transmission grid is the other. Together, they offer us the chance to make our electric grids more reliable and resilient than ever. But we need to deploy them at scale to receive these benefits.

If we choose not to do this, we need to understand the human toll.

As she has reflected on the events from Winter Storm Uri—and storms that have knocked out or threatened to knock out power since then—Xie worries about unhoused populations. When the shelters and businesses where unhoused people typically seek refuge are without power, the consequences for this already vulnerable population are lethal.

“When we have our 911 system completely overwhelmed by calls from the housed population, the unhoused population gets overlooked,” Xie said. “EMS and other emergency workers are aware of people living on the streets or in the woods and would be checking on those at-risk people. But we end up beyond our capacity, responding to calls for emergencies—and some less-than-emergencies—at people’s homes, delivering charging sticks and other relief, while unhoused people are suffering hypothermic events and dying.”

Xie also said that while media reporting often focuses on death tolls during these emergencies, the high number of amputations from conditions like frostbite go underreported and underappreciated.

“People are often able to protect their cores but not their extremities. Not having adequate gloves or footwear means more amputations. These create lifelong disabilities that continue to haunt both the people suffering from them and the public health and emergency response systems that need to provide for their care and services.”

Emergency responders should not have to choose between who they can help and who will be left on their own. Families should not have to choose between freezing to death or risking their health by burning furniture for heat.

There is a way to help ensure the power stays on during harsh winter storms. It is a future powered by clean energy.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s LNG Decision Is the Hope Young People Have Been Waiting For

James Hiatt lives in an area along the Mississippi River in Louisiana that has been dubbed “Cancer Alley.” In a region teeming with chemical plants and oil and gas refineries, the air the residents breathe contains more carcinogens than anywhere else in the country.

One of those oil and gas facilities is the Calcasieu Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, which has further devastated public health, local livelihoods, and marine wildlife. Last week, the Biden-Harris administration’s Department of Energy paused the permitting of new LNG projects. The decision stops the gas industry’s plans for the even larger CP2 LNG terminal right next door.

This move was perhaps the boldest rebuke ever from a US president against the oil and gas industry. President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Secretary of Energy Granholm—whose support for the move was especially crucial—did the right thing. Millions of us are celebrating along with James Hiatt, who says, “I’m thankful for this pause in granting gas export licenses; the DOE has finally heard the wake-up call. The gas industry was planning to inundate my hometown with LNG terminals.”

American families’ pocketbooks will be thankful as well. Any word you hear from the fossil fuel industry or the politicians in their pockets about how this decision harms American consumers or the economy is a lie. As Hiatt points out, “exporting LNG drives up domestic energy costs, affecting everything from home heating to food prices.”

Pausing the LNG boom will keep global energy markets more stable. It will help move economies and electric grids toward using less expensive and more resilient renewable energy sources. It will keep 681 coal plants’ worth—or 548 million gasoline-powered cars’ worth—of planet-warming greenhouse gases out of our atmosphere each year.

All of this is critically important. But so is Hiatt’s point about the “finally heard wake-up call.”

For years, activists, along with scientists and others, have been sounding the alarm to get those in power to wake up. Some of the most powerful voices have been those of young people. And we should all appreciate what it has taken for those young people to maintain their determination.

The American Psychological Association defines “eco-anxiety” as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” In 2021, Lancet Planetary Health surveyed more than 10,000 young people, ages 16 to 25, in 10 countries. Anxiety about climate change impacted the ability of more than 45 percent of these young people to function in their daily lives; 75 percent were “frightened” of the future. And it exposed a key feature of eco-anxiety: hopelessness.

Half the young people in the study described feeling helpless and powerless. Now, we know that despite the fear, young activists have been among our fiercest leaders in the fight against the climate crisis. They have not given in to the lingering despair. But, as a piece on eco-anxiety in the Harvard Political Review pointed out, young people have felt like they are alone in the fight. And, “if no one is listening and no change is happening, then pushing forward can feel hopeless.”

That is why, aside from the emissions numbers, aside from the economic and energy security benefits, the Biden-Harris administration’s LNG decision is a win for hope. And hope is a powerful thing. In his statement about the decision, President Biden said, “We will heed the calls of young people and frontline communities who are using their voices to demand action from those with the power to act.”

This victory for climate-concerned people the world over—and the planet itself—is proof that organizing works. Grabbing the bullhorn and telling your story—even if the crowds don’t listen right at first—matters.

This LNG decision is a momentum builder. And a clarion call for even more organized action on the climate crisis—especially from young people.

The Liberals Must Invest In Climate Resilient Infrastructure

Northern Manitoba is seeing temperatures above zero. We’ve had weather that’s unheard of these last two months. Thousands of people in our region depend on winter roads to survive – and climate change is putting these roads and entire communities at risk.

The Liberals have failed to act quickly to combat the climate emergency that is hitting Indigenous communities and our North the hardest. Our region needs urgent investments in climate adaptation: an airport in Wasagamack and all-weather roads for St Theresa Point, Oxford House, York Landing and more. Today I called on the Liberal Government to step up and act now.

Sacred Cows

There was an interesting discussion with Evercore’s Roger Altman on CNBC’s Squawk Box yesterday. Altman talked about some of the things that economists, market participants, pundits, and policymakers have gotten wrong in recent years. Here’s part of what he said:

What I think is fascinating is how wrong the consensus on big things has been over the past year, starting with inflation where originally—when it surged—the view was this is transitory, it will self-correct. Jay Powell himself espoused that. Then, as it surged further that view was discarded and the Fed of course embarked on the sharpest monetary tightening in 40 years. Now, it looks as though it was transitory, just over a somewhat longer period, including that the tightening of monetary policy may have had no impact on why inflation has come down…. Then recession, six to nine months ago, a majority of CEOs in surveys thought we were going to have a recession, now we don’t have it and the most recent data is amazing…so recession is off the table….



In response, one of the show’s hosts, Andrew Ross Sorkin, said, “I think you’re making an argument for why the public thinks the elites know nothing.” Responding with a sense of humility, Altman said, “Well, arguably they do know nothing. Including me. I was wrong on all those things.” Sorkin conceded, “I was wrong on a lot of them too.”

Then, another of the show’s hosts, Joe Kernan, chimed in, adding:

All of our sacred cows. They’re sacred but they’re not necessarily right. We thought we had to raise unemployment to bring inflation down. We didn’t. That was like Monetary Policy 101. Like Moses on a tablet.

“So much of this in retrospect was supply-chain related,” Altman explained, “and now it has self-corrected.”

It has taken a long time for people to accept this reality, but membership on so-called Team Transitory continues to swell. It’s a bitter pill for some folks to swallow, especially those who would prefer to blame the recent bout of inflation on the Federal Reserve’s “money printing” and the Biden administration’s “excessive spending.”

“If it wasn’t overspending by fiscal authorities that caused the inflation, if it was supply chain, then can we just do MMT?”, Kernan (sarcastically) quipped. Altman didn’t take the bait on MMT. He simply said, “It was the pandemic that caused it.”

What I found most interesting about the interview was the discussion of the rate hikes, and Altman’s willingness to basically reject the dominant “soft landing” narrative. That narrative features a plane, a runway and—most importantly—a masterful pilot.

It’s not uncommon to find economists (and others) proudly declaring that they were OG members of Team Transitory (TT). I myself was OGTT. But I think too many members of Team Transitory have convinced themselves that Jay Powell is the central bank equivalent of Captain Sully Sullenberger, the hero in the cockpit of the FOMC who skillfully lowered the flaps, adjusted the dials, and guided inflation safely back down without injuring the broader economy. I am decidedly not in that camp, and neither is Altman, who dared to suggest:

the tightening of monetary policy may have had no impact on why inflation has come down

That’s a pretty sacred cow, but it’s one I hope more people will wrestle with. I went even further in a recent interview with the Financial Times, sparking this headline:


Last week, I had a chance to elaborate on the FT interview with the hosts of Bloomberg TV’s The Close. (Click to watch.)