Common Sense Political Economics

"If you laid all of the (PhD) economists end to end, to tell you which way to go, they would look like the spokes of a wheel."

Harry Truman


Hi folks,

I just got back from a 3 month vacation in Mexico. I do that every winter and although I could have written some posts from there, I decided once there, to have a real vacation and do nothing except watch the palm trees grow.

For my first post of this season, I would like for you to read an email sent to me by a good friend, Mr. Phil Young, a retired banker living in the S.F. bay area. I thought it was well said and would be of interest to all.

Is Hillary really the strongest candidate to oppose Trump in the general election?

“Conventional thinking” by the political establishment & punditry has persistently underestimated

the potential for Trump to become the GOP nominee. Is it possible that similar “group think” could be

underestimating his potential to win the presidency and overestimating HRC (Hillary Rodham

Clinton) as the best candidate to defeat him in the general election?

Now let’s for a moment consider the following 2 possible general elections scenarios: 1: Trump vs. Clinton. or

2: Trump vs. Sanders. Recent polls show HRC leading Trump by a mere 2.8%, a statistical tie

within the margin of error and actually losing to Cruz or Rubio. On the flip side,

the same polls show Bernie beating Trump by a more significant 6% points.

There are a number of factors that could weaken HRC in a contest with Trump.

Hillary’s vulnerabilities include her higher unfavorable ratings, meaning that

her upside is limited compared to Bernie who has higher

favorables & lower unfavorables. HRC is dragging a lot of baggage including the following:

1. Her close ties to Wall St. highlighted by her $650,000+ Goldman Sachs fees.

Requests for her speech transcripts will not go away.

2. Her on-going classified vs. unclassified email server controversy will be a favorite GOP target.

3. Her reliance on Super Pac funding compared to Bernie & Trump who accepts

no money from SuperPacs.

4. The Clinton (Bill & Hillary) affinity for now out of favor trade pacts (NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP, etc.,

a potential vulnerability with working class voters.

5. Hillary made the huge miscalculation of voting for the Iraq, the worst foreign policy error

in decades that has led to the current ISIS mess.

6. She has wrapped herself so closely to Obama’s policy that it could be a challenge for her

to differentiate herself from him in the general election.

7. HRC has an on-going trust issue with many voters who find her untrustworthy in polls,

unlike Sanders who scores high on “authenticity”

8. The Clinton legacy is a metaphor for establishment politics and the past ….not progressive change.

2016 is shaping up as a general election campaign about real  “CHANGE” vs. the “Status Quo”.

Trump is running a xenophobic populist campaign vs. the status quo.

HRC could be the perfect Trump target.

He already eviscerated the Bush family legacy and will have a field day doing the same to the

Clintons. Trump will attack her on the Iraq war vote blunder.

He will attack her on the international trade pact issues. He will attack her

for being in bed with Wall St. & Goldman Sachs. He will attack her about her SuperPac &

being beholden to lobbyist money. In an election about “Change” vs the “Status Quo”,

it will be easy for Trump to label her the epitome of an “Establishment” candidate.

In the initial 3 Democratic campaign states, HRC significantly underperformed expectations vs. the

inspirational, progressive Sanders drawing more votes than any candidate in the the history

of NH primary by winning in every category of voters, male or female, under age 65.

The Clinton rationalization is that he came from a neighboring state does not jive with the fact

that popular VT Gov. Dean drew only (59.649) or 20.6% of the NH and lost to Kerry in NH,

the primary where HRC beat Obama in 2008. The stronger appeal

of Bernie in NH could be explained by the current hunger among voters under 45 for an

“outside the box” populist candidate in a state that allows Independent & Republicans

to vote in the Democratic primary.

Ironically, the consummate insider, Sen. Harry Reid, is being given a large share of the credit

for putting his “thumb on the scales” to ensure Hillary’s narrow victory over Sanders

in the messy NV caucus.

Reid’s NV political machine is reported to have pulled out the casino & culinary voters

as a “firewall” against a Sanders populist upset. Nevertheless, Bernie did well with Latinos

and the younger voters 45 and under. HRC drew heavily from the African American &

older voters as she will in the South.

In a general election, Sanders could attract the minority voters and a broad cross section of

white working class voters who sometimes support the GOP. Bernie draws huge crowds

of young people & new voters that Democrats will need to win in the general election.

Sanders could attack Trump from a position of strength

since he opposed the Iraq War, trade deals, Citizens United, the Wall St./ Goldman Sachs

connections, etc.

Hillary’s message is not inspiring much enthusiasm, nor drawing new voters nor is it appealing to

independents. In the general election, many of the new young Sanders supporters will be

unlikely to come out for HRC.



As a sequel to the post I wrote last week regarding our dependence on Arab oil, and the need to go into a massive renewable energy program ,here is a little poem I wrote:



































OIL, OIL, OIL, Drill, Drill, Drill

We need to stop declaring war on the Arabs “for oil” and start declaring war on our own ignorant

Dependence on Arab oil.

ISIS is just the last result of what George W. Bush started.

We created ISIS and we can not “kill” it because “it” is an idea.

You can kill men but you can not kill an idea.

The United States entered World War II with an initially high deficit, no money in the Treasury, and an unprepared military. It took us less than four years to win. Can we adopt what worked then to meet today’s needs? More importantly, can we agree that today’s needs are jobs and renewable energy? According to surveys, the majority of Americans agree we need jobs; the majority believe we should be energy independent; the majority say we need to re-industrialize, and the majority say that we need a lot more renewable energy.

A massive renewable energy plan responds to all of these needs. The plan has to be bold with the breadth and scope of the Manhattan project or FDR’s jobs programs, Eisenhower’s highway system, or Kennedy’s pledge to get a man on the moon within a decade. All were considered impossible at the time they were announced. And more recently, we’ve seen a hand-held communications device topple regimes when the population is united behind an idea.

Let’s knock out the usual objection that we need extensive research before renewable energy is economically viable. It’s economically viable and functional now. Obviously, research should continue, but we can’t wait for research as cheap oil dwindles. Millions can go to work now in fields that research, create and implement solutions we have today while we grow better approaches. Add the hidden costs of oil and coal to a gallon of gas, and the case for immediate action is clear: we need to clean up the environment, treat the health issues of burning carbon-based fuels, stop waging wars to guarantee our continuous supply of oil, and paying the high cost of keeping the Straits of Hormuz open to ship oil. Looks to me like fossil fuels are just as expensive as renewables, if not more so.

Other countries outstrip us in the use of renewable technologies: Israel has more solar energy than the United States; Scotland converts more ocean wave power to energy than the United States; China, Germany and Denmark create and utilize more wind energy than the U.S., and China manufactures more solar panels than does the U.S., shipping huge numbers of them for installation in the United States.

So while we are slavishly, and at great expense in cash and blood, protecting oil in the Middle East for the rest of the world and ourselves, we fall behind in the renewable energy race.

Another objection to renewables is the cost to transition from fossil fuels, given today’s national debt. But jobs are always more important than debt. Every armament manufacturer, steel mill and ordnance producer knew this when World War II started. Abraham Lincoln said, “Labor is more important than capital.” When everyone has a job, capital takes care of itself. True societal wealth comes from people on Main Street working and producing useful goods and services, not from people on Wall Street moving the money around.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, we had little or no money in the Treasury and the national debt was high because of the Great Depression, but with the clear and present danger of an international war, we transitioned in less than four years. Does it take another shooting war to move us? With the fabric of American life at stake and the human resources for change at hand, why do we wait?

Economist Paul Krugman said, “No country has driven itself into a debt crisis with a stimulus – nor has any country with significant debt regained investor confidence through austerity.” Imagine what would’ve happened if Congress had said to Roosevelt, “Sorry, we can’t go to war against Germany, Japan and Italy, because we don’t have the money right now and we don’t want to run up the deficit.”

Yes, change needs funding. Let’s re-purpose a World War II strategy and recreate a war bond style program: an Energy War Bond.

Think about it, we got nothing material from the money spent and lives lost in World War II. All the metal we mined and turned into weapons ended up overseas. The money we spent on soldiers’ pay wasn’t “recovered.” We didn’t get houses or refrigerators or cars or anything useful. We ended up with nothing (economically) to show for declaring war on Germany and Japan. But the unintended consequence was full employment, a market ready for new goods and services and many more people paying taxes – not taxpayers funding unemployment benefits.

You’re thinking, “Well yes, renewables would be nice but they don’t always work.” What? The sun is always shining somewhere; the wind is always blowing somewhere. Even on shady, calm days so many different types of renewable energy devices would be functioning at the same time in so many locations that adequate energy will always be available to a more efficient grid. Furthermore, existing fossil-fueled generators could continue as back-up. Have we lost so much confidence in our creativity that we can’t overcome challenges like these?

And what about transportation? Vehicles use the most fossil fuel and do most of the polluting. While it’s true that today’s batteries won’t carry a vehicle very far, there is a solution until there’s an improved battery. Convert service stations into battery charging stations. All-electric cars could be designed with a large tray of batteries positioned underneath the floorboard. Drive up to a forklift-type device that takes your tray of spent batteries out and replaces them with a tray of charged batteries, taking less time than filling up with gasoline – and you don’t even need to get out of the car. Battery charging stations could be charged with solar, wind or wave energy sources. The only fossil fuel needed would be enough oil to lubricate electric motors.

So we need a goal of 80 percent renewable energy within five years by declaring war on Arab oil dependence. Why wait 10 or 20 years or more when we can do it now and create so many jobs? If we won World War II with limited resources in less than four years, don’t tell me that we couldn’t design, create, manufacture and install renewable energy equipment in the United States in the same amount of time. In World War II, we had three countries as enemies. Today our three enemies are (1) big oil and coal interests; (2) ignorance about renewable energy’s usefulness now; and (3) a lack of political will to do anything.

Simple ideas generate amazing results. The question of World War II: should we go to war or not? The question of civil rights: should we outlaw racial discrimination or not? The question of the space race: Could we put human beings on the moon in a decade, given our infant or non-existent – technologies?

These are bold, easy-to-understand questions that Americans answered with action. Colin Powell said, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers.” And George Lucas said, “Steve Jobs had a vision. He believed in things no one else could see.” I have a simple vision. I see solar panels on every building, windmills wherever there’s consistent wind, ocean generators along our coasts and little or no imported oil from the Arabs or anyone else.

Only we the people can change our country. We must elect people willing to move quickly to implement a massive renewable energy program. If none of your candidates have the vision to think big, then get out there with your friends and neighbors and go to elected officials. Let them know that they will not be reelected if they don’t act. And if that doesn’t work, put your name on the ballot. You probably won’t be elected, but the press and the online world will print your plans for renewable energy.

Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the ONLY thing that ever has.” Let’s get Americans back to work and permanently solve our oil dependence habit!

Well I might as well throw in my two cents, like all the other pundits.

There were many things said that were shocking to me.
But the most shocking was when John Kasich was asked if he would have bailed out the big banks. Although it was evident that he did not have a clear plan in mind, the substance of his reply was great.
Yet he was loudly booooed for it. He was the only candidate booed that night.

What he was trying to say was that instead of giving the bailout money to the banks he would have given it directly to the middle class depositors and not the wealthy ones. (And probably on a sliding scale.)

The mostly Republican audience responded viscerally to the concept of helping the lower and middle class and not the upper class. They would say doing that is just another form of socialism. And they would be right.

But republican free market philosophy posits that the government should stay out of business and let the chips fall where they may. That is, if you invest in a business (or a bank) and it fails, then that’s just the risk you took to get big rewards. “Sorry buddy, you lost.” It is assumed that if you keep gambling you will also have some big wins which will offset the losses.

So it is ironic that they would openly accept socialism (government money) when their gamble failed. What they also don’t seem to understand is that when a wealthy person loses money he is going to survive just fine. Most wealthy persons diversify their portfolio of investments so that they don’t have “all their eggs in one basket.”

But the lower and middle class are hurt much more. If a wealthy person loses, say $100,000, it is not the end of the world. But if a poor or middle class person loses $100,000 it IS the end of his world.

I watched a “focus group” of Republicans after the debate and they all agreed that Kasich talks like a Democrat and they don’t like him for that. In my opinion, Kasich was the only grown up on the stage. He showed more wisdom and common sense than the rest of them combined.
Don’t get me wrong, he still espouses some repugnant Republican ideas with which I disagree, but if I were forced to vote for a Republican, it would easily be Kasich.

In a previous debate, Kasich also said, what was for me, the most memorable line, and I loosely quote:

“When we all get to the pearly gates and try to enter heaven, St. Peter will only be asking us one question, and that is, “What did you do during your life time to help the poor and

As I think back on all presidential elections (and I was old enough to vote for John F, Kennedy), Kasich’s quote and JFK’s:

“For those to whom much is given, much is required,” are the two, that are most memorable for me.

Both of them make me tear up a little.

I feel so sorry for college graduates today, and not just because of student debt. I know a 28 year old woman with a college degree and an excellent personality who is working as a delivery truck driver. She said she has not been able to find anything better. When I graduated from college in 1965, employers were coming to me.
This young woman told me that she and her fiancée are not even  getting married because the economy is so bad. She is not officially unemployed, but she might as well be.

As I have said before, the official unemployment rate has become almost a joke, a useless number. All it measures is the number of people who are ACTIVELY looking for a job.

In the past, when recessions only lasted a year or two, it was a meaningful number because people were not so discouraged and kept looking until they found something.
We are now living in a “new normal,” in which millions of people have just given up trying to find a job because the recession has lasted so long and there are fewer and fewer jobs to be had. I don’t know what these people are doing every day. Many are living in their parents’ basement or on the streets. Some are working at odd jobs and getting paid in cash so they never show up in any government statistics.

There is another measure of employment that is much better than the unemployment rate. It is called the “Labor Force Participation Rate.” It simply measures the number of people who ARE working. But If the number of jobs available is shrinking, it is possible for the official unemployment rate to be going down AND the labor force participation to also be simultaneously going down.

Or to make that more clear: If the number of jobs were constant and the unemployment rate went down, you would expect the labor force participation rate to go up, and vice-versa.

Here’s how bad it is. In 2009 the elite economists who live in the unrealistic world of Wall St. and inside the D.C. Beltway, said that the great recession was over. They were (and still are) out of touch with the realities on the ground along Main St.

Since their declaration that the end of the great recession occurred in 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the labor participation rate has continued to go DOWN since 2009, and in April of 2015 that there were 39,175,000 people of working age WHO ARE NOT IN THE WORK FORCE. This is an historical record.

So when you include all of the discouraged workers and the people with college degrees working at menial jobs ,because they can’t find anything else, the real unemployment rate is currently about 23%, not the 5.2% being reported.

And furthermore, instead of new jobs on Main St., the only industry that has been growing is the financial sector. Its share of GDP has risen from less than 4% in 1960 to about 8% today. Finance is not a productive activity, it is a looting (legal gambling) activity. It does not create JOBS.

I know how to create jobs.  My plan is in chapter 8 of my book, GREED IS GOOD-SO IS SOCIALISM: A UNIFYING MANIFESTO. Please read it and support it.

Then let me know what you think.



Hi Folks,

I didn’t write a post this week because I was sick in bed the whole week, (health now restored.)
Also, you should know that I don’t write posts unless I think I have something unique and important to say.
I read a lot of liberal weblogs and watch the news closely, as I am sure many of you also do. And there are many good bloggers out there saying many good things. So I see no reason to just rewrite basically what someone else has said.
If I don’t see how my “take on it” is uniquely Wendell Williams, then I just don’t write.
I work harder thinking about WHAT to write each week than the effort it takes to put my thoughts down as though I were publishing a book.

For example, what I mean by unique is the post I wrote, entitled GUNS DO KILL PEOPLE. I posited the argument that inanimate objects, guns included, do seemingly BEG to be used. I have never heard that argument from anyone else. If anyone has please let me know by commenting publically after this post or privately thru the “contact me button.”

I would also like to know what issues you are interested in so that I can address them too. Please write and let me know what’s on your mind.

We now have about 450 subscribers and about 200 open their email addresses in response to my invitation to read my blog. That doesn’t mean that they are the same 200 every time. Some people open it occasionally and some every time. Of those that open it, about 40% go ahead and read the rest of it. I am told that these are normal blog statistics.

Needless to say, it would be nice if each of you could get just one person to subscribe. That alone would double the amount of subscribers to 900 . The more subscribers, the more opportunity to read a wider range of opinions.

And speaking of that, it would mean a lot to me if more of you took the time to comment.

Let’s get a conversation going.  And here’s something to get you started:  What do you think is the issue of greatest concern in the U.S. today?


FOR SEVERAL MONTHS now I have been waiting for Bernie to DEFINE what he means by socialism. In my opinion he has been doing a terrible job of it.

Tonight on the Bill Maher show, Maher asked Bernie to define what he means,
and Bernie did not really answer the question. Maher asked the question THREE times and still no clear, succinct answer.

Sanders must clarify this and do it SOON before the American public allows the Republicans to crystalize THEIR definition in our minds.

Their definition of socialism focuses on the negatives of PURE SOCIALISM.

Their definition includes state ownership of industry and business.
Their definition includes state planning of the markets, instead of
the “invisible hand” of capitalism.
Their definition includes make work programs just to keep everyone employed.
Their definition includes some kind of malevolent oligarchical dictatorship.
Their definition includes no private ownership of property.
Their definition includes communal living.

The number of Americans who would vote for ANY of these ideas is
is miniscule. So there is NO WAY IN HELL that he will ever be elected
President until he explains in crystal clear words that he is for NONE of the above. But he IS for growing the middle class and continuing to maintain the social safety net.

I spent some time in the Soviet Union in the 1980’s and witnessed the good and the bad aspects of socialism. I saw a country where there were no filthy rich nor any lowly poor. Seemed like everyone was middle class. What Bernie wants for us is to temper our runaway laissez faire” casino capitalism” with the best that socialism has to offer. He is doing an excellent job of describing those GOOD aspects but a terrible job of separating out the BAD parts.

Why Bernie allows this gross misunderstanding of what he means by Socialism to live on (It is growing legs as we speak) is beyond me. He needs to kill it and kill it NOW.

Some people say that the problem is not guns, it is just crazy people.
But others say it is mainly the prevalence of guns that is to blame.

Both of them are WRONG.

The reason I say this, is that although they are both PARTIALLY right,
the real truth is that guns DO kill people AND also crazy people DO kill people.

But a crazy person without a gun can NOT kill people, and a gun without a
crazy person can NOT kill people. So obviously it takes both.

And that is why either polar opposite argument by it’s self is wrong.

It is easier for someone to understand the argument that guns do not
kill people, than it is to understand the argument that guns do kill people.

Let me explain why.

If a man comes home to his family with a brand new car, what is the first
thing that the family says?
We all know the answer, “Dad, let’s go for a ride and try it out”.

Now they are not really going anywhere; they just want to USE it.
That new car is “talking” to them, saying “Aren’t you just itching to use me?”
And the answer is YES. It seems to be human nature that

INANIMATE THINGS do have a way of begging you to use them.

Another example: We moved into a new house in the country and
found that there were lots of squirrels and they were destroying our
potted plants digging to hide acorns. We tried several methods to get
them to go away but nothing worked. So I decided to buy a BB gun
to shoot them in the butt. I was assured that it would not hurt them,
it would just scare them away. I bought the BB gun and after shooting
them for a week or two, I noticed that they seldom came back to dig
in our pots on the deck. They still played in the trees a little further out.

Now here is the point. I keep that new BB gun by the back door ready to
use if I find a squirrel on the back deck. And to my surprise,
I have found that if I am walking in the house and happen to walk past it,

I often look at the deck to see if there are any squirrels. And if I see none,
I find myself feeling deprived. I WANT TO USE THAT GUN.
There is a little itch in me that wants to be scratched. Barely noticeable, but still there.

So when a man buys a new 38 cal. pistol, whether or not he realizes it,
he IS itching to use it, to some degree. And that itch slowly builds up
the longer he doesn’t use it.

So what do you think might happen if he finds his wife in bed with another man and that gun IS available?
What do you think might have happened if the gun were NOT available?



One can complain about why government money ought NOT be given to poor people (We call that welfare.) or why government money ought NOT be given to Wall St. (corporate welfare).

The reason for the justification of those complaints is the assumption that the recipients are somehow responsible for the situation in which they find themselves. And of course there is some truth in that. The question of HOW much truth there is in each case is highly debated.

But there is one group in which the recipients are completely NOT, in anyway, responsible for their predicament. Zero responsible!
And there can be no debate.

There is not ONE child in America that is responsible for his or her economic predicament. NOT ONE!

According to Professor R. D. Wolff, Ph.D. economist, the number of homeless children attending schools has doubled during the Great Recession (2007-2014). These children live from pillar to post sleeping somewhere different every week and frequently changing schools.

Can you imagine how difficult it is for these little kids to learn anything when they get to school, often hungry and wearing poor clothes? Can you imagine what a life like that does to the formation of their sense of self worth. A sense of self worth is one of the most important factors of success in life; and a good education as well.

So the number of homeless children attending school now has been estimated at 1,360,000.
Those kids will grow up in a few years. How do you think those kids are going to contribute to our society? Are they likely to be responsible, productive and well adjusted citizens, or criminals and welfare recipients?

The amount that we (the government) have invested in helping these kids was $62 million in 2006. The number of homeless kids in school since then has doubled.
Yet the amount of money allocated for this problem in 2014 is the same as in 2006. Or in other words the amount per child has been cut in half. Today it amounts to about $45.00 per child per year.  That is less than $1.00 per week, per child.

And yet many conservatives in Congress want to cut it to zero. These same congressmen stood on the floor of Congress yesterday loudly applauding Pope Francis who preaches just the opposite of their heartless philosophy
Shame, Shame, Shame on them.

In the last 80 years we have had 11 recessions plus a Great Depression AND a Great Recession. All of those amount to a total of about 30 years out of 80; 30/80th.= 37.5%.
So capitalism was working well only 62.5% of the time.

Why do we continue to worship at the altar of capitalism when it only works 62.5% of the time? We just shrug our shoulders and say recessions are a normal part of capitalism. We cannot seem to imagine a better economic system. We say we certainly don’t want socialism because we conflate that economic system with a governmental system which is dictatorial.

But that is where we are mistaken.
Denmark for example, has a Democratic government and
socialistic economic system which also preserves the basics of capitalism.

If you had a car or a refrigerator which only worked 62.5% of the time, what would you do. If you had a roommate who only paid his share of the rent 62.5% of the time what would you do?

The laissez faire brand of capitalism we have been practicing
for the last 40 years has only has been good for the wealthy,
not “we the people.”
So why do “we the people” keep supporting an economic system that doesn’t support us?

There is a better way, a third way which I call
Democratic Social Capitalism and it is explained in my book,

Subscribe to Blog

Follow along on Social Media
Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On LinkedinCheck Our Feed