March/April 2021 Issue

March/April 2021 issue cover

Our March/April 2021 issue has gone out to e-subscribers and will be mailed soon to print subscribers.  (Not a subscriber? Subscribe online here!)

Here’s the p. 2 editors’ note:

In the News

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been in the news lately, as it has come to light that he withheld data about nursing home deaths from the New York State legislature last year, according to the New York Times and other outlets. The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District and the F.B.I. are reportedly investigating Cuomo for his handling of nursing homes during the pandemic. It’s about time. While mainstream outlets seemed to have nothing but praise for Cuomo’s handling of the pandemic, left media outlets like The Intercept and The Daily Poster had reported on Cuomo’s executive order shielding health care industry officials, including nursing home operators, from Covid-19-related lawsuits. The state’s industry association for for-profit nursing homes, the Greater New York Hospital Association, had drafted the provision, parts of which Republicans in the U.S. Senate have copied word for word in their bid to take corporate immunity nationwide.

This issue’s cover story, by economist Bill Barclay, gets at key factors in the nursing home industry that help account for the fact that nursing home residents, who are about 0.5% of the U.S. population, account for some 40% of U.S. Covid-19 deaths. A key culprit: the takeover of the industry by private equity firms, whose business model is the extraction of profit.

Several other articles in this issue address topics that have been in the news lately.

On January 31, one of the only people to be convicted in the Libor-rigging scandal that emerged in 2012, former Citigroup and UBS trader Tom Hayes, was released from prison after serving half his 11-year sentence. With Libor, a key interest-rate benchmark, set to be retired by the end of this year, we might think the scandal has been put to rest. But in his feature article, economist John Summa lays out the evidence that there was a dimension of the Libor scandal that was missed. His analysis strongly suggests that bankers manipulated the benchmark to gain at least $1 billion a year in extra interest.

Another feature in this issue, by historian Christy Pottroff, takes a look at the role that the U.S. Postal Service played in prior pandemics. The postal service is ideally suited to play a key role in public health crises. Yet during the Covid-19 pandemic, the postal service, overburdened and underfunded for years by austerity and sabotage, has been hampered from fulfilling the role it could. Former President Donald Trump’s appointee to head the USPS, Louis DeJoy, carries on in that role under the Biden administration—for now—even as news reports in mid-February tell of how his plans will slow first-class mail and increase rates.

Arthur MacEwan’s “Ask Dr. Dollar” column answers a reader’s question about why there has been a big push to cancel at least some student loan debt. Although President Joe Biden paid lip service to debt forgiveness during his campaign, he recently seemed to balk at the idea, claiming that he doesn’t have the authority to forgive debt up to $50,000 per borrower (although experts have claimed he does), and that it would be unfair to forgive the debt rather than spending that money on early childhood education (but why not do both?).

February is Black History Month, and this issue’s final feature is an interview with economist Ellora Derenoncourt on her research on an important period of Black history in the United States—the Great Migration, when millions of African Americans from the U.S. South relocated to cities in the North, Midwest, and West. Derenoncourt’s “headline” finding is that, while Black migrants sought and found better economic opportunities in the cities they migrated to, their children and grandchildren suffered worse outcomes due to white backlash in those cities.

When northern cities are listed in order by how dramatically their demographics were altered by the Great Migration, Pittsburgh is in the middle of the list, which makes it an important comparison case. So we were thrilled to get permission from the Carnegie Museum of Art to use some of the gorgeous photographs from its Charles “Teenie” Harris Archives to accompany the interview. Harris was a staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American weekly newspaper whose publication years, 1910 to 1966, coincided almost exactly with the years of the Great Migration. His photos chronicled all aspects of Pittsburgh’s Black community in the mid-20th century; we have selected three photos that show gatherings of multiple generations of Black Pittsburgh residents, whose lives would have been shaped profoundly by the Great Migration. Tens of thousands of photos from the collection can be viewed at the museum’s website (cmoa.org/art/teenie-harris-archive).

Friday Links: Gaza, Ferguson, Argentina, and unemployment

(1) Max Blumenthal, interviewed on Jung & Naiv.  An excellent interview with Max Blumenthal, contextualizing the assault on Gaza in the rise of right wing and genocidal rhetoric in Israel.  (Hat-tip to Marjo van der Veen.) A wide-ranging interview, well worth watching the whole thing, but one point he makes (in response to a question from the interviewer, who is German, about anti-semitic rallies in Berlin) that is especially good:  “Zionism is using Jews as human shields; they’re speaking in the name of all Jews, and claiming that this war they are carrying out is being conducted in the name of all Jews.” He also talks about the overlap between Zionism and anti-semitism, e.g., when Israel points to anti-semitism in France or Germany and encourages French or German Jews to move to Israel (as if to agree with the anti-semites that Jews don’t belong in France or Germany). (I posted a great Real News Network interview with Blumenthal on Facebook and Twitter, but not here; it’s also worth watching. See also Jason Stanley’s Boston Review piece, When Protesting Israel Becomes Hating Jews, which I mentioned in my last links post.)

(2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dave Zirin on Ferguson:  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a really powerful piece in Time magazine, The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race, relating the protests in Ferguson to inequality and class warfare.  Dave Zirin has an interesting response in The Nation, The Major Problem With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Powerful Essay on Ferguson, which essentially praises Abdul-Jabbar’s piece but takes him to task for prioritizing class over race. I stopped reading the comment section on Zirin’s piece–even at The Nation‘s website, comments can be so toxic. But I can’t help feeling that Zirin misinterprets Abdul-Jabbar.  Anyway, both are worth reading.  Also check out this Real News Network interview with Kevin Alexander Gray, a lawyer who is working with organizers of the Ferguson protests. 

(3) Jayati Ghosh and Greg Palast on vulture funds and Argentina:  D&S author and pal, investigative journalist Greg Palast, spoke with the Real News Network about Paul “the Vulture” Singer, whom a U.S. judge said Argentina must pay $3 billion for bonds Singer paid $30 million for. And here’s economist Jayati Ghosh, one of the founders of and bloggers for our sister blog Triple Crisis, talking about the ramifications for the global financial system of the judgment and the Argentine default that would result if Argentina did pay Singer and the other hedge funds that have refused debt restructuring: The Outrageous US Court Judgement Causing Argentinian Default, from NewsClick.

(4) Heidi Shierholz, Bill Barclay, and Ron Baiman on the job market: The summer drought of new material on Doug Henwood’s excellent radio show, Behind the News, is finally over; he posted a couple of new episodes recently.  My commute to and from New Hampshire will be informative again for a while, vs. melting my brain with NPR, as I’ve been doing. The July 10 episode includes a segment with the Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz, talking about the flaccid job market. Doug’s interviews with Heidi are just so great. (The second half of that episode features an interview with Sean Jacobs on the political economy of soccer. The “Active Culture” article in our current issue has a piece by our awesome intern Zion Griffin about “The People’s Cup” activism in Brazil around the World Cup, which Jacobs discusses in the interview.)  And here is what Bill Barclay and Ron Baiman wrote for CPEG about the July jobs report; and here is a statement Bill gave to the D.C. Jobs Summit in July.

That’s it for this week.

–Chris Sturr