Pluralistic: 15 Mar 2022

Today's links

An outraged millionaire in a tuxedo jacket throwing his hands in the air. He is wearing an oil barrel held up by a pair of broad suspenders. His bare feet protrude from the bottom. He is standing in front of a Texaco gas station.

Fight inflation with a windfall profits tax (permalink)

Does your lifestyle involve consuming energy? If so, you may have noticed a tingly little sticker shock, especially at the gas pumps (but also everywhere else, from electric cars to home heating and beyond). Inflation, amirite?

To hear corporate Democrats and snake-eyed Republican sociopaths tell it, the problem is that we just can't have nice things. The real mistake was making sure working people didn't starve during the lockdown. Unfortunately for this narrative, reality has a well-known leftist bias, and boy are there a lot of CEOs boasting about price-gouging to their shareholders:

Of course, capitalism trufans insist that this is impossible, because in a competitive market, any company that gouges its customers will lose their business to a less-greedy competitor. Of course, for that to be true, we need to have competition, not monopolies, oligopolies and cartels.

Back to that energy sticker-shock. Yeah, you may be seeing $4.06-$4.32/gal prices at the pump, but the benchmark oil price of West Texas Intermediate crude is way down – about $20 a barrel.

How is it possible that we're paying so much for oil? Is it sanctions? War? Supply-chain shocks? Is the Moon in Neptune? Or is it, you know, a highly concentrated energy sector soaking the public and using all of the above for cover?

Two Democratic lawmakers – one from each house – think it's the latter. Ro Khanna and Sheldon Whitehouse have proposed a "windfall profits" tax on oil companies that would claw back the billions the hydrocarbon barons have soaked us for and return it to the public in a one-time payment of $240 for every single tax filer and $360 for joint filers.

The rebate targets low- and medium-income earners – it phases out at $75k for individuals and $150k for joint filers.

As David Dayen writes for The American Prospect, this is just a drop in the proverbial barrel. Corporate profiteering has costs the average American household $276/month, with the majority of it coming from the energy sector.

Nevertheless, by taxing the windfall that energy companies have reaped from contracting Russian energy supplies, Congress can shift those profits from the energy monopoly to the public it preys upon.

More importantly, of course, is to transition off of oil and onto renewables, and quickly. Oil producing regions don't need the trappings of civilization – education, a social safety net, democratic stability. All they need is a hole in the ground, surrounded by guns.

The world's oil addiction doesn't just endanger the planet – it helps the kind of people who took the Mad Max movies as a suggestion and not a warning fund and export their ideology around the world.

(Image: fourbyfourblazer, CC BY 2.0)

Imperial Russian Government Dollar Denominated $1,000 Gold Bond (Pre Revolution) - Russia, 1916

Russian "ESG" investments were always about financing invasions and murder (permalink)

For years, investors have been buying up Russian government bonds, lured in by the high interest rates paid in dollars, euros and pounds. These investors are now whining because they're pretending they only just noticed the fine-print on these bonds, especially the clause that lets Russia pay the coupon in roubles if hard currency isn't available "for reasons beyond Russia's control."

Russia argues that sanctions brought by foreign governments and corporations mean that it no longer has any real money to pay to foreign investors, so it's going to switch to paying roubles, whose value is in freefall with no sign of slowing.

On Credit Slips, Mark Weidemaier and Mitu Gulati write that these bonds were sold after Russia embarked on a campaign of conduct that was likely to give rise to sanctions, including annexing its neighbors and assassinating people abroad with nerve gas.

Moreover, the prospectus for Russian bonds actually explains all this, citing the "geopolitical tensions" that might " adversely affect … the Russian Federation's ability to repay its debt denominated in currencies other than the rouble, including amounts due under the Bonds."

In other words, buying Russian bonds was a means for "for investors to fund Russian misbehavior" (and profit from it).

Incredibly, some of these investors are "Environmental, Sustainability and Governance" (ESG) funds, a form of papal indulgence for capitalism whose primary role is greenwashing planet-destroying initiatives as just fine, actually:

Back to Weidemaier and Gulati: "investors buy Russian sovereign debt specifically because they do not care about ESG goals." Or perhaps, "the ESG part of the investor’s brain is off doing something else while the part that chases yield buys Russian bonds."

Either way, if you bought Russian paper, your coupon is now denominated in rouble-scented toilet paper, and that's all you deserve.

(Image:, public domain)

Hey look at this (permalink)

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Allen Ginsberg’s “Put Down Your Cigarette Rag”

#10yrsago America’s 55-hour work weeks ruin workers’ lives and don’t produce extra value for employers

#10yrsago Bunnie Huang’s open Geiger counter: design notes and reference

#5yrsago Uber uses its in-app podcasts to broadcast anti-union messages to drivers

#5yrsago In defense of left-wing space utopias

#5yrsago What’s the difference between a CEO and a president?

#5yrsago In a wide-ranging interview, Edward Snowden offers surveillance advice to Trump

#5yrsago Podcast: how to secure software by caring about humans, not security

#5yrsago CBP conducted more device searches at the border in Feb than in all of 2015

#5yrsago Flint official punished for water crisis: she must write an apology letter, will not serve time

#5yrsago Wishbone breaks: massive leak of popular survey site reveals millions of teens’ information

#1yrago STREAMLINER: Vantablack noir French hotrod comics for the win

#1yrago Free markets: My latest Locus column on rent-seeking and audiobooks

#1yrago Making Hay: My new "Lost Cause" story in MIT Tech Review's "Make Shift"

Colophon (permalink)

Currently writing:

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  • A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING

  • Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE

  • A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

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  • Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022

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