Brutal Capitalism Goes to War

Brutal Capitalism Goes to War

Much has been made about President-elect Trump’s penchant for choosing military men to head the Defense Department, the CIA, etc.: Gordon Adams, in the Dec. 9th NY Times warned about Trump’s “Military Government.” Adams’ previous writing has spelled out the growing militarization of US foreign policy, and others has documented both the rising militarization of domestic police forces and the rise of government surveillance.

Yet Brutal Capitalism, led by the Trump Cabinet and the Republicans in Congress, has actually declared war on another front: the American social contract. [Brutal Capitalism might be simply defined as an economy in which those running businesses believe their only responsibility is to shareholders, rather than a shared responsibility to shareholders and employees. That second system is Liberal Capitalism, which has been under withering attack by its Brutal cousin since the 1980s.]

The Republicans have announced a clear agenda: destroy the American social contract created in response to Brutal Capitalism’s deepest crisis, the Great Depression. The American social contract consisted of expanded rights for workers to unionize (Wagner Act, 1935), government-funded old-age pensions (Social Security, 1935), and, in time, medical care for the aged (Medicare, 1966) and the poor (Medicaid, 1965). The GI Bill helped educate millions of veterans, paving the way for the massive expansion of higher education.  The 2012 Affordable Care Act (ACA) established Federal support for private health insurance, and expanded Medicaid in those states that chose to participate [19 declined to do so, nine of them from the old Confederacy].

Simply put, the US Government sharply raised taxes in the 1930s to pay for expanded government spending [much of which has gone to the military]; tax rates remained high until Reagan took office, at which point he cut them roughly in half, while simultaneously raising Social Security [SS] withholding and setting in motion the taxation of SS payments. [Revenues plummeted and the deficit skyrocketed.] George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton established moderate tax rates, which clearly did not harm economic growth in the 1990s. George W. Bush made further cuts, leaving the government critically short of revenue when the financial crisis of 2007-08 hit: it was a repeat of 1929 (and tax rates were about the same, too).

The social contract allowed some to gain considerable wealth, but permitted far more Americans to have a decent, and rising standard of living. [Yes, the system had many flaws, not least of them the racially biased extension of these benefits, and needed reform by 1980, but that’s not today’s subject.]

Why do the super rich want to destroy this contract? The answer is pretty simple: Baby Boomers. The super-rich do not want to pay for the Baby Boomers’ retirement and especially do not want to pay for the health care they will need as seniors. How urgent is this matter? 4 million Baby Boomers retire each year.

Example? You probably think repealing Obamacare is all about health care. WRONG. Repealing Obamacare is about ending two taxes it created on the super rich: a 3.8% investment income tax (on profits of over $200k) and an 0.9% Medicare surtax on earned income over $200k [in both cases, $250k for couples filing jointly].

What two immediate effects do these retirements have? 1) With respect to the stock market, Boomers who currently pay into retirement funds will stop doing so when they retire. They will instead start removing funds from their retirement savings. In short, instead of buying stocks and bonds, they will be selling them. 2) Boomers who get health insurance through their jobs (as salaried employees usually do) will lose that insurance and go on Medicare, supplemented by the special plans available for that end.

Boomers are now paying into the system, through retirement funds, Social Security and Medicare payroll deductions, and health insurance premiums. In the course of the next decade, roughly 40 million people will stop doing all three of these things and start drawing down retirement funds, start collecting from (instead of paying into) Social Security and Medicare, and will pay much smaller insurance premiums, for the supplemental plans that fill Medicare gaps.

How are we going to pay for all this stuff? The super-rich believe they will have to foot the bill, and they do not want to do so. They need to act now. Their answers?

  • “Repeal” Obamacare, yet the Congress will allow certain health provisions to remain in place, while Congress comes up with an alternative plan. The two taxes will be abolished right away.
  • Enact key elements of Paul Ryan’s tax plan: abolish the estate tax; cut rates on capital gains.
  • Try to convert Medicare to a voucher plan.
  • Try to privatize Social Security.
  • Reconfigure income tax deductions to favor Red State taxpayers.

ALERT # 1

The canary in the coal mine of this all-out war is the 3.8% investment tax. The Republicans will talk about the health care elements – like coverage for children up to age 26 and provisions about pre-existing conditions – but will say nothing about the tax, which they will abolish in the dark recesses of Capitol Hill. If Congress acts immediately to “abolish” Obamacare, read the fine print: the key provision, for the rich, is the abolition of that 3.8% tax. They will also abolish Obamacare’s 0.9% Medicare surtax on wage incomes over $200k.

ALERT #2

The new HHS Secretary will seek to turn Medicare into a voucher program. That will end worries about medical cost inflation, because the government will no longer be paying for medical care: it will simply give people a fixed amount to help them buy insurance (sound familiar, doesn’t it?). The result will be that millions of older Americans will have to choose among food, housing, and health care. Look at what health insurance, particularly for older people, buying on their own, will cost. This change will drive every older American (aside from the very rich) into HMOs. Health care will be rationed.

ALERT #3

Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin and the other Goldman Sachs refugees will push to privatize Social Security. What does that mean? It means Americans will be able to invest the amounts paid into Social Security in private retirement funds. [Bush tried, and failed, to make this change.] This change has several positive effects for the super rich. 1) It provides access to the only domestic source of funds large enough to balance out the Boomer problem. 2) It provides firms like Goldman Sachs with massive new sources of revenue, because someone has to manage all those stock transactions, mutual funds, and annuities. 3) Most importantly, it prevents the enactment of the only real solution to the Social Security [SS] funding problem. What is that solution? The Congressional Budget Office testified (in 2010) that Congress needed to set the SS income limit at the same percentage of total US earned income that served as the basis for the Reagan reform of 1984: about 92%. The current maximum income subject to SS is about $120k. Hillary Clinton proposed raising that limit to $350k (i.e., roughly the 92nd percentile). We now tax slightly less than 85% of all earned income. If you make over $350k, your SS withholding would go up about $28k.

For those of you unaware of these laws, just to be clear: a person making $120,000 and a person making $1,200,000 currently pay the same in SS withholding. The person making $12,000 or $120,000 a year is paying 6.2%; the person making $1.2 million is paying 0.6%.

The rich are not going to rely on SS for their retirement, and they see no reason why they should pay for your retirement, either.

So, what do the Republicans have in mind, and who will be affected?

  • Abolish the estate tax. It currently strikes fewer than 1% of estates (>$10 million). The current rate is 40%. Donald Trump says he is a billionaire. Ok, for every $1 billion he leaves his children, the abolition of the estate tax will save them $400 million. Current revenue from the estate tax is modest, but given the massive wealth owned by the Boomer generation (about 2/3rds of the national total), the government could reasonably expect this amount to go way up between now and 2030. Ultra rich Boomers, like Trump, are desperate for immediate repeal.
  • Repeal Obamacare and that nasty old 3.8% investment profit tax and the equally terrible 0.9% surtax for Medicare.
  • Cut capital gains taxes (Both Ryan and Trump have proposed a range of 6-16.6%).
  • Cut income tax rates, with an especially large cut for the top marginal rate.
  • Eliminate the income tax deduction for state and local taxes. Why? Let’s see, the top marginal state income tax rate in California is 13.5%, in NY and Oregon, it’s about 10%. Texas and Florida have no state income tax. Local property taxes? I live in Arlington, VA and our average property tax is about 3 times the average property tax in Arlington TX. [VA’s income tax rate is 5.7%]
  • States with high taxes – which their taxpayers can now deduct from their Adjusted Gross Income – will suddenly find their taxpayers outraged by an effective increase of their local taxes by a percentage equal to their top marginal Federal rate (for many middle class people, currently 28%, perhaps only 25% in the new plan). Result? Strong local pressure to reduce income and property taxes, and to balance that out by cuts in local services, especially school budgets.
  • Who are the big losers?  Half of all state and local tax deductions in 2014 [total deductions were $28 billion] went to those making between $75,000 and $200,000, and another 20% to those making $200-500,000.  When the richest 1% look to shift the burden of government onto others, they focus on those immediately below them, who have enough wealth to make it worthwhile, but not enough power to protect themselves.
  • Mollify the Realtors by nominally keeping the mortgage interest deduction, but raise the standard deduction (the plan calls for $24k for a couple) to an extent that only those living in McMansions will still pay enough in mortgage interest to make it worthwhile to deduct. Again, those living in areas with high housing costs (think Blue) will be the big losers.
  • Push privatization of public school systems, to further gut out universal system of primary and secondary education. The new Education Secretary supports this shift to school vouchers. [Medicare vouchers, school vouchers – you get the idea.] In the tense climate created by the abolition of the state and local taxes deduction, pushing vouchers as a way to cut spending will be a popular idea. On this one, look for minority communities to bear the burden: we will not even have the fig leaf of separate but equal.

Add it all together and you see how the ultra-rich, aged about 55-70, are desperate to make sure they do not have to pay for the retirement and old age health costs of their own generation.  They will try to shift these costs into the private sector, which will not only save them money on taxes but will also generate income for their businesses (like Goldman Sachs).  Win-win.

American workers, and many in the middle class, will face desperate times in the 2020s, on the order of the early stages of the Depression, when the Hooverites of this world did so little, in part because tax rates were too low to generate enough government income to pay for increased spending.  Tax rates in 1929 (capital gains and top marginal income tax), btw, were virtually identical to those of 2008.  Trump would bring them back to that level, and, in some cases, below it.  When the bill starts coming due, in the mid-2020s, the government will not have enough revenue to respond.

The worst part is that these sorts of policies might lead to a short-term economic boom, because of cash flowing into the economy.  We’ll see inflation of 4-5% in 2019-21 (also deliberate, in part to reduce the value of the national debt), wiping out purchasing power of older people with fixed incomes.  When the bill comes due in 2022, the government won’t know where to turn, lacking capital, lacking a tax base, and having run up major debts in 2017-20. Those older folks will have seen their fixed assets decline in value, due to inflation, will have lost their Medicare and Medicaid (many of those on Medicaid are over 66), and will perhaps lose SS income due to that system’s shortfall during a transition to privatization.

What can we realistically hope to do to stop this assault? Some actions are a done deal, in my view: look for Congress to repeal those Obamacare taxes and the estate tax in the first weeks of the session.

AARP is a powerful lobby, and they will fight privatization of Social Security and Medicare vouchers. Key Republican Senators like Susan Collins of Maine will have to stand with the Democrats if SS is to be saved, but those opposed to the privatization scheme will have to face the reality that the only real solution is to eliminate the fixed $ withholding limit, and set that limit at the 92% envisioned by Reagan and Tip O’Neill in 1984. Republicans will never vote for that.

We will be at an impasse on both SS and Medicare, because Republicans are not going to vote for the taxes needed to stabilize either.

Deduction “reform?” I’m guessing the state and local taxes deduction will indeed go the way of the dodo.   Deficit hawks will object to raising the standard deduction to $24k for a married couple, or, if they approve it, will raise the deduction gradually, perhaps starting with $18k (as against today’s $12k) for a couple. That will still zap most mortgage deductions, but leave intact the deductions that cost the Federal government the most money. Why? Of the $70 billion in mortgage interest deductions, about 3/4ths went to the top 20% of taxpayers.   The bottom quarter will no longer be taking their deduction, because it will be less than the new standard deduction, but the McMansion owner with the $1 million+ mortgage will still do so.

Lower tax revenues will naturally be cited as a reason to gut EPA and other government agencies the Republicans have long targeted. In my little corner of the world, I worry that the National Endowment for the Humanities will get abolished. Since I like to breath, I naturally worry about EPA, too.

The end result of all this greedy stupidity will be what it usually is: increased social instability. Add in the militarization – and the spread of military equipment to police departments (a policy Trump wants to accelerate) – and you have the potential for a truly awful social, economic, and political crisis.

 

Achievements

“I hope the new government won’t call into question what is expected and what has already been achieved,” Jens Weidmann, President of Deutsche Bundesbank, quoted (in translation) in the NY Times, 26 January 2015, about the victory of Syriza in Greece.

Achievements?  25% decline in Greece’s GDP since the start of austerity;  26% unemployment rate (to be fair, that’s down from 28% a year ago);  youth [<25] unemployment 49.8%.

These numbers are virtually identical to those of the worst of the US Great Depression: about a 25-30% decline in GDP from 1929-1933 and a non-farm unemployment rate of about 30% in 1933.  Does any rational person talk about the Great Depression as an ACHIEVEMENT?

What universe do people like Weidmann inhabit that they can believe, and publicly state with a straight face, that policies leading to such massive human misery are an “achievement?”

Quite aside from Syriza’s victory, other Greek parties who openly reject the austerity program also did well:  combined, the various parties got well over half of the vote.

Sooner or later, European political leaders need to get the message that political systems cannot remain viable when vast numbers of citizens support political parties that specifically reject the system itself.  France had such a situation in the mid 1950s, when the Communist Party on the Left and the Poujadists on the Right – both of whom basically rejected the Parliamentary system of the Fourth French Republic – got roughly half of the total vote.  The Fourth Republic collapsed in 1958.  The frenzied reform efforts of the 1770s and 1780s in France, leading to the events of the spring and summer of 1789, offer another example of systemic failure.  Major political parties, like the Liberals in early 20th-century England and the Socialists in Greece today, can become irrelevant overnight:  PASOK, the main Left party (Socialist) in Greece, won fewer seats (13 v 17) yesterday than the xenophobic Golden Dawn party, which has employed rhetoric reasonably described as neo-fascist.  On the other end of the political spectrum, the Greek Communist Party, which stridently opposes the austerity policies, won 13 seats.

People understand that governmental policies that bring on the equivalent of the Great Depression mean that the system of government, and the economic power structure behind it, have failed.  The complete failure of both main Greek political parties – PASOK (in power at the start of the crisis) and New Democracy (in power in recent years) – to govern on behalf of the Greek people has called into question not simply the policies of a given party, but the political system.

In other postings on Brutal Capitalism, I have suggested that Greece offers a warning to countries in that system.  The press talk about Spain, but what about the rejectionist parties in France?  The UK?  Marine Le Pen stands a very good chance of being one of the two finalists in the next presidential runoff in France, and she’ll surely get a lot more than the 20% her father polled.  How many elections will UKIP have to win before it becomes a power broker in the UK?  (It currently polls a consistent 20% in UK opinion polls, a strong third to the two main parties and three times as much as the nearly defunct Lib-Dems.)

If we look at the USA, we can see the same sort of governmental dysfunction.  The Democrats did make one fundamental change – allowing the Bush reduction of the capital gains tax to lapse – and carried out both an infrastructural investment campaign and limited health care reform.  These policies helped the US recover more effectively than the Euro zone, but did not do much to change long-term trends in falling real wages, falling household income, declining labor force participation rates, and dangerous economic inequalities.  Household income has fallen roughly 10% since 1999;  real household income in the US was higher in 1988 than it is today.  We have had an entire generation in which the economic condition of the average household has gotten worse, despite the overall real GDP growth in that period of about 70% (nominal growth has been from about $5 trillion to $17 trillion).  Since 2008, GDP has risen in the US by about 20%, yet median household income, despite gains in 2013 and 2014, remains well below what it was in 2007-08.  Those numbers make it pretty obvious that the few have eaten the loaf, and the many have had to make do with the crumbs fallen to the floor.  Quite apart from the economic inefficiency of such outcomes, continued over an extended period of time, they undermine belief in the political system.

In such situations, governments unable (or unwilling) to act by recognized legitimate means (as defined by their society – in our case, the legislative process supposedly promoted by our contemporary democracies), will usually turn to fear, repression, and militarization.  If a society is to legitimize grotesque social inequalities, then it will start to introduce such inequalities in seemingly innocent places.  Soon, the legitimacy of inequality will appear in ways unimagined even a few years before:  who would have thought that American cities would turn increasingly to policies that allow the rich to buy their way out of a traffic jam?  Or that security lines at airports would be divided based on the price of your ticket?  [News flash for all those first-class and business travelers:  if the plane crashes, we’re all in it together.]  Or that attractions of all kinds would now have special “VIP” tickets, far beyond the capacity of ordinary visitors, to allow the rich to go to the head of the line at the traveling Harry Potter show or at Disneyland or countless other places?  Parents get to feel publicly humiliated in front of their children: daddy, how come we have to wait in line?

This world has come to pass before our very eyes, and the obscene – money-based security checks – now seems not simply ordinary but perfectly legitimate.

Why?  In a world in which the people running the economy, like Mr. Weidmann, believe creating Great Depression-level unemployment is an “achievement,” do we need to ask?

Obituary notice: “Sovereign” debt, theft, Cyprus, and the death of Liberal Capitalism

Gallery

This post, written in March and April 2013, has been updated on Oct 16, 2013; I fixed two typos.  The rest of it remains unchanged. I have written before about Jaruzelski Moments in modern Liberal Capitalism.  Expropriating capital from banks … Continue reading

Brutal Capitalism and the NBA: Greed Triumphant

Basketball has been a life-long obsession.  I enjoy both the college and NBA varieties, although I mainly watch NBA playoff games, and far less often the dreary regular season charades.  We witness this year how Brutal Capitalism affects even the games we watch. At this point the NCAA is a farce, with teams of rented future NBA players (rented by the year) competing with teams composed of actual college students.  Some coaches, like Calipari at Kentucky, have abandoned all pretense of using student players.  In 2010 and 2011, by some miracle, a team composed of real students (Butler) actually made the final twice in a row.  (Duke, which won one of those games, to its credit, also uses real students.)  Jeff van Gundy, who does NBA telecasts, inadvertently pulled back the curtain when he made an unfortunate comment about Austin Rivers, son of Celtic coach Doc Rivers, during a late-season game.  The play-by-play announcer (Mike Breen?) commented that Austin Rivers had continued to attend Duke classes, even though he declared for the NBA draft: he was flying back to Raleigh after the Celtic game, to go back to school.  Van Gundy commented that if he were Rivers he would not waste his time doing that, but would fly to South Beach in Miami to enjoy himself.  Breen (?), somewhat taken aback, indicated that Austin Rivers had promised his parents he would get his Duke degree.  Van Gundy obvious thought that mattered not at all in life – he’s a former NBA coach, and it’s sad to think he had that kind of contempt for his players.  Alas, it’s even sadder to think van Gundy is not alone.

NBA fans know that the owners and players had a labor dispute; as part of the settlement, they agree to a shortened 2011-12 season.  This shortened season crammed far more games than usual into each week.  Teams regularly played back-to-back games; they even played games on three consecutive nights, in different cities.

As a former college player, I was shocked that the Players Association agreed to this schedule, because it was certain to lead to injuries.  High-level basketball destroys your body, as I can personally attest – from concussions down to broken feet.  You must have rest time between games, so that muscles can regenerate.  Young players (those under 25) are particularly vulnerable, because they are competing against older, fully mature men. Toward the end of the season, teams like the Celtics had had enough: they started resting players.  They had away games to which they did not even send key players like Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce. Imagine having paid for a ticket to watch the Celtics in Charlotte, and then having Boston leave the Big Three home for the night.

The brutal regular season has placed a premium on winning your first-round series as quickly as possible.  The Heat will beat the Knicks 4-0 and the Thunder may well win 4-0; the extra rest they get will be a tremendous advantage this year.  The Thunder, in particular, are very vulnerable: their three main stars are all under 25 and classic candidates for an injury in this shortened season.  Because of his style of play, Westbrook is their highest risk.

Let’s review what has happened so far.  One young star after another has been injured.  Many of them (like Rubio in Minnesota or Lin in NY, or, now, Derrick Rose, last year’s MVP) have suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments, a classic fatigue injury (I know, because I’ve had both of my ACLs replaced).  All over the league, teams have fallen apart:  Atlanta is down to its third-string center (and Josh Smith, their star forward, is also hurt); Ray Allen has missed a month of the season in Boston; the Knicks have lost not only Lin but Amare Stoudamire (and various lesser players);  Joachim Noah, the Bulls’ other major star, is also injured.

Rose, quite apart from his recent ACL tear, had missed nearly half the season with other injuries:  again, speaking from personal experience, other leg injuries often lead to a torn ACL, because you compensate unconsciously for the injured leg, and thus develop improper balance.  Rose surely blew out his ACL on the jump stop (me, too):  I can attest that life has few scarier moments than the one when you are in the air, after having blown the ACL, and know you must come back down on it.

This plague of injuries stems from greed.  The owners don’t care about the players: they care about money.  Even from the greed perspective, it’s hard to understand why owners would jeopardize their long-term investment in a player like Rose (the Bulls owe him nearly $100 million), in return for a short-term gain, but that’s the nature of Brutal Capitalism, isn’t it?

The NBA has plenty of company.  The recent travesty of the Champions League semi-finals in European football offers a perfect example.  Barcelona and Real Madrid played on Sunday, in a match that decided the winner of the Spanish league.  On Tuesday, Barcelona, with only one off day, had to play Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final.  Spectators got treated to the remarkable spectacle of Lionel Messi hitting the crossbar with a penalty kick.  When are great players most likely to shoot high in that situation?  When they have a tired hamstring.  [World Cup fans will remember the final years ago, when the Italian stars Baggio and Barese both shot over the top of the bar in the final penalty shoot-out.  Both players had been treated for hamstring cramps during the overtime.]  On Wednesday, it was Real Madrid’s turn to look exhausted, losing a home match to Bayern Munich.  Fortunately, no players suffered severe injuries.

Next season, in the NBA, we will see more predictable injuries.  Many, indeed most of the big men who have recently entered the NBA at age 19 have suffered severe injuries.  The most obvious case is Oden at Portland, but Andrew Bynum of the Lakers began his career with a serious injury, as did Amare Stoudamire: both have had microfractal knee surgery.  Anthony Davis, from Kentucky, is an amazing player, and has a chance to be the dominant player of the next decade if he stays healthy, but the chances he will remain uninjured playing an 82-game schedule against full-grown men, are slim.  Davis will be a prime candidate for an ACL tear or another serious leg injury.

A smart team would limit his minutes, say to 20 or 25 per game, and make sure he did not play more than two games a week.  Given that he will surely go to some woebegone outfit like Charlotte, don’t count on it.  You get a sense of how well-run a team Charlotte is by noting that they just fired coach Paul Silas.  Hmm, now Silas was one of the NBA’s greatest rebounders: think he might be able to help Davis (should they get him) learn some of the tricks of that trade?  Couldn’t you just keep Silas on the payroll as a special consultant?

Ah, but that costs money, and someone also has to pay for the fiasco of this season in Charlotte.  That the BC way.  Unfortunately, the BC way is also to use up human capital, whether it’s the $10/hr interchangeable parts at your local big box store or Derrick Rose, who is scheduled to make over $15 million next year.  Memo to the Bulls: he won’t be back to 100% mentally as well as physically for between 9 and 12 months.  Instead of trying to get him back for the start of the season, let him sit out until the All-Star break.

The dismal failure of the BC approach perhaps taught Chicago Bulls ownership a lesson, but I’m guessing they will make the same brutal capitalist calculation next year:  Rose on the court in November will sell more tickets, and raise TV ad revenue (far more important).  He’ll want to get back as soon as he can, and the public relations campaign will emphasize his tough guy determination as the reason for his miraculous early season return.

Well, Derrick, all I can say is, don’t believe a word of that tough guy bs.  You want to win a title in 2013?  Come back in February.

Update, May 18th (the above written on May 5th).  Miami beat NY, 4-1.  Even so, Chris Bosh has suffered a bad injury and they have looked very shaky without him.  Reports suggest that D Wade is also fighting several injuries (as he did in the regular season, when he missed quite a few games).  His style of play takes a heavy toll on the body.  The LA Clippers are crippled by injuries to their biggest stars, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.  Paul Pierce of the Celts has a knee injury.  At the moment, the two healthiest teams, by far, are San Antonio and OKC.  San Antonio, not coincidentally, has the deepest bench in the NBA: their starters play far fewer minutes than those of most other teams.  Tim Duncan averaged 28 minutes a game; LeBron James played 39 minutes a game (D Wade 36).  San Antonio only had one player (Tony Parker) who played more than 30 minutes a game (32); LAC had three – Paul (injured), Griffin (injured), Billups (injured, out for the year).

If we look at the other teams, we see Boston’s starting five all played over 30 minutes a game: two are hurt (Pierce and Allen).  Miami had three: two are hurt (one out).  The Lakers’ big three (Bryant, Gasol, Bynum) all played over 35 minutes a game – their woeful inconsistency in the playoffs has a lot to do with fatigue, I think.  Indian had only one player (Granger) average over 30 minutes (three others at 29).  OKC had three – Durant, at 38 m/game played way too many minutes.  Philly had two (Holiday and Iguodala).

To go back to the Lakers, very few players in the league averaged over 35 minutes a game. If we take the remaining 8 teams:  Boston, none; Philly, Iguodala; LAC, Paul and Griffin; San Antonio, none; Indiana, none; Miami, James and Bosh; OKC, Durant and Westbrook.  Three of the seven players on this list are injured.  If we drop the bar to 34 minutes a game, we add two more, Pierce and Allen for the Celtics: both are injured.  D Wade came in at 33.2 minutes (partly due to short stints in several games, due to injury);  he’s playing 37 minutes a game in the playoffs.   It’s hard to see how Miami can win with Wade and James playing nearly 40 minutes a night.   Rondo is playing 41 minutes a game for Boston, and Pierce and Garnett are close to 38 minutes.

Just looking at the minutes played distribution, in this shortened, brutal season, Indian and San Antonio look like the best candidates for the finals.  Boston needs to finish off Philly in 5 to have a chance, and then hope for Miami and Indiana to go 6 or 7, so the Celts get a rest.  OKC has to hope their three wunderkinder hold up under all those minutes.  Miami needs for LeBron to go for 40 every night, and for Wade to get some pine time to rest some of those injuries.

The two freshest teams left in the playoffs are San Antonio (easy #1 in that category) and Indiana.  San Antonio has won 16 games in a row, going back to the regular season, by an average of nearly 17 ppg.  Coach Pop deserves a lot of credit for understanding that in this stupidly scheduled season, spreading the minutes has been, and will continue to be, the key to success.  SA and LAC play back2back games this weekend – in the playoffs, that’s a real abomination.  If Griffin plays 30 or more minutes on Sat and then plays against on Sunday, he will get injured.  Look for Duncan to play limited minutes in the first 3 quarters on Sat.

When SA wins the title, maybe Brutal Capitalists everywhere will learn a lesson.