Saturday, March 29, 2014

So, IS Paul Ryan a Racist

From the site:

My greatest fear is that Ryan shares with the Republican Party a penchant for strategic racism — a willingness to stir widespread racial anxiety in pursuit of votes. This is not racism as hate, or as bias, but as the cold, calculating decision to exploit racist sentiments in society.

In 1963, Republican leaders fatefully decided to seek advantage in the rising backlash to the civil rights movement. After attending a meeting of the Republican National Committee, Robert Novak reported: “A good many, perhaps a majority of the party’s leadership, envision substantial political gold to be mined in the racial crisis by becoming in fact, though not in name, the White Man’s Party.”

Malice did not drive this; instead, it reflected a tactical decision to stoke racial fears. And this strategy has largely worked. After 1964, Republican presidential candidates have won a majority of the white vote in every election, often by staggering margins. Today, the centrality of race to the GOP is obvious: roughly 9 out 10 Republican supporters are white, as are 98 percent of its elected state officials.



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Statue honoring Waties Waring is long overdue

From the site:

Waring was an architect of the legal path that led to the Brown v. Board decision handed down on May 17, 1954, through want has been called “the dissent that changed America.” Waring was the first federal judge directly to challenge the 1896 “separate but equal” doctrine that propped up segregation as an everyday practice in the South. He wrote June 21, 1951 in Briggs v. Elliott:

“Segregation in education can never produce equality and that it is an evil that must be eradicated. … I am of the opinion that all of the legal guideposts, expert testimony, common sense and reason point unerringly to the conclusion that the system of segregation in education adopted and practiced in the State of South Carolina must go and must go now. Segregation is per se inequality.”

GOP threatens to push self-destruct button in Georgia Senate race



www.msnbc.com/msnbc/gop-its-own-worst-enemy-ga-senate-race

From the site:

The solid red state is shaping up as a key boost to Democratic hopes of retaining the Senate thanks to a GOP primary field both sides believe could produce a nominee too hobbled, too extreme, or too gaffe-prone to win in November.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Watch This CNN Anchor Stop The Spin On The Minimum Wage

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http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/02/19/watch-this-cnn-anchor-stop-the-spin-on-the-mini/198115

From the site:

CNN's Carol Costello shot down conservative talking points disparaging the minimum wage, correctly noting that raising it would increase incomes and decrease poverty.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Capitalism vs. Democracy

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/29/opinion/capitalism-vs-democracy.html?hp&rref=opinion

From the site:

Thomas Piketty’s new book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” described by one French newspaper as a “a political and theoretical bulldozer,” defies left and right orthodoxy by arguing that worsening inequality is an inevitable outcome of free market capitalism.

Before King Was Pacifist

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http://inthesetimes.com/article/16131/when_martin_luther_king_gave_up_his_guns

From the site:

It is possible for someone to make a commitment to nonviolence as a point of personal principle without ever taking part in the kind of action that would make their convictions a matter of public consequence. Indeed, this is common, since most people prefer the comforts of private life to the tension of political conflict. Pacifists who do put their beliefs to the test might undertake civil disobedience individually—performing acts of moral witness that pose no real threat to perpetrators of injustice. It is only when the tenets of unarmed direct action are strategically employed, made into effective weapons of political persuasion through campaigns of widespread disruption and collective sacrifice, that nonviolence gains its fullest power.

Martin Luther King did embrace strategic nonviolence in its most robust and radical form—and this produced the historic confrontations at Birmingham and Selma. But it is important to remember that these came years after his initial baptism into political life in Montgomery, and that they might easily not have happened at all.

Stop Beating a Dead Fox

http://nymag.com/news/frank-rich/fox-news-2014-2/

image

From the site:

“There ain’t no sanity clause,” Chico Marx told Groucho. There is also no Santa Claus. And there was no sanity in the Santa fracas that became an embarrassing liberal-media fixation just before Christmas. For those who missed it, what happened was this: A Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly, came upon a tongue-in-cheek blog post at Slate in which a black writer, Aisha Harris, proposed that Santa be recast as a penguin for the sake of racial inclusiveness. After tossing this scrap of red meat to her all-white panel of prime-time guests, Kelly reassured any “kids watching” (this was nearing 10 p.m.) that “Santa just is white.” (For good measure, she added, “Jesus was a white man, too.”) Soon and sure enough, Kelly’s sound bites were being masticated in op-ed pieces, online, and especially on cable, where a passing wisecrack best left to the satirical stylings of Stewart and Colbert became a call to arms. At CNN, one anchor brought on Santas of four races to debunk Kelly. BuzzFeed reported that MSNBC ­programs hopped on the story fourteen times in a single week.

Patients’ Costs Skyrocket; Specialists’ Incomes Soar

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/health/patients-costs-skyrocket-specialists-incomes-soar.html?_r=0

From the site:

It does not matter if the procedure is big or small, learned in a decade of training or a weeklong course. In fact, minor procedures typically offer the best return on investment: A cardiac surgeon can perform only a couple of bypass operations a day, but other specialists can perform a dozen procedures in that time span.

That math explains why the incomes of dermatologists, gastroenterologists and oncologists rose 50 percent or more between 1995 and 2012, even when adjusted for inflation, while those for primary care physicians rose only 10 percent and lag far behind, since insurers pay far less for traditional doctoring tasks like listening for a heart murmur or prescribing the right antibiotic.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sorry, Folks, We Don't Just Have 'A Spending Problem'

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http://www.businessinsider.com/government-spending-and-taxes-2012-12

From the site:

Yesterday, I pointed out how, in a stubborn attempt to avoid raising taxes on the richest 2% of Americans, the Republicans in Congress have essentially agreed to raise taxes on everyone.

The Republicans have done this by refusing to accept President Obama's attempt at a compromise, which preserves low tax rates for 98% of the country while raising taxes modestly on the top 2%.

Well, you can't assign blame to the formerly pragmatic and responsible Republican party without getting some flak.

So I received some notes explaining that the Republicans were absolutely right to reject Obama's plan because "our problem is not a tax problem—it's a spending problem."

And you know what, Democrats? The writers of those notes were partially correct:

We DO have a spending problem.

If we are ever to get our budget deficit under control, we need to trim long-term spending growth.

But blaming the whole deficit problem on "spending" ignores the other half of the problem: Taxes.

Our federal tax revenue right now is historically low.

To begin to address our deficit problem, therefore, we need to trim spending growth and increase taxes.

The Deficit Is Shrinking Fast!

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-deficit-is-shrinking-fast-2013-5

image 

From the site:

One of our two political parties is still saying that the United States faces a "spending crisis" that must be immediately addressed by further cuts to federal spending.

If we do not cut spending, the Republicans say, our debts will spiral out of control and the country will implode.

The good news, for those who don't relish the thought of the country imploding, is that this fear-mongering appears to be seriously overblown.

Our debt and deficit crisis is actually getting better fast.

. . .

The ongoing budget deficit, furthermore, is not just the result of a "spending problem." It's also the result of a "low tax problem," at least relative to most prior history.

Over the long-term, if we don't get our health care and military spending under control, we will face a big deficit problem. But we don't today

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wonkblog: Graphs 2013

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/tag/graphs-2013/

From the site:

Time has its "Person of the Year." Amazon has its books of the year. Pretty Much Amazing has its mixtapes of the year. Buzzfeed has its insane-stories-from-Florida of the year. And Wonkblog, of course, has its graphs of the year. For 2013, we asked some of the year's most interesting, important and influential thinkers to name their favorite graph of the year — and why they chose it.

On Christmas, Republicans Quietly Declare War on Themselves

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http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/on-christmas-republicans-quietly-declare-war-on-themselves-20131230
From the site:
This year was no different. In a fitting homage to past holiday-season embarrassments like the Iran-Contra pardons or Bill Clinton's signing of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, the Republican Party last week quietly declared war on itself, in the process essentially confessing to a generation of failed governance and dumbed-down politics. 
The news came in the Wall Street Journal, where the Chamber of Commerce disclosed that it will be teaming up with Republican establishment leaders to spend $50 million in an effort to stem the tide of “fools” who have overwhelmed Republican ballots in recent seasons. Check out the language Chamber strategist Scott Reed used in announcing the new campaign:
    Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates… That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bill Moyers: The End Game for Democracy

 

From the site:

Bill Moyers says the parody and satire of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert pay Washington the disrespect it deserves, but in the end it's the city's predatory mercenaries who have the last laugh

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Money-Empathy Gap

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https://www.readability.com/articles/8nizryog
Great article written by Lisa Miller for New York Magazine.
From the site:
New research suggests that more money makes people act less human. Or at least less humane.

Paul Piff: Does money make you mean?

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http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_piff_does_money_make_you_mean.html

From the site:

Paul Piff is a post-doctoral researcher in the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley.​ In particular, he studies how wealth (having it or not having it) can affect interpersonal relationships.

His surprising studies include running rigged games of Monopoly, tracking how those who drive expensive cars behave versus those driving less expensive vehicles and even determining that rich people are literally more likely to take candy from children than the less well-off. The results often don't paint a pretty picture about the motivating forces of wealth. He writes, "specifically, I have been finding that increased wealth and status in society lead to increased self-focus and, in turn, decreased compassion, altruism, and ethical behavior."

    "When was the last time, as Piff puts it, that you prioritized your own interests above the interests of other people? Was it yesterday, when you barked at the waitress for not delivering your cappuccino with sufficient promptness? Perhaps it was last week, when, late to work, you zoomed past a mom struggling with a stroller on the subway stairs and justified your heedlessness with a ruthless but inarguable arithmetic: Today, the 9 a.m. meeting has got to come first; that lady’s stroller can’t be my problem. Piff is one of a new generation of scientists—psychologists, economists, marketing professors, and neurobiologists—who are exploiting this moment of unprecedented income inequality to explore behaviors like those. "

Lisa Miller, New York Magazine

If the Private Sector Is So Great, Why Did UPS Botch Christmas? A corrective for market triumphalists

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http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116046/late-christmas-deliveries-ups-and-amazon-humble-private-sector

From the site:

At the heart of the great big pile-on of ridicule for the flawed healthcare.gov rollout the past few months was a large helping of private-sector triumphalism. Just imagine, the chorus went, if tech giants like Amazon or Google had been in charge of the Web site instead of those clueless, fusty bureaucrats – first, the problems would not have happened in the first place, but even if they had, the private sector would have held those responsible for the mistakes to account.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Punishment Cure

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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/09/opinion/krugman-the-punishment-cure.html?_r=0

From the site:

Six years have passed since the United States economy entered the Great Recession, four and a half since it officially began to recover, but long-term unemployment remains disastrously high. And Republicans have a theory about why this is happening. Their theory is, as it happens, completely wrong. But they’re sticking to it — and as a result, 1.3 million American workers, many of them in desperate financial straits, are set to lose unemployment benefits at the end of December.

Six charts of income inequality

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http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/09/1261454/-Five-charts-of-income-inequality

From the site:

Sometimes you need a couple charts to understand what is really going on.

How to Fix the Economy in 13 Easy Charts

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http://www.alternet.org/print/economy/how-fix-economy-13-easy-charts

From the site:

As we say goodbye to 2013, the economy is still failing ordinary workers. What is being done to make it better? Not enough.

Public spending and public investment are too low, wages for increasingly productive workers are flat or falling, and the minimum wage is inadequate.

However, there is hope for 2014. The policies that created these trends can be reversed. There is a renewed push to raise the federal minimum wage, states are raising their own minimum wages, and more policymakers are coming to terms with the downside of economic inequality.

Economic Policy Institute’s top charts of 2013 explain why a full economic recovery and policies that ensure broadly shared prosperity should be policymakers’ foremost priorities in 2014.

Introducing the Latest and Greatest FRED Graphs

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http://fredqa.stlouisfed.org/2013/11/20/introducing-the-latest-and-greatest-fred-graphs/

From the site:

Now there’s more to love about our FRED graphing tool! Our new version includes many great new features. We’re offering the options to use this version, while keeping the previous version available. To opt-in to start using the new version, click on the link in the orange bar at the top of the FRED site. Read on to learn more.

Republicans Are Right: Obamacare Is Redistribution But here's how it really works

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http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115875/obamacare-redistribution-not-how-republicans-say

From the site:

Republicans and their allies are making a lot of different arguments about what Obamacare is doing to America. It’s hiking premiums! It’s making people lose their doctors! It’s destroying Medicare! But if you listen closely, you’ll discern a common theme—a message aimed squarely at the middle class: Obamacare is taking away your money or health insurance, and giving it to somebody else. "If you think about it, it's $250 billion a year in Medicaid expansion, in the subsidy structure, that's basically being paid for by people on Medicare, through Medicare cuts, and a lot of tax increases," James Capretta, a former Bush Administration official now at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, said on Fox News Sunday. "It is a massive, massive income redistribution."

Monday, December 23, 2013

Six charts of income inequality

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http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/09/1261454/-Five-charts-of-income-inequality

From the site:

Sometimes you need a couple charts to understand what is really going on.

Duck Dynasty is a Fake Yuppies-in-Red-Neck-Drag Con Job

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http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/20/1264354/-Duck-Dynasty-is-a-Fake-Yuppies-in-Red-Neck-Drag-Con-Job?

From the site:

Let me also add that it's completely ridiculous to think of criticism of PHIL as criticism of All Christians.  He was not elected Mega-Pope-In-Charge, he's just one guy with a big mouth.  His views do not reflect the views of every Anglican, every Episcopalian, every Catholic, every Baptist, every Methodist, every Lutheran, every Presbyterian or every Mormon.  They just don't.  So criticizing Phil's mis-use of Christian doctrine, is not a bashing Religion.  It's bashing Phil's comments, which deserve it. And besides when did "all the black people Liked living under Jim Crow" until those pesky misguided "Entitlements and Welfare" become a "Christian Thang" anyway? (Jesus told the Rich to give everything to the POOR!) That's Ayn Rand Talk and she was an Athiest.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Here's How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour...

From the site:

Les Leopold, How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning Off America's Wealth, joins Thom Hartmann. Hint - It has to do with Cheating.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Remarks by the President on Economic Mobility

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http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/12/04/remarks-president-economic-mobility

From the President’s Speech:

I believe this is the defining challenge of our time:  Making sure our economy works for every working American.  It’s why I ran for President.  It was at the center of last year’s campaign.  It drives everything I do in this office.  And I know I’ve raised this issue before, and some will ask why I raise the issue again right now.  I do it because the outcomes of the debates we’re having right now -- whether it’s health care, or the budget, or reforming our housing and financial systems -- all these things will have real, practical implications for every American.  And I am convinced that the decisions we make on these issues over the next few years will determine whether or not our children will grow up in an America where opportunity is real.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Year Persistence Edged Plutocracy

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http://inequality.org/year-persistence-edged-plutocracy/

From the site:

Exactly a hundred years ago, decades of progressive struggle finally paid off and outfitted America with a tool for braking the unlimited accumulation of grand private fortune.

Growing Together, Growing Apart

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http://www.epi.org/blog/growing-growing/

From the site:

The September release of the Census Bureau’s income and poverty numbers (and I link to them here only to remind us all that the federal shutdown has made the unavailable) add one more data point to a lost decade punctuated by the recessions of 2001 and 2007, and also to a longer trajectory—stretching back to the 1970s—of starkly unequal income growth.

The Rise and Fall of the Minimum Wage

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Source: Bill Marsh, New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/12/01/sunday-review/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-minimum-wage.html?_r=0

People Want Full Medicare for All

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http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/09/26-11

From the site:

Freshman Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who somehow got through Princeton and Harvard Law School, is the best news the defaulting Democratic Party has had in years.

The Stunning Truth About Inequality In America

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http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2013/09/cheat-sheet-on-inequality/

From the site:

Talk about inequality has been in the news recently, but you won’t believe what’s really happening in America today:

    Inequality in America today is twice as bad as in ancient Rome, worse than it was in in Tsarist Russia, Gilded Age America, modern Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, many banana republics in Latin America, and worse than experienced by slaves in 1774 colonial America

    It’s the highest level of inequality ever recorded in the U.S.

    It’s worse in America than in any other developed nation

    Staggering inequality in America has become permanent

    There are 2 economies: one for the rich, and the other for everyone else

    The economy has only recovered for the 1% … the rest of the country is more or less stuck in a depression

    The super-rich are raking in more than ever

    On the other end, more and more people are sliding into poverty

    1 out of every 5 households in the United States is on food stamps

    The middle class has more or less been destroyed

    A who’s who of prominent economists and investors say that inequality causes crashes and hurts the economy

    Extreme inequality helped cause the Great Depression, the current financial crisis … and the fall of the Roman Empire

    Inequality isn’t happening for mysterious or uncontrollable reasons. Bad government policy is responsible for runaway inequality

    Bush was horrible, but income inequality has increased even more under Obama than under Bush

    Americans consistently underestimate the amount of inequality in our country.  They will be shocked – and may be furious – when they learn the truth

    It’s a myth that conservatives accept runaway inequality.  Conservatives are as concerned as liberals regarding the stunning collapse of upward mobility

A Progressive Budget Blueprint

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http://www.sanders.senate.gov/budget/

The above link details Bernie Sanders’ budget proposal. Don’t forget to sign the petition.

From the site:

Let's Pass a Fair Budget

At a time when the middle class is disappearing, poverty is increasing and the gap between the rich and everyone else is growing wider, we demand that the federal budget not be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our country.

We demand a budget that puts millions of Americans back to work in decent paying jobs and ensures profitable corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share. We demand a budget that does not cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.

Where the nation's highest earners live

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/nation/census-high-income/

From the site:

This map shows how high-income households are concentrated in counties across the nation. These households, with incomes of $191,469 and up, make up the nation's top 5 percent. Of the 15 counties with top percentages of high-income households, seven are in the Washington metropolitan area. See related story.

What’s Wrong with America?

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http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/whats-wrong-with-america/

From the site:

It’s particularly hard for foreigners with whom I’ve interacted in recent months to grasp the idea that Obamacare is somehow implicated in this latest round of dysfunction.  They view our health reform much as I do, as I wrote a few weeks ago: a technical solution to a hybrid public/private good problem, about as interesting and subversive as a utility company.  How could this set of arcane changes to our health care delivery system possibly lead politicians to willingly default on our debt?

Inequality Is a Choice

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http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/13/inequality-is-a-choice/

From the site:

Starting in the 18th century, the industrial revolution produced giant wealth for Europe and North America. Of course, inequality within these countries was appalling — think of the textile mills of Liverpool and Manchester, England, in the 1820s, and the tenements of the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the South Side of Chicago in the 1890s — but the gap between the rich and the rest, as a global phenomenon, widened even more, right up through about World War II. To this day, inequality between countries is far greater than inequality within countries.

Michael Norton: How to buy happiness

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsihkFWDt3Y#t=33

A thought-provoking TED talk – worth a look!

From the site:

 http://www.ted.com At TEDxCambridge, Michael Norton shares fascinating research on how money can, indeed buy happiness -- when you don't spend it on yourself. Listen for surprising data on the many ways pro-social spending can benefit you, your work, and (of course) other people.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A War on the Poor

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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/01/opinion/krugman-a-war-on-the-poor.html?_r=1&

From the site:

I still sometimes see pundits claiming that the Tea Party movement is basically driven by concerns about budget deficits. That’s delusional. Read the founding rant by Rick Santelli of CNBC: There’s nary a mention of deficits. Instead, it’s a tirade against the possibility that the government might help “losers” avoid foreclosure. Or read transcripts from Rush Limbaugh or other right-wing talk radio hosts. There’s not much about fiscal responsibility, but there’s a lot about how the government is rewarding the lazy and undeserving.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Chomsky: Business Elites Are Waging a Brutal Class War in America

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http://www.alternet.org/economy/chomsky-business-elites-are-waging-brutal-class-war-america

From the site – great interview / excerpt -- copied in its entirety:

November 21, 2013 |  

This is an excerpt from the just released 2nd edition of Noam Chomsky’s OCCUPY: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity, edited by Greg Ruggiero and published by Zuccotti Park Press. Chris Steele interviews Chomsky.

An article that recently came out in Rolling Stone, titled “Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail,” by Matt Taibbi, asserts that the government is afraid to prosecute powerful bankers, such as those running HSBC. Taibbi says that there’s “an arrestable class and an unarrestable class.” What is your view on the current state of class war in the U.S.

Well, there’s always a class war going on. The United States, to an unusual extent, is a business-run society, more so than others. The business classes are very class-conscious—they’re constantly fighting a bitter class war to improve their power and diminish opposition. Occasionally this is recognized.

We don’t use the term “working class” here because it’s a taboo term. You’re supposed to say “middle class,” because it helps diminish the understanding that there’s a class war going on.

It’s true that there was a one-sided class war, and that’s because the other side hadn’t chosen to participate, so the union leadership had for years pursued a policy of making a compact with the corporations, in which their workers, say the autoworkers—would get certain benefits like fairly decent wages, health benefits and so on. But it wouldn’t engage the general class structure. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why Canada has a national health program and the United States doesn’t. The same unions on the other side of the border were calling for health care for everybody. Here they were calling for health care for themselves and they got it. Of course, it’s a compact with corporations that the corporations can break anytime they want, and by the 1970s they were planning to break it and we’ve seen what has happened since.

This is just one part of a long and continuing class war against working people and the poor. It’s a war that is conducted by a highly class-conscious business leadership, and it’s one of the reasons for the unusual history of the U.S. labor movement. In the U.S., organized labor has been repeatedly and extensively crushed, and has endured a very violent history as compared with other countries.

In the late 19th century there was a major union organization, Knights of Labor, and also a radical populist movement based on farmers. It’s hard to believe, but it was based in Texas, and it was quite radical. They wanted their own banks, their own cooperatives, their own control over sales and commerce. It became a huge movement that spread over major farming areas.

The Farmers’ Alliance did try to link up with the Knights of Labor, which would have been a major class-based organization if it had succeeded. But the Knights of Labor were crushed by violence, and the Farmers’ Alliance was dismantled in other ways. As a result, one of the major popular democratic forces in American history was essentially dismantled. There are a lot of reasons for it, one of which was that the Civil War has never really ended. One effect of the Civil War was that the political parties that came out of it were sectarian parties, so the slogan was, “You vote where you shoot,” and that remains the case.

Take a look at the red states and the blue states in the last election: It’s the Civil War. They’ve changed party labels, but other than that, it’s the same: sectarian parties that are not class-based because divisions are along different lines. There are a lot of reasons for it.

The enormous benefits given to the very wealthy, the privileges for the very wealthy here, are way beyond those of other comparable societies and are part of the ongoing class war. Take a look at CEO salaries. CEOs are no more productive or brilliant here than they are in Europe, but the pay, bonuses, and enormous power they get here are out of sight. They’re probably a drain on the economy, and they become even more powerful when they are able to gain control of policy decisions.

That’s why we have a sequester over the deficit and not over jobs, which is what really matters to the population. But it doesn’t matter to the banks, so the heck with it. It also illustrates the consider- able shredding of the whole system of democracy. So, by now, they rank people by income level or wages roughly the same: The bottom 70 percent or so are virtually disenfranchised; they have almost no influence on policy, and as you move up the scale you get more influence. At the very top, you basically run the show.

A good topic to research, if possible, would be “why people don’t vote.” Nonvoting is very high, roughly 50 percent, even in presidential elections—much higher in others. The attitudes of people who don’t vote are studied. First of all, they mostly identify themselves as Democrats. And if you look at their attitudes, they are mostly Social Democratic. They want jobs, they want benefits, they want the government to be involved in social services and so on, but they don’t vote, partly, I suppose, because of the impediments to voting. It’s not a big secret. Republicans try really hard to prevent people from voting, because the more that people vote, the more trouble they are in. There are other reasons why people don’t vote. I suspect, but don’t know how to prove, that part of the reason people don’t vote is they just know their votes don’t make any difference, so why make the effort? So you end up with a kind of plutocracy in which the public opinion doesn’t matter much. It is not unlike other countries in this respect, but more extreme. All along, it’s more extreme. So yes, there is a constant class war going on.

The case of labor is crucial, because it is the base of organization of any popular opposition to the rule of capital, and so it has to be dismantled. There’s a tax on labor all the time. During the 1920s, the labor movement was virtually smashed by Wilson’s Red Scare and other things. In the 1930s, it reconstituted and was the driving force of the New Deal, with the CIO organizing and so on. By the late 1930s, the business classes were organizing to try to react to this. They began, but couldn’t do much during the war, because things were on hold, but immediately after the war it picked up with the Taft-Hartley Act and huge propaganda campaigns, which had massive effect. Over the years, the effort to undermine the unions and labor generally succeeded. By now, private-sector unionization is very low, partly because, since Reagan, government has pretty much told employers, “You know you can violate the laws, and we’re not going to do anything about it.” Under Clinton, NAFTA offered a method for employers to illegally undermine labor organizing by threatening to move enterprises to Mexico. A number of illegal operations by employers shot up at that time. What’s left are private-sector unions, and they’re under bipartisan attack.

They’ve been protected somewhat because the federal laws did function for the public-sector unions, but now they’re under bipartisan attack. When Obama declares a pay freeze for federal workers, that’s actually a tax on federal workers. It comes to the same thing, and, of course, this is right at the time we say that we can’t raise taxes on the very rich. Take the last tax agreement where the Republicans claimed, “We already gave up tax increases.” Take a look at what happened. Raising the payroll tax, which is a tax on working people, is much more of a tax increase than raising taxes on the super-rich, but that passed quietly because we don’t look at those things.

The same is happening across the board. There are major efforts being made to dismantle Social Security, the public schools, the post office—anything that benefits the population has to be dismantled. Efforts against the U.S. Postal Service are particularly surreal. I’m old enough to remember the Great Depression, a time when the country was quite poor but there were still postal deliveries. Today, post offices, Social Security, and public schools all have to be dismantled because they are seen as being based on a principle that is regarded as extremely dangerous.

If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.

That’s why unions had the slogan, “solidarity,” even though they may not have lived up to it. And that’s what really counts: solidarity, mutual aid, care for one another and so on. And it’s really important for power systems to undermine that ideologically, so huge efforts go into it. Even trying to stimulate consumerism is an effort to undermine it. Having a market society automatically carries with it an undermining of solidarity. For example, in the market system you have a choice: You can buy a Toyota or you can buy a Ford, but you can’t buy a subway because that’s not offered. Market systems don’t offer common goods; they offer private consumption. If you want a subway, you’re going to have to get together with other people and make a collective decision. Otherwise, it’s simply not an option within the market system, and as democracy is increasingly undermined, it’s less and less of an option within the public system. All of these things converge, and they’re all part of general class war.

Can you give some insight on how the labor movement could rebuild in the United States?

Well, it’s been done before. Each time labor has been attacked—and as I said, in the 1920s the labor movement was practically destroyed—popular efforts were able to reconstitute it. That can happen again. It’s not going to be easy. There are institutional barriers, ideological barriers, cultural barriers. One big problem is that the white working class has been pretty much abandoned by the political system. The Democrats don’t even try to organize them anymore. The Republicans claim to do it; they get most of the vote, but they do it on non-economic issues, on non-labor issues. They often try to mobilize them on the grounds of issues steeped in racism and sexism and so on, and here the liberal policies of the 1960s had a harmful effect because of some of the ways in which they were carried out. There are some pretty good studies of this. Take busing to integrate schools. In principle, it made some sense, if you wanted to try to overcome segregated schools. Obviously, it didn’t work. Schools are probably more segregated now for all kinds of reasons, but the way it was originally done undermined class solidarity.

For example, in Boston there was a program for integrating the schools through busing, but the way it worked was restricted to urban Boston, downtown Boston. So black kids were sent to the Irish neighborhoods and conversely, but the suburbs were left out. The suburbs are more affluent, professional and so on, so they were kind of out of it. Well, what happens when you send black kids into an Irish neighborhood? What happens when some Irish telephone linemen who have worked all their lives finally got enough money to buy small houses in a neighborhood where they want to send their kids to the local school and cheer for the local football team and have a community, and so on? All of a sudden, some of their kids are being sent out, and black kids are coming in. How do you think at least some of these guys will feel? At least some end up being racists. The suburbs are out of it, so they can cluck their tongues about how racist everyone is elsewhere, and that kind of pattern was carried out all over the country.

The same has been true of women’s rights. But when you have a working class that’s under real pressure, you know, people are going to say that rights are being undermined, that jobs are being under- mined. Maybe the one thing that the white working man can hang onto is that he runs his home? Now that that’s being taken away and nothing is being offered, he’s not part of the program of advancing women’s rights. That’s fine for college professors, but it has a different effect in working-class areas. It doesn’t have to be that way. It depends on how it’s done, and it was done in a way that simply undermined natural solidarity. There are a lot of factors that play into it, but by this point it’s going to be pretty hard to organize the working class on the grounds that should really concern them: common solidarity, common welfare.

In some ways, it shouldn’t be too hard, because these attitudes are really prized by most of the population. If you look at Tea Party members, the kind that say, “Get the government off my back, I want a small government” and so on, when their attitudes are studied, it turns out that they’re mostly social democratic. You know, people are human after all. So yes, you want more money for health, for help, for people who need it and so on and so forth, but “I don’t want the government, get that off my back” and related attitudes are tricky to overcome.

Some polls are pretty amazing. There was one conducted in the South right before the presidential elections. Just Southern whites, I think, were asked about the economic plans of the two candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Southern whites said they preferred Romney’s plan, but when asked about its particular components, they opposed every one. Well, that’s the effect of good propaganda: getting people not to think in terms of their own interests, let alone the interest of communities and the class they’re part of. Overcoming that takes a lot of work. I don’t think it’s impossible, but it’s not going to happen easily.

In a recent article about the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest,*you discuss Henry Vane, who was beheaded for drafting a petition that called the people’s power “the original from whence all just power arises.” Would you agree the coordinated repression of Occupy was like the beheading of Vane?

Occupy hasn’t been treated nicely, but we shouldn’t exaggerate. Compared with the kind of repression that usually goes on, it wasn’t that severe. Just ask people who were part of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s, in the South, let’s say. It was incomparably worse, as was just showing up at anti-war demonstrations where people were getting maced and beaten and so on. Activist groups get repressed. Power systems don’t pat them on the head. Occupy was treated badly, but not off the spectrum—in fact, in some ways not as bad as others. I wouldn’t draw exaggerated comparisons. It’s not like beheading somebody who says, “Let’s have popular power.”

How does the Charter of the Forest relate to environmental and indigenous resistance to the Keystone XL pipeline?

A lot. The Charter of the Forest, which was half the Magna Carta, has more or less been forgotten. The forest didn’t just mean the woods. It meant common property, the source of food, fuel. It was a common possession, so it was cared for. The forests were cultivated in common and kept functioning, because they were part of people’s common possessions, their source of livelihood, and even a source of dignity. That slowly collapsed in England under the enclosure movements, the state efforts to shift to private ownership and control. In the United States it happened differently, but the privatization is similar. What you end up with is the widely held belief, now standard doctrine, that’s called “the tragedy of the commons” in Garrett Hardin’s phrase. According to this view, if things are held in common and aren’t privately owned, they’re going to be destroyed. His- tory shows the exact opposite: When things were held in common, they were preserved and maintained. But, according to the capitalist ethic, if things aren’t privately owned, they’re going to be ruined, and that’s “the tragedy of the commons.” So, therefore, you have to put everything under private control and take it away from the public, because the public is just going to destroy it.

Now, how does that relate to the environmental problem? Very significantly: the commons are the environment. When they’re a common possession—not owned, but everybody holds them together in a community—they’re preserved, sustained and cultivated for the next generation. If they’re privately owned, they’re going to be destroyed for profit; that’s what private owner- ship is, and that’s exactly what’s happening today.

What you say about the indigenous population is very striking. There’s a major problem that the whole species is facing. A likelihood of serious disaster may be not far off. We are approaching a kind of tipping point, where climate change becomes irreversible. It could be a couple of decades, maybe less, but the predictions are constantly being shown to be too conservative. It is a very serious danger; no sane person can doubt it. The whole species is facing a real threat for the first time in its history of serious disaster, and there are some people trying to do some- thing about it and there are others trying to make it worse. Who are they? Well, the ones who are trying to make it better are the pre-industrial societies, the pre-technological societies, the indigenous societies, the First Nations. All around the world, these are the communities that are trying to preserve the rights of nature.

The rich societies, like the United States and Canada, are acting in ways to bring about disaster as quickly as possible. That’s what it means, for example, when both political parties and the press talk enthusiastically about “a century of energy independence.” “Energy independence” doesn’t mean a damn thing, but put that aside. A century of “energy independence” means that we make sure that every bit of Earth’s fossil fuels comes out of the ground and we burn it. In societies that have large indigenous populations, like, for example, Ecuador, an oil producer, people are trying to get support for keeping the oil in the ground. They want funding so as to keep the oil where it ought to be. We, however, have to get everything out of the ground, including tar sands, then burn it, which makes things as bad as possible as quickly as possible. So you have this odd situation where the educated, “advanced” civilized people are trying to cut everyone’s throats as quickly as possible and the indigenous, less educated, poorer populations are trying to prevent the disaster. If somebody was watching this from Mars, they’d think this species was insane.

As far as a free, democracy-centered society, self- organization seems possible on small scales. Do you think it is possible on a larger scale and with human rights and quality of life as a standard, and if so, what community have you visited that seems closest to an example to what is possible?

Well, there are a lot of things that are possible. I have visited some examples that are pretty large scale, in fact, very large scale. Take Spain, which is in a huge economic crisis. But one part of Spain is doing okay—that’s the Mondragón collective. It’s a big conglomerate involving banks, industry, housing, all sorts of things. It’s worker owned, not worker managed, so partial industrial democracy, but it exists in a capitalist economy, so it’s doing all kinds of ugly things like exploiting foreign labor and so on. But economically and socially, it’s flourishing as compared with the rest of the society and other societies. It is very large, and that can be done anywhere. It certainly can be done here. In fact, there are tentative explorations of contacts between the Mondragón and the United Steelworkers, one of the more progressive unions, to think about developing comparable structures here, and it’s being done to an extent.

The one person who has written very well about this is Gar Alperovitz, who is involved in organizing work around enterprises in parts of the old Rust Belt, which are pretty successful and could be spread just as a cooperative could be spread. There are really no limits to it other than willingness to participate, and that is, as always, the problem. If you’re willing to adhere to the task and gauge yourself, there’s no limit.

Actually, there’s a famous sort of paradox posed by David Hume centuries ago. Hume is one of the founders of classical liberalism. He’s an important philosopher and a political philosopher. He said that if you take a look at societies around the world—any of them—power is in the hands of the governed, those who are being ruled. Hume asked, why don’t they use that power and overthrow the masters and take control? He says, the answer has to be that, in all societies, the most brutal, the most free, the governed can be controlled by control of opinion. If you can control their attitudes and beliefs and separate them from one another and so on, then they won’t rise up and overthrow you.

That does require a qualification. In the more brutal and repressive societies, controlling opinion is less important, because you can beat people with a stick. But as societies become more free, it becomes more of a problem, and we see that historically. The societies that develop the most expansive propaganda systems are also the most free societies.

The most extensive propaganda system in the world is the public relations industry, which developed in Britain and the United States. A century ago, dominant sectors recognized that enough freedom had been won by the population. They reasoned that it’s hard to control people by force, so they had to do it by turning the attitudes and opinions of the population with propaganda and other devices of separation and marginalization, and so on. Western powers have become highly skilled in this.

In the United States, the advertising and public relations industry is huge. Back in the more honest days, they called it propaganda. Now the term doesn’t sound nice, so it’s not used anymore, but it’s basically a huge propaganda system which is designed very extensively for quite specific purposes.

First of all, it has to undermine markets by trying to create irrational, uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices. That’s what advertising is about, the opposite of what a market is supposed to be, and anybody who turns on a television set can see that for themselves. It has to do with monopolization and product differentiation, all sorts of things, but the point is that you have to drive the population to irrational consumption, which does separate them from one another.

As I said, consumption is individual, so it’s not done as an act of solidarity—so you don’t have ads on television saying, “Let’s get together and build a mass transportation system.” Who’s going to fund that? The other thing they need to do is undermine democracy the same way, so they run campaigns, political campaigns mostly run by PR agents. It’s very clear what they have to do. They have to create uninformed voters who will make irrational decisions, and that’s what the campaigns are about. Billions of dollars go into it, and the idea is to shred democracy, restrict markets to service the rich, and make sure the power gets concentrated, that capital gets concentrated and the people are driven to irrational and self-destructive behavior. And it is self-destructive, often dramatically so. For example, one of the first achievements of the U.S. public relations system back in the 1920s was led, incidentally, by a figure honored by Wilson, Roosevelt and Kennedy—liberal progressive Edward Bernays.

His first great success was to induce women to smoke. In the 1920s, women didn’t smoke. So here’s this big population which was not buying cigarettes, so he paid young models to march down New York City’s Fifth Avenue holding cigarettes. His message to women was, “You want to be cool like a model? You should smoke a cigarette.” How many millions of corpses did that create? I’d hate to calculate it. But it was considered an enormous success. The same is true of the murderous character of corporate propaganda with tobacco, asbestos, lead, chemicals, vinyl chloride, across the board. It is just shocking, but PR is a very honored profession, and it does control people and undermine their options of working together. And so that’s Hume’s paradox, but people don’t have to submit to it. You can see through it and struggle against it.

Wal Mart Cares

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http://anticap.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/mcfadden-walmart.jpg

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Charitable-Industrial Complex

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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/opinion/the-charitable-industrial-complex.html?_r=0

From the site:

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

Laura Flanders interview the author, Peter Buffett, who is the son of Warren Buffett.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEr0-WwAyEo

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Charity Giving at Wal-Mart

walmartneedy_590_396

Friday, November 22, 2013

How Ayn Rand's Idiotic Worldview Makes the Wealthy Feel Good About Themselves

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http://www.alternet.org/print/economy/how-ayn-rands-idiotic-worldview-makes-wealthy-feel-good-about-themselves

From the site:

The appeal of the Randian vision to today’s wealthy is obvious: it puts them back at the center of economic life. They long ago realized that rather than being the beneficent “makers” they had always imagined themselves to be, they were the parasitical “takers” they so despised. Their wealth, which was once a symbol that God praised their work, became an instrument for social change (Carnegie, Rockefeller) and eventually good in itself (Gates, Jobs). Social Darwinism, the idea that the economy is a “survival of the fittest” competition where the superior end up on top, exults the businessman as superior and deserving. But as Henry George noted of Herbert Spencer (the founder of Social Darwinism): “Mr. Spencer is like one who might insist that each should swim for himself in crossing a river, ignoring the fact that some had been artificially provided with corks and other artificially loaded with lead.” F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thorstein Veblen ridiculed the idea that the wealthy were in any way superior. Social Darwinism has resurged in conservative thought, supplementing the Randian vision to fortify a social order in which a minuscule proportion of society reaps its rewards.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Museletter 258: The Climate-PR Puzzle

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http://richardheinberg.com/museletter-258-the-climate-pr-puzzle

From the site:

How do we effectively communicate an important but difficult message, even as it appears to fall on deaf ears? The first essay in this month’s Museletter addresses this thorny issue, one which I face every day in my work here at PCI, and which will be familiar to many of you. The second essay is a reminder that in some places the message is getting through and that change does happen. I hope that you will find some hope in my report from a recent visit to Seoul, Korea.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Is Peter Beinart Right About a ‘New New Left’?

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http://www.thenation.com/blog/176267/peter-beinart-right-about-new-new-left

From the site:

Peter Beinart is out with a major new argument in The Daily Beast about what the political future might hold in store for us. The headline writer calls it “The Rise of the New New Left,” and it begins by citing the recent victory of liberal populist Bill de Blasio in New York’s mayoral primary. “The deeper you look,” Beinart writes, “the stronger the evidence that de Blasio’s victory is an omen of what may be the defining story of America’s next political era: the challenge, to both parties, from the left.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chart Book: Top Ten Tax Charts

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http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3478

From the site:

In recognition of Tax Day, we’ve collected our top ten charts related to federal taxes.  Together, they provide useful context for ongoing debates about how to reduce deficits and reform the tax code.

American Bile

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http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/21/american-bile/

From the site: 

Not long ago I was walking toward an airport departure gate when a man approached me.

“Are you Robert Reich?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“You’re a Commie dirtbag.” (He actually used a variant of that noun, one that can’t be printed here.)

“I’m sorry?” I thought I had misunderstood him.

“You’re a Commie dirtbag.”

My mind raced through several possibilities. Was I in danger? That seemed doubtful. He was well-dressed and had a briefcase in one hand. He couldn’t have gotten through the checkpoint with a knife or gun. Should I just walk away? Probably. But what if he followed me? Regardless, why should I let him get away with insulting me?

I decided to respond, as civilly as I could: “You’re wrong. Where did you get your information?”

“Fox News. Bill O’Reilly says you’re a Communist.”

Social Democracy in the South

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http://inthesetimes.com/article/15784/social_democracy_in_the_south/

From the site:

It’s early on Friday morning and the union hall is packed with people waiting to see Bernie Sanders. Mostly gray-haired retirees fill the first few rows while unionists, college students and activists, including some veterans of the Occupy movement, are scattered toward the back of the modestly-sized room. They’re here for a town hall meeting that’s been billed “The Fight for Economic Justice.”

“Gini Index” From Census Confirms Rising Inequality Over Four Decades

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http://www.offthechartsblog.org/gini-index-from-census-confirms-rising-inequality-over-four-decades/

From the site:

As our statement on Tuesday’s Census Bureau report notes, a key measure of inequality known as the Gini index was tied for its highest level on record in 2012, further evidence of worsening inequality.

Let’s Get This Class War Started

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http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/lets_get_this_class_war_started_20131020

From the site:

Aristotle, Niccolò Machiavelli, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith and Karl Marx all began from the premise there is a natural antagonism between the rich and the masses. “Those who have too much of the goods of fortune, strength, wealth, friends, and the like, are neither willing nor able to submit to authority,” Aristotle wrote in “Politics.” “The evil begins at home; for when they are boys, by reason of the luxury in which they are brought up, they never learn, even at school, the habit of obedience.” Oligarchs, these philosophers knew, are schooled in the mechanisms of manipulation, subtle and overt repression and exploitation to protect their wealth and power at our expense. Foremost among their mechanisms of control is the control of ideas. Ruling elites ensure that the established intellectual class is subservient to an ideology—in this case free market capitalism and globalization—that justifies their greed. “The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships,” Marx wrote, “the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.”

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Global Capitalism October 2013 Monthly Update

 

Professor Wolff's Website: www.rdwolff.com

Growing Together, Growing Apart

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http://www.epi.org/blog/growing-growing/

From the site:

The September release of the Census Bureau’s income and poverty numbers (and I link to them here only to remind us all that the federal shutdown has made the unavailable) add one more data point to a lost decade punctuated by the recessions of 2001 and 2007, and also to a longer trajectory—stretching back to the 1970s—of starkly unequal income growth.

That growing inequality is underscored by plotting the Census data (reporting average family income by income percentiles) alongside the top incomes estimates of Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez (recently updated through 2012).

A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning

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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/us/a-federal-budget-crisis-months-in-the-planning.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

From the site:

WASHINGTON — Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.

Responsible Budget Reporting

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http://www.cepr.net/index.php/responsible-budget-reporting

From the site:

Are you concerned a proposed farm bill would spend $195 billion on farm subsidies over the next decade? How about $80.35 billion spent on food stamps last year? Would you be more or less concerned if it were $1.95 billion and $8 billion?

Smart People, Stupid People, and Budget Politics

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http://www.cepr.net/index.php/op-eds-&-columns/op-eds-&-columns/smart-people-stupid-people-and-budget-politics

From the site:

Doing policy work in Washington, I tend to be around people who are highly educated and think of themselves as very intelligent. Many of them think of ordinary Americans as being stupid and ill-informed. After all, they understand little about politics and the government; in their view this reflects a lack of intelligence.

It would be great if everyone were smarter (especially the people doing policy work), but the problem of an ill-informed population has at least as much to do with the failures of the highly educated people as the failures of the masses. Nowhere is this more obviously the case than with the federal budget.

Public opinion surveys consistently show the public is terribly confused about the budget. They hugely overestimate relatively small areas of spending, failing to recognize that popular programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid account for the largest portion of the budget, along with military spending.

For example, a 2011 CNN poll found that the typical person thought foreign aid accounted for 10 percent of the budget. The actual number is less than 1 percent.  They thought public broadcasting accounted for 5 percent of the budget. The actual number is 0.012 percent. There were several other items where the typical person overestimated spending levels by a factor of 100 or more.

Rather than laughing at the stupidity of the average American it might be helpful to ask why such misperceptions exist. One obvious answer is that the media almost never reports the budgets for these programs in relation to the overall budget.

When a typical person hears that the government spends $445 million a year on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, they are likely to think that this is a lot of money, since it is way more than most people will ever see in their lifetime. Almost no one has their nose in the budget books, so they are not able to recognize that this sum is just a bit more than one hundredth of one percent of the budget.

The same is true for other categories of government spending. People hear huge numbers and think that programs involve lots of money, because to them these sums would be lots of money. They are not in a position to assess the importance of a program to the federal budget.

This raises the obvious question: why don’t reporters express spending as a share of the total budget? Most people understand percentages. If they heard a reporter say the appropriation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was just over 0.01 percent of federal spending they would know that this is not a very big item in the budget.

The same would be true for other categories of spending. Would the Republicans spend as much time pushing their plan to cut food stamps by $4 billion a year if everyone knew that this was just 0.1 percent of the federal budget because it was reported as 0.1 percent of the federal budget every time it was discussed?

Or to take a slightly older example, when he ran for president in 2008 John McCain repeatedly highlighted as an example of government waste a federal appropriation of $1 million to construct a museum for the Woodstock music festival. Would this museum have made as good a political prop if news accounts always referred to the sum as 0.00003 percent of federal spending? Whatever one thinks of the museum, no one should have been misled into believing that this expenditure was even close to being an important item in the federal budget.

The absurdity of the current method of reporting budget numbers is that everyone knows it is awful. No reporter thinks that most of their readers understand the huge budget numbers that appear in news articles, especially when it is often not even clear the number of years involved. In fact, the budget reporters even managed to fool Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman about the size of the Republicans’ proposed cut to food stamps by not making it clear that the number was for 10 years and not 1 year. If Paul Krugman can be misled by budget reporting, does anyone really believe that a typical reader is being accurately informed?

There is no excuse for not expressing budget items as a share of the total budget in every article where they are discussed. The purpose of the news media is to inform, and it is not accomplishing this purpose now. This is a shift that requires zero money or training. (The Center for Economic and Policy Research has a budget calculator that allows the calculation to be done in seconds.)  There is no one employed as a reporter at a major news outlet who would have any trouble using percentages in their pieces, if this was the standard.

So the story is really simple: the public confusion stems from incredibly incompetent budget reporting. The masses may or may not be stupid, but when it comes to knowing the relative importance of different items in the budget, the finger of blame should be pointed at the people who think they are smart.