Archive for the ‘Political Economics’ Category

I’m having a tough time with something and I invite anyone to help me understand what’s going on with our economy.

We’ve got high unemployment and rampant under-employment; falling wages; an increasing concentration of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands; a lack of career opportunities for recent graduates who are crushed under the weight of college loans that could follow them forever; an increase in poverty rates coupled with a decrease in socioeconomic and class mobility; tragically high incarceration rates; and, perhaps most startling, the unwillingness of our politicians to acknowledge what’s going on.

To look at it another way, the purpose of our economy is not to hire workers but to produce goods and services. In fact, if goods and services could be produced without any workers at all it would be just fine. No, it would be better than fine: it would be the best that capitalism has to offer.

But what would happen to all the workers who are no longer needed by the economy? What about their American dreams? Should they just go away or, better yet, die? And with this as a backdrop we hear an endless stream of bullshit flowing from Washington calling for reduced entitlements and a diminished social safety net. Really?

No, the American people need entitlements and they should start with our being entitled to political leaders who have the balls to tell it like it is. The system is broken.

So please, anyone, explain why better days are ahead and that I have it all wrong.

I confess to the temptation, when writing about this subject, to write too much. But I won’t because the argument for a third party is simple. Whether a Republican or a Democrat sits in the White House, working class people get screwed. That doesn’t mean I’m unhappy with the election results; quite the contrary. Romney and his fascist/theocratic supporters scared the crap out of me. However, don’t forget for a minute that it was Bill Clinton who pushed hard for NAFTA and Obama who pushed for a free trade agreement with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. In the case of NAFTA the result has been the loss of nearly one million jobs, a wage race to the bottom, and a trade deficit with Mexico. School is still out with respect to Colombia, Panama and South Korea but it’s unlikely to be any different with respect to lost jobs and continued downward pressure on wages.

So this is a class struggle pure and simple, and the Democratic party and the White House need to know that its two fastest growing constituencies, African Americans and Latinos, will not go quietly into the night after elections are over.  As Paul Krugman said, “This newly effective coalition could be shattered if taken for granted.”

Without this coalition no Democrat will ever again sit in the White House.  That makes a third party not only viable but necessary.

 

The continuing unrest in Europe demands answers to fundamental questions.

  • Why must the people shoulder the immense pain of austerity when they neither caused the financial collapse nor did they profit from it?
  • What difference is there between Europe’s austerity measures and Paul Ryan’s draconian budget?
  • Isn’t it time that the fat cats who run the world’s financial system heard a very loud and clear message from the people that goes something like this: NO MORE!

Instead of the people eating trickle-down cake it’s time for fat cats and banksters to feel the people’s’ trickle-up pain.

While subbing at a local high school recently I found myself engaged with students in a discussion of free-trade agreements. Given my position as a teacher proxy I had an academic responsibility to be a facilitator rather than an advocate.

The students, all of them quite bright and surprisingly well informed, were pretty evenly split between  free-trade opposition and advocacy with the advocates arguing that globalism is a realty and to get used to it, and the opponents taking up the cause of American workers whose jobs got off-shored. The debate went back and forth until I suggested that instead of focusing on the offshoring of jobs (the effect of free trade agreements) they should consider the cause.  What role, I asked, does capitalism play in the loss of jobs and the decline in wages? I then had the pleasure of watching and listening to these young people wrestle with fundamental questions about the structure of our economy, the class stratification of our society and even the survival of our country.

My belief, which I did not share with the students, is that we are teetering on the edge of a political and economic abyss. We need to take a dispassionate look the basic nature of capitalism, which posits that labor is a cost to be minimized, while profit is to be maximized…often at the expense of labor. Through that lens there is absolutely nothing wrong with offshoring jobs despite what it means to workers, families, and the middle class. Through that lens corporations and big money rule; the rich get insanely rich, and everyone else eats their trickled-down cake. If anyone says this isn’t happening right now they just aren’t paying attention. And these economic problems didn’t just happen in the wake of the financial meltdown; they would have happened anyway, just not as fast nor as dramatically as they did.

In fact, this is an economic horror story that has been playing out since the 1970s when the trend lines of productivity and personal employment income crossed; workers produced more while earning less. The trend was exacerbated by women entering the labor force in greater numbers, increased migration from the south and, most recently, by the offshoring of good jobs in huge numbers. The result has been the gutting of the middle class, the dashing of dreams, high unemployment and destructive underemployment.

So, as the classroom debate unfolded and the bell about to ring, I asked one final question: If the problem that we were examining is structural rather than cyclical do you believe that the American people will be best served by an active and engaged government or should the government disengage and allow capitalism, as it is currently expressing itself in the United States dictate the fate of the people?

I haven’t seen the students in the class since that day. I can only hope that they challenge those who are far too content to accept the status quo, a condition that, all too often, serves the pocketbooks of those who advocate it.

Today (NBC program)

Today (NBC program) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t imagine that too many people would argue that our economic system is working just fine. The fact is that it’s been broken for a long, long time. But getting any kind of consensus as to what’s wrong with the system is another matter altogether. A perfect illustration of this happened a week or so ago on the Today Show with Matt Lauer. He asked Jim Cramer, NBC’s on-air stock picker, whether Bain Capital’s strategy of firing workers to reduce labor costs illustrated a failure of capitalism or if it was just good business. Cramer said it was good business, and that seemed fine with Lauer as he cut for a commercial.

Hey guys, it’s both. In the context of capitalism reducing labor costs…regardless of the social consequences of doing so…is part of the play book. And that is a failure of capitalism. It is unsustainable. It is morally bankrupt. And, it will lead to a violent pushback against the oligarchs.

Isn’t it time that we started asking some tough questions about the hallowed ground of capitalism before it’s too late?

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

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The government that Abraham Lincoln spoke of in the Gettysburg Address, the government that was of the people, by the people and for thepeople has, in fact, perished from the earth. Now it’s government for the corporations, lobbyists and moneyed interests. Can Lincoln’s vision be restored? It must be and progressives are the only ones who stand between true democracy and the slippery slope of fascism.

Michael Bloomberg was affiliated with Salomon ...

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November 20, 2011.

I’m sitting on a park bench near the corner of 79th and 5th in New York City. It’s not far from Mayor Bloomberg’s home. A few hundred drum-pounding Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstrators, assembled behind police barricades, line the west side of 5th Ave. Noisy, passionate and well-behaved, they run the gamut from seniors (like this writer) to teens. They appear to be evenly split between males and females. What they all share is a belief that the system is broken, and that the Mayor supports the system and not the people. I’m here because I believe that, too.

Unfortunately, explaining why the system is broken doesn’t yield to a few sound bites or easily voiced talking points except, maybe, for this one: OWS is the opposite of the I’ve-got-mine-and-to-hell-with-everyone-else, top-down, trickle-down belief set that aids and comforts the 1%, while wage earners, what’s left of the middle class, and the poor eat cake. Not exactly a sound bite, but it works.

The passion that drives the OWS movement is something you feel, whether for yourself, your children and grandchildren or for those who have lost hope that tomorrow will be any better than today. OWS owes no allegiance to any political party; money drives political parties and moneyed interests fear the people. For the first time since the ’60s and ’70s, people have seen the power of democratic and collective voices raised to protesteconomic and political injustice. OWS demands an end to this injustice. We all should demand it, becauseAmerica, as it now exists, is unsustainable.

November 22, 2011.

Despite what OWS has been able to accomplish after only 2-plus months, Mayor Bloomberg says that OWS doesn’t know what it wants but wants it now. Great line, isn’t it? I’m tempted to say that he just doesn’t get it, but that would be unfair to the mayor who, most assuredly, gets it. He knows that fixingAmerica’s political and economic system requires the restoration of our democracy…a frightening prospect for the greed-is-good set, as well as the corporate and special interests that pullAmerica’s strings. No, Mayor Bloomberg knows quite well what OWS wants, and it scares the hell out of him.

My objective in offering these thoughts for consideration is to urge people to reject the contentious, sound-bite rhetoric that seeks to demonize and trivialize a long-overdue, democratic, peaceful, passionate, diverse, and patriotic movement that seeks to reawaken the American Dream for all people. After all, don’t our children and their children deserve what we had?