Monday, February 28, 2011

New Job Growth is Poor Job Growth

Findings from this report from the National Employment Law Project include the following:

"In the private sector, there is a striking imbalance between where the recession’s job losses occurred, and where the growth of the past 12 months was concentrated:

 Lower-wage industries constituted 23 percent of job loss, but fully 49 percent of recent growth

 Mid-wage industries constituted 36 percent of job loss, and 37 percent of recent growth

 Higher-wage industries constituted 40 percent of job loss, but only 14 percent of recent growth"

Meanwhile, the unemployed lose benefits and enter into the ranks of the impoverished.

U.S. unemployment is actually much worse than the official numbers suggest. In 2008, Kevin Phillips documented in Harpers "why the economy is worse than we know." John Williams at Shadow stats provides more accurate numbers.

So, unemployment is worse than we know and job growth is primarily in low wage sectors.

America is being "structurally adjusted
" just as developing economies were by the IMF and World Bank in the 1980s and 1990s. What that means is Americans can expect lower living standards and decreased government investments in social welfare and education.

Corporations, on the other hand, can expect less taxes, as illustrated in this passage by Chuck Collins:
"Goldman Sachs took a $10 billion taxpayer bailout but then gamed its effective tax rate down to one percent through what its shakedown-artist executives call "changes in geographic earnings mix." Shame on them. Pay up. "

An excellent summary of how low those taxes are going for US corporations is available today at Zero Hedge in an article on why soaring corporate profits are indebted to high unemployment (as worker wages are squeezed)

Of course, an alternative exists. Americans can stand up for their rights and for the American Dream and demand (through non-violent resistance) policies and programs that put workers to work and that support our collective welfare, rather than simply adding to the coffers of the top 5% of the populace.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Demonstrating in Support of Wisconsin Workers

Today I want to a demonstration at the Arizona State Capitol. Young and old were united there today in support of, and solidarity with, the public and private workers across the country whose workplace rights are under assault.

Workers fought and died in the 1930s for the right to collective bargaining. Farm workers carried on the fight so that they too might have voice in the workplace. Public workers first earned the right to collective bargaining in Wisconsin. David DeGraw explains why all workers need to unite to protect collective bargaining.

The current assault against worker rights occurring in many states is simply class warfare. Main street did not cause the crisis and workers are not responsible for the poor state of public and private pensions. Wall St. deliberately sold pension funds crap derivatives and then took out bets on the derivatives defaulting in the form of credit default swaps. Matt Taibi provides the details:'t_wall_street_in_jail?page=4

Even before the current debacle, public and private pensions were deliberately underfunded by administrators and officials for years. Workers' wages did not keep up with inflation but workers trusted in secure retirements. Now the foundations for that retirement are under assault as public and private entities attempt to cut "legacy costs" and downsize social security and medicare.

Corporations, which pay little to no taxes, see no common cause with the American populace. When 5% of the population accounts for 35% of the spending, the vast majority of the populace are simply seen as expendable since they are too poor to buy much more than rent, food, and fuel.

If you want to understand the elite attack against wages and benefits go to Mother Jones' site and examine the charts that document the incredible, vast inequality in our nation between the top 5% of the population and the rest.'t_wall_street_in_jail?page=4

The rich are getting richer precisely because the middle is falling out and the poor are getting poorer.

The elite have no sense of community or commonwealth.

It is time for the rest of the population, the bottom 95% of the population, to unite in common cause and demand a new deal.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Making Main Street Pay for Wall Street's Sins

That is what is happening all right.

Blame the teachers, fire workers, sanitation workers, and police for our nation's problems!!!

Meanwhile, the richest 10% of the population get richer and richer.

Mother Jones has obligingly created a great set of charts that demonstrate this growing inequality. Check it out!

Matt Taibi's recent article questioning why Wall Street isn't in jail documents who the real criminals are--in minute detail Taibbi names names. You can listen to his interview with Amy Goodman if you don't want to read the story at Rolling Stone

Taibbi points out that public pension holders are the real victims, not villains, since their pensions were sold a load of crap by Wall Street executives. Fabrice Tourre of Goldman Sachs referred to public pension funds as widows and orphans--easy victims for Wall St hucksters.

Of course, attacking unions is an old tactic, as any one who knows history will tell you.

Unless Main Street unites fast to demand justice they will see their schools gutted, their public service diminished, and their streets and infrastructures deteriorate even further. It is time to educate your neighbors and say enough to this outright class war pillaging!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Rich Get Richer

From CNN Money:
"In 2009, the richest 10% of Americans accounted for about half the nation's wealth. Narrow that focus a bit further, and the trend is even more alarming. The top 0.1% -- those who make at least $2 million each year -- controlled 10% of the economy.

'That's a far cry from the 1950s, when the suburban American dream ruled: the bottom 90% of Americans controlled about 68% of the economy...

All that wealth explains a statistic reported yesterday (2/21) by USA Today:
"Nation’s wealthiest 5% of households account for 37% of consumer spending according to Moody’s Analytics."

Extreme Inequality Produces Economic Instability, as Washington's Blog documents:

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Human Cost of Mountain Top Coal Mining

The name of this process is a lie, of course. Mountain top mining is really about removing mountains. Debris, including toxic chemicals used in mining and released from the earth, end up in streams and contaminate the land, killing people and animals alike.

Coal and oil have produced societies that kill as actively as they cultivate life.

The New York Times has a great op ed discussing the terrors of mountain top removal from the point of view of residents:

Here is an excerpt from the article written by Silas House:

Op-Ed Contributor
My Polluted Kentucky HomeBy SILAS HOUSE
Published: February 19, 2011

"LAST weekend I joined 19 other Kentuckians in a sit-in at the office of Gov. Steve Beshear. We were there to protest his support of mountaintop removal, a technique used by coal-mining companies that, as its name implies, involves blasting away the tops of mountains and hills to get at the coal seams beneath them.

"Since it was first used in 1970, mountaintop removal has destroyed some 500 mountains and poisoned at least 1,200 miles of rivers and streams across the Appalachian coal-mining region. Yet Governor Beshear is so committed to the practice that he recently allied with the Kentucky Coal Association in a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency to block more stringent regulations of it. In court his administration’s lawyers referred to public opposition as simply “an unwarranted burden.”

"The news media and the rest of the country typically think of mountaintop removal as an environmental problem. But it’s a human crisis as well, scraping away not just coal but also the freedoms of Appalachian residents, people who have always been told they are of less value than the resources they live above.

"Over the past six years I’ve visited dozens of people who live at the edge of mountaintop removal sites. They bathe their children in water that has arsenic levels as high as 130 times what the E.P.A. deems safe to drink.

"Their roads are routinely destroyed by overloaded trucks; their air is clouded with pollutants. Their schools sit below ponds holding billions of gallons of sludge. Their children lose sleep worrying that the sludge dams will break, releasing the sludge down upon them. It happened 40 years ago at Buffalo Creek, W.Va., killing 125 people, and it could happen again today.

"It’s a horrible way to live. And yet, as it does in many other impoverished quarters of America, the news too often avoids covering Appalachia as if it were a no man’s land.

"When a 3-year-old Virginia boy was crushed to death in his crib after a half-ton boulder was accidentally (and illegally) dislodged by a mining company, it barely made the national news. Many people around here believe the omission reflected that the child lived in a trailer home in the heart of coal country....."


In 2000, 306 million gallons of sludge — 30 times more than the volume of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez — buried parts of Martin County, Ky., as deep as 5 feet. Yet hardly anyone outside the region remembers the disaster, if they ever heard about it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oil on Bottom of Gulf NOT Degrading, Ocean Floor Dead

From the Huffington Post, SETH BORENSTEIN writes:

"WASHINGTON — Oil from the BP spill remains stuck on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a top scientist's video and slides that she says demonstrate the oil isn't degrading as hoped and has decimated life on parts of the sea floor.

'That report is at odds with a recent report by the BP spill compensation czar that said nearly all will be well by 2012.

"At a science conference in Washington Saturday, marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia aired early results of her December submarine dives around the BP spill site. She went to places she had visited in the summer and expected the oil and residue from oil-munching microbes would be gone by then. It wasn't

Divide and Conquer

Robert Reich recently wrote:
"Last year, America's top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains - at 15 percent - due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded."

Yet, as Reich explains, the Republican leaders are citing public employees and entitlements such as Social Security as the primary economic problem preventing recovery.

Washington's Blog has a very nice analysis of how wealthy elites use a strategy of divide and conquer to deflect attention from their inordinate wealth accumulation through pillaging and dispossession.

The privatization of profits coupled with the socialization of losses will not cease until Americans come to recognize and act upon their common interests.

That is why I believe it is important to avoid polarizing language when describing party members (as opposed to party leaders). Pathologizing Republican or Democratic VOTERS serves the agendas of elites in both parties who benefit from divisiveness within populations....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Finally! Goldman in the Media Hot Seat

Goldman Sachs, among other banks, got paid billions from the U.S. Government through AIG.

AIG insured the credit default swaps on risky derivatives held by the banks. Rather than making the banks take "a haircut" on losses, AIG made good on all of those insurance contracts courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer who has paid and continues to pay billions to bailout AIG.

Now the media is finally talking about this outrage. Here is an excerpt from the article at McClatch titled
"Critics: Goldman should give back $2.9 billion to taxpayers"

"The financial crisis panel's final report late last month found that Goldman's $2.9 billion payout came on "proprietary" trades — investments in which the firm used its own money rather than the more typical deals completed on behalf of clients.

"The panel, inquiring into a McClatchy report last June, said that Goldman got $1.9 billion of the payoff after the taxpayer bailout of AIG began.

"Critics say that in the rush to save AIG and avert systemic collapse of the financial markets, regulators treated Goldman like everyone else. But Goldman was more...

Majia here: Wall Street banks have assumed the status of feudal lords. They are suborning the government to their interests. They are pillaging public coffers. It is time to say enough!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Propaganda on the Diane Rehm Show

Propaganda functions in many ways. One powerful way is through rules that dictate what can and cannot be said. These rules operate implicitly. One way the rules operate is by dictating who is an authority, that is, by designating who is allowed to speak.

We see this strategy operating today on the Diane Rehm show. In discussing skyrocketing food (i.e., commodity) prices, Diane's guest show a remarkable homogeneity of opinion. Speculation, in their opinion, has little, to no, role in causing skyrocketing food prices. Markets afford all parties equal opportunity so long as governments don't distort markets with subsidies. These "truths" are not contested on the show. The guests agree.

Here is my posted response to this homogeneity of opinion. I'm seconding the concerns raised by another listener, Susan (my links aren't live so you will have to paste into your browser):

I want to second Susan's concern about the lack of diversity in viewpoints in this segement on food prices.

Please see "The Food Bubble: How Wall Street Starved Millions and Got Away With It"

Harpers magazine has an article by Kaufman

Kaufman is not alone. I'm teaching a course on food and I have many articles and books on the perils of neoliberal governance of the world food supply, as dictated by trade policies such as NAFTA and organizations such as the WTO, IMF, and World Bank.

The caller who identified the role of the IMF and World Bank in dismantling food self-sufficiency in the developing world by dictating export oriented monocultural production was not addressed, but rather was dismissed by the guest who serves as an apologist for financial speculation.

I am extremely disappointed by the lack of diversity of viewpoints and wonder about hidden agendas' role in shaping this program's regime of truth...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Neo-Feudalism: Even Sachs Agrees...

My next book is on neo-feudalism so I will be posting frequently on this subject.

Jeffrey Sachs recently stated: "We give up massive amounts at the top in tax cuts and then we turn around and squeeze the poorest of the poor"

he goes on: "The rich have had 20 years of the greatest boom in the history of this world...and we're turning around and we're just going to keep driving down the poorest of the poorest of the poor...this is a game that's going to end in a bad way..."

"both parties are financed by wealthy people"

Monday, February 14, 2011

It Seems You Can Never Default on Your Student Loans Even if You are Completely Disabled

"Under federal law, borrowers who develop severe and lasting disabilities after taking out federal student loans are entitled to have their debts forgiven. The system was meant to be compassionate: to spare former students who become disabled from a lifetime of ruined credit, garnished benefits, and spiraling debt. But an investigation by ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity has found that the process of discharging the loans of disabled borrowers is broken...."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

On Libertarians and Faux Llibertarians

Credit Writedowns has a good article on how corporatists (people who think corporations should have the same rights as individuals) masquerade as libertarians.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

"Let me be bold here: The ‘Corporatist’ is a kleptocrat masquerading as a believer in liberty. He uses terminology based in liberty to construct an ideology solely as a means of furthering the gains of a specific strata of society allied with the corporatist and at the expense of other strata, by coercion if necessary.

"Remember my post on kleptocracy from 2008? If not, here are the four methods Jared Diamond says ruling elites use to maintain power:

"Disarm the populace, and arm the elite.

Make the masses happy by redistributing much of the tribute received, in popular ways.

Use the monopoly of force to promote happiness, by maintaining public order and curbing violence. This is potentially a big and underappreciated advantage of centralized societies over noncentralized ones.

The remaining way for kleptocrats to gain public support is to construct an ideology or religion justifying kleptocracy.

Read more:

Majia here: I find disturbing the incredible corporatist fervor in the commentary found on some "financial" blogs such as zerohedge.

I agree with many financial conservatives that the government's response to this crisis has been poorly aimed and implemented. I also agree that the Fed played a role in causing the housing crisis.

However, the idea promoted in so many commentaries and comments that DE-REGULATION is the solution is fundamentally frightening.

It is people's lack of knowledge about history that enables this attitude toward de-regulation.

Do people really want to return to a time when 80-90% of the population was destitute, even when they held full time jobs?

Do they want to return to a time when child labor was legal and that exploitative work conditions were the norm?

Do they want to return to a time when environmental protection was unheard of and workplace conditions routinely killed workers?

Government is a complex apparatus and although many of its functions may be problematic (such as empire building using the military), other functions are important, such as social security, education, environmental protection, etc.

The goal should be to reform bad government not to eliminate it in favor of the absolute tyranny of the corporations.

Friday, February 11, 2011

GOP Wants to Cut EPA Funding, Keep Oil Subsidies

Marian Wang of Propublica writes:

"Republicans unveiled a budget plan on Wednesday that proposed a $1.6 billion cut [1] to the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency whose authority they have sought to curtail, while business trade groups [2] have complained about the burden placed on them by agency regulations. Politico also reported that the GOP's proposal would hit the Energy Department hard [3], with a proposal to cut energy efficiency and renewable energy programs in half."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blaming Inequality on Worker Skills is an Old Trick

Lawrence Mishel writes at the Economic Policy Institute of the Overselling of Education as the cause of inequality and the great recession.
Mishel describes how “failing” schools and dumb workers are blamed "for the economic calamity actually caused by a deregulated financial sector following a massive redistribution of income and wealth. This shift was driven by corporate political power that allowed the top 1 percent to capture some 56 percent of all the income growth over the two decades preceding the Great Recession."

"Blaming inequality and joblessness on worker skill deficits is an old alibi
" says Mishel.

Bob Herbert at the NYT describes what is happening to so much of America, even to well-educated workers:
"Look out the window. More and more Americans are being left behind in an economy that is being divided ever more starkly between the haves and the have-nots. Not only are millions of people jobless and millions more underemployed, but more and more of the so-called fringe benefits and public services that help make life livable, or even bearable, in a modern society are being put to the torch.

"Employer-based pensions, paid vacations, health benefits and the like are going the way of phone booths and VCRs

The "Terrible Divide" described by Herbert is not primarily caused by the under-education of workers. Rather, the terrible divide derives directly from corporate greed, kleptocratic government policies, and global capitalism unleashed (e.g., hedge funds).

See The Automatic Earth today for more on this divide and its implications

Monday, February 7, 2011

Surprise! Cancer is Primarily an Environmental Disease

Read how you can you reduce exposure to environmental toxins:

College Students Drowning in Debt

Mike Whitney interviews Alan Nasser at Counterpunch
The most disturbing part of this interview is not the high amount of debt and default rates (which have already) been documented, but rather that the US government profits from student defaults:

"Debt is held by 62 percent of students enrolled at public colleges and universities, 72 percent at private non-profit schools and 96 percent at private, for-profit ("proprietary") schools. It was announced last summer that total student loan debt, at $830 billion, now exceeds total US credit card debt, which is itself bloated to the bubble level of $827 billion. And student loan debt is growing at the rate of $90 billion a year. So we're not talking small change....

"...The Department of Education has its own loan program and, accordingly, a positive interest in defaults. It makes a financial killing on its recovery of defaulted Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP) loans.

"In a revealing Wall Street Journal Report ("US Gets Tough on Failure to Repay Student Loans – Education Department Wields Heavy Hand in Some Hard-Luck Cases – No Breaks in Bankruptcy Court", Jan. 6, 2004) John Hechinger reveals that for every dollar the Education Department pays out in default claims, it is able to rake back the entire principal, plus almost 20 percent in interest, penalties and fees. And keep in mind that the value of the default portfolio includes not merely principal plus interest at time of default, but also the interest that continues to accrue after default....."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gallup Finds Unemployment at 9.8%

"Gallup Finds U.S. Unemployment Up Slightly in January to 9.8%Underemployment at 18.9%, compared with 19.0% at the end of December"

The reason the official number reported by the U.S. Labor Dept. dropped is because so many workers dropped off the roles because of the expiration of benefits...

Fascinating Analysis of What is Going on in Egypt

This is a MUST read analysis.

Buying Educational Curriculum in Order to Promote Propaganda

Naked Capitalism: "Pete Peterson Using High School Courses As Trojan Horse for Anti-Social Security, Medicare Propaganda"

"It’s not a pretty spectacle when a very rich man tells little people they ought to get by with less, particularly when his firm benefitted handsomely from the pump and dump operation that led to the financial crisis.

"Pete Peterson, one of the two founders of the Blackstone Group, has had a longstanding campaign against Social Security and Medicare. He’s sufficiently aggressive that to combat consistent poll ratings that show that both programs enjoy substantial support, his foundation set out to generate different survey results by stacking the deck heavily in its favor...."

Forget the Official Unemployment Numbers

There are so many adjustments (e.g., seasonal adjustments) and exclusions ("discouraged workers") from the official headline unemployment number.

It is really better to look at the percentage of the population that IS actually employed and then examine wage distributions across employment sectors and the distribution of employed workers across those sectors.

Civilian Employment Population Ratio

This chart demonstrates that the percentage of Americans employed in the civilian workforce is at the level of the early 1980s. For anyone who has forgotten, that was a recession. Additionally, relatively few women sought employment at that time compared to today.

What this chart demonstrates is that total unemployment is much higher than the headline statistic.

There have been many pronouncements recently about job growth. However, the government's own numbers on job growth indicate that most growth has been in low wage service sector positions. I've posted on this phenomenon previously.

The recession, as experienced by most Americans, is really an ONGOING DEPRESSION.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

False Flags in Egypt

Pro-Mubarak "demonstrators" are police officers

Looters and violent demonstrators affirmed as undercover police officers

The Washington Post reports: "The attempts to tamp down the protest came as a human rights group said it had confirmed an allegation that demonstrators have made for days: undercover police loyal to Mubarak's regime were among looters ransacking the city and stoking violence during the demonstrations..."

It is odd that the US mainstream press (i.e., the Washington Post) are actually reporting the truth for once. It must mean that the US elites have decided that regime change is acceptable...