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Ohio

A semi-truck stuffed with petitions delivered nearly 1.3 million signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State on June 29 in order to put union busting SB5 up for a citizen’s veto. Thousands of Ohioans marched through the streets of the capitol in the People’s Parade to deliver the signatures, which were over five times the number needed to get the bill on the ballot for a public referendum.

Mine’s bigger

Sure, why not? It’s not as if there’s real people on the other end of those numbers:

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) announced Wednesday that Democrats had finally reached an agreement on a budget plan.

His announcement came as the leadership met with President Obama to inform him that their members had unified around a message for the debt-limit showdown.

Conrad’s proposal, which he said he plans to introduce as soon as next week, would cut more than $4 trillion from the deficit, a greater reduction than what Obama’s fiscal commission had recommended.
“We’ve reached an agreement after weeks of work,” Conrad told The Hill on Wednesday afternoon. “I think it’s big.”

The wageless, profitable recovery

No wonder everyone in the Beltway is so baffled. Things are just fine for them!

Economists at Northeastern University have found that the current economic recovery in the United States has been unusually skewed in favor of corporate profits and against increased wages for workers.

In their newly released study, the Northeastern economists found that since the recovery began in June 2009 following a deep 18-month recession, “corporate profits captured 88 percent of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1 percent” of that growth.

The study, “The ‘Jobless and Wageless Recovery’ From the Great Recession of 2007-2009,” said it was “unprecedented” for American workers to receive such a tiny share of national income growth during a recovery.

According to the study, between the second quarter of 2009, when the recovery began, and the fourth quarter of 2010, national income rose by $528 billion, with $464 billion of that growth going to pretax corporate profits, while just $7 billion went to aggregate wages and salaries, after accounting for inflation.

Maybe we need to deregulate them some more to jumpstart the economy, huh?

Silly us

This explains so much, don’t you think? Louis Woodhill in Forbes:

With debt equal to more than 150% of GDP and a rapidly contracting economy, Greece must choose between declining the EU/IMF bailout and defaulting now, or imposing more austerity, getting more loans, and defaulting a few months from now. So, why would the Greek government choose to go through all of this agony just to buy a few months? And why would it want to pile on more austerity when what is needed is a program for economic growth?

It could be because Greek elites have not yet moved all of their capital out of the country.

Greek banks are frantically borrowing euros from the ECB, using Greek government bonds (valued at par, not at market) as collateral. These ECB loans make it possible for Greeks to withdraw euros from Greek banks and transfer them abroad. The moment that Greece defaults, its bonds will no longer be eligible for use as ECB collateral, the Greek banking system will collapse, and this process will screech to a halt. Greeks with money may not want this to happen—at least not right now.

Welcome to the oligarchy

Michael Hudson on replacing economic democracy with financial oligarchy:

As my friend Marshall Auerback quipped in response to this speech, its message is familiar enough as a description of what is happening in the United States: “This is the Republican answer in Michigan. Take over the cities in crisis run by disfavored minorities, remove their democratically elected governments from power, and use extraordinary powers to mandate austerity.” In other words, no room for any agency like that advocated by Elizabeth Warren is to exist in the EU. That is not the kind of idealistic integration toward which Mr. Trichet and the ECB aim. He is leading toward what the closing credits of the film “Z” put on the screen: The things banned by the junta include: “peace movements, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, The Beatles, other modern and popular music (‘la musique populaire’), Sophocles, Leo Tolstoy, Aeschylus, writing that Socrates was homosexual, Eugène Ionesco, Jean-Paul Sartre, Anton Chekhov, Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, the bar association, sociology, international encyclopedias, free press, and new math. Also banned is the letter Z, which was used as a symbolic reminder that Grigoris Lambrakis and by extension the spirit of resistance lives (zi = ‘he (Lambrakis) lives’).”[6]

As the Wall Street Journal accurately summarized the political thrust of Mr. Trichet’s speech, “if a bailed-out country isn’t delivering on its fiscal-adjustment program, then a ‘second stage’ could be required, which could possibly involve ‘giving euro-area authorities a much deeper and authoritative say in the formation of the county’s economic policies …’”[7] Eurozone authorities – specifically, their financial institutions, not democratic institutions aimed at protecting labor and consumers, raising living standards and so forth – “could have ‘the right to veto some national economic-policy decisions’ under such a regime. In particular, a veto could apply for ‘major fiscal spending items and elements essential for the country’s competitiveness.’ Paraphrasing Mr. Trichet’s lugubrious query, “In this union of tomorrow … would it be too bold in the economic field … to envisage a ministry of finance for the union?” the article noted that “Such a ministry wouldn’t necessarily have a large federal budget but would be involved in surveillance and issuing vetoes, and would represent the currency bloc at international financial institutions.”

My own memory is that socialist idealism after World War II was world-weary in seeing nation states as the instruments for military warfare. This pacifist ideology came to overshadow the original socialist ideology of the late 19th century, which sought to reform governments to take law-making power, taxing power and property itself out of the hands of the classes who had possessed it ever since the Viking invasions of Europe had established feudal privilege, absentee landownership and financial control of trading monopolies and, increasingly, the banking privilege of money creation.

My UMKC colleague, Prof. Bill Black commented recently in the UMKC economics blog: “One of the great paradoxes is that the periphery’s generally left-wing governments adopted so enthusiastically the ECB’s ultra-right wing economic nostrums – austerity is an appropriate response to a great recession. … Why left-wing parties embrace the advice of the ultra-right wing economists whose anti-regulatory dogmas helped cause the crisis is one of the great mysteries of life. Their policies are self-destructive to the economy and suicidal politically.”[8]

Greece and Ireland have become the litmus test for whether economies will be sacrificed in attempts to pay debts that cannot be paid. An interregnum is threatened during which the road to default and permanent austerity will carve out more and more land and public enterprises from the public domain, divert more and more consumer income to pay debt service and taxes for governments to pay bondholders, and more business income to pay the bankers.

If this is not war, what is?

And if this is war, even pacifists are entitled to self-defense.

The media

Of course they only cover the negative court rulings on the Affordable Care Act. It’s the narrative they’ve already written. Is it a surprise to anyone that the vast majority of “journalists” are lazy suck-ups to power?

Oh look

A stealth Social Security cut!

Changing the inflation calculation for Social Security benefits from CPI to chained CPI is a benefit cut by stealth.  Using the low inflation number would result in slightly smaller Social Security benefits every year. While the cuts would take place in small yearly increments the cumulative effect would be that over a seniors lifetime they would get tens of thousand less from Social Security (PDF).

I ain’t a-marchin’ anymore

Phil Ochs:

Yep

What Athenae said.

The negotiator

I think Ed misses the point, which is that this carefully-bipartisan massive slashing of government spending and entitlements is what Obama had in mind in the first place. Because while the man may be a tool, he is not a fool:

Let’s recap the Barack Obama school of governing and negotiation. First, you get the Republicans to admit that it’s totally unthinkable and utterly insane to let the government default. Second, agree that 50% of the problem – the entire revenue side – is off the table. Third, let the GOP beat concession after concession out of you by bluffing about default. Fourth, get “concessions” from the GOP – in this case, I’ll bet you $100 on Obama obtaining “defense cuts” that amount to snipping a few staplers and pencils from the Pentagon budget – that hand the Republicans a ready-made “He’s a-cuttin’ the Army while our brave men and women are in harm’s way!!” talking point. Fifth, go to the electorate in 2012 with the message that sure, I and the rest of the Democrats signed off on hacking up Social Security and Medicare, but, um, the Republicans wanted to cut them a little more than we ultimately allowed. That sounds like a winner, right? The Mighty Democrats fought bravely to make sure that your benefit cuts would be slightly smaller.

Good luck with that, idiot. This presidency has been like watching a man commit suicide for three years. At first you’re in a frenzy yelling “Stop! Don’t do that to yourself!” but after a while you just want him to hurry up and get it the hell over with already.

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