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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 64,225

Journal Archives

Wolves of Wall Street: Financialization and American Inequality

from Dissent magazine:

Wolves of Wall Street: Financialization and American Inequality
By Colin Gordon - April 17, 2014

This series is adapted from Growing Apart: A Political History of American Inequality, a resource developed for the Project on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies and inequality.org. It is presented in nine parts. The introduction laid out the basic dimensions of American inequality and examined some of the usual explanatory suspects. The political explanation for American inequality is developed through chapters looking in turn at labor relations, the minimum wage and labor standards, job-based benefits, social policy, taxes, financialization, executive pay, and macroeconomic policy. Previous installments in this series can be found here.

It’s no secret by now that the recent spike in American inequality, and the gains rapidly accruing to those at the upper end of the income distribution ladder, are driven in large part by “financialization”—the growing scale and profitability of the financial sector relative to the rest of the economy, and the shrinking regulation of its rules and returns. The success or failure of the financial sector has a disproportionate impact on the rest of the economy, especially when the combination of too much speculation and too little regulation starts inflating and bursting bubbles. And its returns flow almost exclusively to high earners. An overcharged finance sector, in other words, breeds inequality when it succeeds and when it fails.

A Short History of American Finance

Across the modern era, key moments of economic growth—the railroad and heavy industry development of the 1890s, the advent of electricity and automobiles in the 1920s and 1930s, and the IT boom of the 1980s—have been accompanied by parallel innovations in financial services. Each of these eras, in turn, was punctuated by a crisis in which speculation in new financial instruments, over-exuberance about their prospects, or outright chicanery turned boom into bust. The railroad boom of the nineteenth century yielded a wildly unregulated market for railroad securities and a series of market collapses. The emergence of a consumer-goods economy in the early decades of the twentieth century transformed both corporate finance and consumer credit and spilled the country into the Great Depression.


American Finance and American Inequality

The rise of the financial sector has fed inequality in a number of ways. First, the disproportionate growth of finance diverts incomes from labor (wages and salaries) to capital. Indeed, recent work by the International Labor Office suggests that financialization accounts for about half of the decline in labor’s share of national income (in the United States and elsewhere) since 1970.

But even more important than the slow siphoning off of labor’s share is the widening inequality within that share, as top earners pull away from the rest of the pack. Increased employment in finance has been accompanied by accelerating rates of compensation in the sector, from about $20,000 per year per employee (including secretaries and clerks) in 1980 to nearly $100,000 today. This is of course exaggerated at the top of the income spectrum. In 2004, by one estimate, the combined income of the top twenty-five hedge fund managers exceeded the combined income of all of the Standard and Poor top 500 CEOs. The number of Wall Street investors earning more than $100 million a year was nine times higher than the public company executives earning that amount. About 14 percent of the “1 percent” are employed in finance, a share that has doubled since 1979. ............................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/wolves-of-wall-street-financialization-and-american-inequality

How Can History Help Us in the Future? Howard Zinn on A People's History of the United States


Published on Apr 8, 2014
Zinn was professor of history at Spelman College in Atlanta from 1956 to 1963, and visiting professor at both the University of Paris and University of Bolog.

Mr. Zinn talked about his book, A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present, published by Harperperennial Library. He focused on his research for t.

- Newly disclosed emails obtained by the Associated Press show former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels sought to remove Howard Zinn.

Playwright, historian and political activist Zinn talked about the interpretation of history and how our understanding of it affects the future. He discussed. ...........................

Chicago: CTA: 16 buildings need to be razed for Belmont 'L' overpass

(Chicago Tribune) The CTA unveiled a $320 million proposal Thursday to eliminate one of the worst bottlenecks in its system by building an elevated bypass to untangle trains on the Red, Purple and Brown lines north of Belmont Avenue.

The announcement wasn’t all upside. Sixteen buildings north of the Belmont station in the Lakeview neighborhood would be bulldozed to make way for the flyover structure that would send northbound Brown Line trains up and over the Red and Purple line tracks. Brown Line trains would then descend onto the existing Ravenswood track west of Sheffield Avenue.

The idea of the CTA forcibly purchasing properties — for the second time in a decade along the Brown Line corridor — jolted some people who live and work in the area and learned of the transit agency’s proposal Thursday.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged demolition plans weren’t ideal, but said they were necessary to increase and improve train service along all three lines. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-cta-16-buildings-need-to-be-razed-to-speed-up-red-brown-purple-lines-20140417,0,5110741.story

Underground Railroad Was One of America’s First Coops: A Black History Tour of Cooperative Economics


from YES! Magazine:

The Underground Railroad Was One of America’s First Co-ops: A Black History Tour of Cooperative Economics
From slavery to Jim Crow to cities today, African-Americans have been leading the cooperative movement.

by Laura Flanders
posted Apr 17, 2014


Cooperative economics and civil rights don't often appear together in history books, but they should. From the mutual aid societies that bought enslaved people's freedom to the underground railroad network that brought endangered blacks to the north, cooperative structures were key to evading white supremacy. And there was vicious backlash when black co-ops threatened the status quo.

"The white economic structure depended on all of these blacks having to buy from the white store, rent from the white landowner. They were going to lose out if you did something alternatively," Jessica Gordon Nembhard, author of Collective Courage: A History of African-American Economic Thought and Practice, told Commonomics correspondent Laura Flanders this week.

For more on co-ops in the black community, read our latest piece on late Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba's vision.

Oklahoma Provides a Win for ALEC’s 50-State Campaign Against Democracy

Oklahoma Provides a Win for ALEC’s 50-State Campaign Against Democracy

April 18, 2014
by Joshua Holland

On Monday, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill that prohibits local governments from boosting their minimum wages or enacting laws mandating benefits like paid vacation or sick leave for working people.

Shadee Ashtari reports for The Huffington Post that “opponents of the measure view the move by Oklahoma Republicans as retaliation against an initiative underway in Oklahoma City, where organizers have been gathering signatures to raise the city’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.” That may well be a factor, but the legislation has the fingerprints of the National Restaurant Association — “the other NRA” — and the American Legislative Affairs Council (ALEC) all over it.

Business-backed groups that oppose living wages and paid leave have a serious problem on their hands: polls show that they’re popular. So-called preemption laws provide them with a solution.

In November, Gordon Lafer, a political economist at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center who authored a report titled, “The Legislative Attack on American Wages and Labor Standards, 2011–2012,” told BillMoyers.com, “In places where people have a chance to vote, not for candidates, but on the actual laws — on minimum wage, on sick leave — there’s very broad support for those measures among Republicans and Democrats, among conservatives and liberals. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://billmoyers.com/2014/04/18/oklahoma-provides-a-win-for-alecs-50-state-campaign-against-democracy/

Richard Wolff: Why No Sustained Protests (Yet)?

Why No Sustained Protests (Yet)?

Sunday, 13 April 2014 00:00
By Richard D Wolff, Truthout | Op-Ed

The organized post-1945 destruction of the New Deal coalition - unionists, socialists and communists - and the failure to replace those organizations help explain the muted reaction to the bailouts, austerity and other anti-democratic policies pursued by US governments at all levels.

The post-1945 destruction of the New Deal coalition - unionists, socialists and communists - keeps influencing Americans' lives. Today, its effects help explain why popular actions have been so muted against US economic changes since the 1970s and especially against the bailouts and austerity since the crash of 2008. Those effects also suggest what could reignite sustained protests and demands for change.

First to be destroyed after 1945 were the communists. Coordinated attacks came from business, conservatives, government and media. Most academics and liberals (including many who had supported the New Deal coalition) were complicit in that destruction. Once again we witnessed that old repressive tool: rebranding domestic social movements as mere agents of an evil foreign puppet-master. More important, demonizing the communists served to tar other social criticism that included the capitalist economic system with much the same brush.

Second went the socialists, largely destroyed by being rebranded as fronts, dupes or simply equivalents of communists. In many places, even liberals who rejected socialists and communists were nonetheless equated to them. The persistent purging of the New Deal coalition traumatized the next two generations. By treating criticism of the economic system as "un-American," the purges made blindly uncritical celebration of capitalism proof of one's loyalty. Obligatory for career advancement and personal safety, that celebration disciplined politicians, journalists, and academics alike for the last half-century.

Third to be destroyed were the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and unionism generally (later AFL-CIO etc.). They declined steadily for most of the post-war period. Unions had provided the mass base for the coalition and the New Deal. Union members' votes lay behind Roosevelt's turn toward taxing corporations and the rich to fund Social Security, unemployment compensation, the federal jobs programs and so on. Thus, for employers after 1945, attacking unions complemented their assaults on socialists and communists; all three coalition members had strengthened workers in conflicts with employers. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23026-why-no-sustained-protests-yet

Insect Population Dwindling in Louisiana Marshlands Four Years After BP Blowout

from Desmogblog via Truthout:

Louisiana State University entomologist Linda Hooper-Bui has been studying the impact of the BP oil spill on insects and spiders for almost four years. She started her study shortly after the Macondo well blew out on April 20, 2010, before any oil washed up on shore. Her work documents the dwindling of the insect population in areas directly hit with the oil.

On April 9th, she returned to Bay Jimmy and Bay Baptiste, areas that were heavily impacted by the oil spill in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana.

"Insects are the basis of the food chain. They are like nature's Twinkies," Hooper-Bui says.

Her studies also monitor fish and birds, since they eat insects. She sweeps areas designated for her study by walking back and forth waving a net, catching whatever insects are present. She then empties the net into alcohol, preserving the insects for testing. She takes note of the wind speed and temperature at each location and collects a sample of sediment to be tested for hydrocarbons. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/23182-insect-population-dwindling-in-louisiana-marshlands-four-years-after-bp-blowout

Truthdigger of the Week: The Pulitzer Prize Committee

from truthdig:

Truthdigger of the Week: The Pulitzer Prize Committee
Posted on Apr 19, 2014

By Alexander Reed Kelly

What splendid courage! The Pulitzer Prize committee honored the essence of justice by bestowing its most prestigious award—for public service—to The Guardian and The Washington Post for exposing one of the most important stories concerning civil liberties in the history of journalism.

—Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer

Caught in the whirl of our individual lives, it is easy to forget that history is being made every day. Think of the past. What comes to mind? Images of America’s golden age? The cartoons you saw on television as a child? The destruction of the World Trade Center?

9/11 remains fresh in the mind because it was the beginning of a series of events that continue today, 13 years later. In the days that followed, the prioritization by our political leaders of so-called national security over all kinds of personal liberties followed swiftly, but few Americans noticed the deep consequences of the changes being made in the laws laid over them. As a nation, Americans may as well have been like children asleep in bed while the parents worked through the night, planning the days ahead.

Tony Benn, the British Labour politician who died in March, characterized the struggle for a better world as follows: “Every generation has to do it for themselves again; there is no railway station called justice that if you catch the right train you get there. Every generation has to fight for their rights because rights are taken away.”

As rotten as things currently are, the present generation of Americans has been graced with such champions. The most conspicuous among them is former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, but they include all those who have worked in the halls of power and understood that their obligation is ultimately to society, not the institution that sets their schedules and signs their paychecks. They are Pfc. Chelsea Manning, former State Department adviser Jesselyn Radack and retired NSA officers Thomas Drake and William Binney. Their predecessors include Daniel Ellsberg and yes, founding father Benjamin Franklin. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/truthdigger_of_the_week_the_pulitzer_prize_committee_20140418

CNN (cartoon)


Chris Hedges: "DEATH of the Middle Class"

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