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Episode 906:The Chicago Boys, Part II : Planet Money : NPR
"This is the second part in our series on Marxism and capitalism in Chile. You can find the first episode here. [https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/04/10/711918772/episode-905-the-chicago-boys-part-i ]

In the early seventies, Chile, under Marxist President Salvador Allende, was plagued by inflation, shortages, and a crushing deficit. After a violent coup in 1973, the economy became the military's problem.

Led by Augusto Pinochet, the military assigned a group of economists to help turn around Chile's economy. They had trained at the University of Chicago. They came to be known as the Chicago Boys.

Today's show is about the economic "shock treatment" they launched. It eventually set Chile on a path to prosperity, but it did so at an incredible human cost. One that Chileans are still grappling with today."

["#905: The Chicago Boys, Part I" description:

"Chile is one of the wealthiest, most stable economies in South America. But to understand how Chile got here--how it became the envy of neighboring countries --you have to know the story of a group of Chilean students who came to study economics at the University of Chicago. A group that came to be known as the Chicago Boys.

In the 1960s, their country was embracing socialism. But the Chicago Boys would take the economic ideas they had learned at Chicago and turn them into policies in Chile. They ended up on the front lines of a bloody battle between Marxism and capitalism, democracy and dictatorship."]

[via: "Detainees would be electrocuted, water boarded, had their heads forced into buckets of urine and excrement, suffocated with bags, hanged by their feet or hands and beaten. Many women were raped and for some detainees, punishment was death." https://twitter.com/zunguzungu/status/1118167201846968320

who also points to the source of that quote: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2013/09/life-under-pinochet-they-were-taking-turns-electrocute-us-one-after-other/ ]
chile  chicagoboys  economics  policy  politics  2019  history  pinochet  salvadorallende  miltonfriedman  dictatorship  coup  democracy  capitalism  socialism  authoritarianism  noelking  jasminegarsd  cia  us  intervention  propaganda  marxism  cuba  fidelcastro  cubanrevolution  neoliberalism  freemarketcapitalism  cuotas  finance  financialization  wealth 
2 days ago by robertogreco
Radical Housing Journal
"The first issue of the Radical Housing Journal focuses on practices and theories of organizing as connected to post-2008 housing struggles. As 2008 was the dawn of the subprime mortgage and financial crisis, and as the RHJ coalesced ten years later in its aftermath, we found this framing apropos. The 2008 crisis was, after all, a global event, constitutive of new routes and formations of global capital that in turn impacted cities, suburbs, and rural spaces alike in highly uneven, though often detrimental, ways. Attentive to this, we hoped to think through its globality and translocality by foregrounding “post-2008” as field of inquiry. What new modes of knowledge pertinent to the task of housing justice organizing could be gained by thinking 2008 through an array of geographies, producing new geographies of theory?"
housing  organization  organizing  2008  mortgages  greatrecession  finance  translocality  global  capitalism  cities  urban  urbanism 
12 days ago by robertogreco
How Harvard and Other Colleges Manage Their Endowments - YouTube
"College is expensive, but there is one place in higher education where there's no shortage of money – endowments. There's more than $616 billion worth of endowments assets in the U.S. Lawmakers are starting to questions why tuition is still rising if some schools have billions of dollars."
colleges  universities  ivyleague  endowments  2019  money  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  inequality  finance  highereducation  highered  power  wealth  universityoftexas  hedgefunds  yale  charity  hoarding  taxes  investment  stanford  divestment  economics  policy  politics  princeton 
17 days ago by robertogreco
Inequality - how wealth becomes power (1/2) | (Poverty Richness Documentary) DW Documentary - YouTube
"Germany is one of the world’s richest countries, but inequality is on the rise. The wealthy are pulling ahead, while the poor are falling behind.

For the middle classes, work is no longer a means of advancement. Instead, they are struggling to maintain their position and status. Young people today have less disposable income than previous generations. This documentary explores the question of inequality in Germany, providing both background analysis and statistics. The filmmakers interview leading researchers and experts on the topic. And they accompany Christoph Gröner, one of Germany’s biggest real estate developers, as he goes about his work. "If you have great wealth, you can’t fritter it away through consumption. If you throw money out the window, it comes back in through the front door,” Gröner says. The real estate developer builds multi-family residential units in cities across Germany, sells condominium apartments, and is involved in planning projects that span entire districts. "Entrepreneurs are more powerful than politicians, because we’re more independent,” Gröner concludes. Leading researchers and experts on the topic of inequality also weigh in, including Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, economist Thomas Piketty, and Brooke Harrington, who carried out extensive field research among investors from the ranks of the international financial elite. Branko Milanović, a former lead economist at the World Bank, says that globalization is playing a role in rising inequality. The losers of globalization are the lower-middle class of affluent countries like Germany. "These people are earning the same today as 20 years ago," Milanović notes. "Just like a century ago, humankind is standing at a crossroads. Will affluent countries allow rising equality to tear apart the fabric of society? Or will they resist this trend?”"

[Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYP_wMJsgyg

"Christoph Gröner is one of the richest people in Germany. The son of two teachers, he has worked his way to the top. He believes that many children in Germany grow up without a fair chance and wants to step in. But can this really ease inequality?

Christoph Gröner does everything he can to drum up donations and convince the wealthy auction guests to raise their bids. The more the luxury watch for sale fetches, the more money there will be to pay for a new football field, or some extra tutoring, at a children's home. Christoph Gröner is one of the richest people in Germany - his company is now worth one billion euros, he tells us. For seven months, he let our cameras follow him - into board meetings, onto construction sites, through his daily life, and in his charity work. He knows that someone like him is an absolute exception in Germany. His parents were both teachers, and he still worked his way to the top. He believes that many children in Germany grow up without a fair chance. "What we see here is total failure across the board,” he says. "It starts with parents who just don’t get it and can’t do anything right. And then there’s an education policy that has opened the gates wide to the chaos we are experiencing today." Chistoph Gröner wants to step in where state institutions have failed. But can that really ease inequality?

In Germany, getting ahead depends more on where you come from than in most other industrialized countries, and social mobility is normally quite restricted. Those on top stay on top. The same goes for those at the bottom. A new study shows that Germany’s rich and poor both increasingly stay amongst themselves, without ever intermingling with other social strata. Even the middle class is buckling under the mounting pressure of an unsecure future. "Land of Inequality" searches for answers as to why. We talk to families, an underpaid nurse, as well as leading researchers and analysts such as economic Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz, sociologist Jutta Allmendinger or the economist Raj Chetty, who conducted a Stanford investigation into how the middle class is now arming itself to improve their children’s outlooks."]
documentary  germany  capitalism  economics  society  poverty  inequality  christophgröner  thomaspiketty  brookehrrington  josephstiglitz  neoliberalism  latecapitalism  brankomilanović  worldbank  power  influence  policy  politics  education  class  globalization  affluence  schools  schooling  juttaallmendinger  rajchetty  middleclass  parenting  children  access  funding  charity  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  status  work  labor  welfare  2018  geography  cities  urban  urbanism  berlin  immigration  migration  race  racism  essen  socialsegregation  segregation  success  democracy  housing  speculation  paulpiff  achievement  oligarchy  dynasticwealth  ownership  capitalhoarding  injustice  inheritance  charlottebartels  history  myth  prosperity  wageslavery  polarization  insecurity  precarity  socialcontract  revolution  sociology  finance  financialcapitalism  wealthmanagement  assets  financialization  local  markets  privateschools  publicschools  privatization 
january 2019 by robertogreco
On Bullsh*t Jobs | David Graeber | RSA Replay - YouTube
"In 2013 David Graeber, professor of anthropology at LSE, wrote an excoriating essay on modern work for Strike! magazine. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs” was read over a million times and the essay translated in seventeen different languages within weeks. Graeber visits the RSA to expand on this phenomenon, and will explore how the proliferation of meaningless jobs - more associated with the 20th-century Soviet Union than latter-day capitalism - has impacted modern society. In doing so, he looks at how we value work, and how, rather than being productive, work has become an end in itself; the way such work maintains the current broken system of finance capital; and, finally, how we can get out of it."
davidgraeber  bullshitjobs  employment  jobs  work  2018  economics  neoliberalism  capitalism  latecapitalism  sovietunion  bureaucracy  productivity  finance  policy  politics  unschooling  deschooling  labor  society  purpose  schooliness  debt  poverty  inequality  rules  anticapitalism  morality  wealth  power  control  technology  progress  consumerism  suffering  morals  psychology  specialization  complexity  systemsthinking  digitization  automation  middlemanagement  academia  highered  highereducation  management  administration  adminstrativebloat  minutia  universalbasicincome  ubi  supplysideeconomics  creativity  elitism  thecultofwork  anarchism  anarchy  zero-basedaccounting  leisure  taylorism  ethics  happiness  production  care  maintenance  marxism  caregiving  serviceindustry  gender  value  values  gdp  socialvalue  education  teaching  freedom  play  feminism  mentalhealth  measurement  fulfillment  supervision  autonomy  humans  humnnature  misery  canon  agency  identity  self-image  self-worth  depression  stress  anxiety  solidarity  camaraderie  respect  community 
january 2019 by robertogreco
David Graeber on a Fair Future Economy - YouTube
"David Graeber is an anthropologist, a leading figure in the Occupy movement, and one of our most original and influential public thinkers.

He comes to the RSA to address our current age of ‘total bureaucratization’, in which public and private power has gradually fused into a single entity, rife with rules and regulations, whose ultimate purpose is the extraction of wealth in the form of profits.

David will consider what it would take, in terms of intellectual clarity, political will and imaginative power – to conceive and build a flourishing and fair future economy, which would maximise the scope for individual and collective creativity, and would be sustainable and just."
democracy  liberalism  directdemocracy  borders  us  finance  globalization  bureaucracy  2015  ows  occupywallstreet  governance  government  economics  politics  policy  unschooling  unlearning  schooliness  technology  paperwork  future  utopianism  capitalism  constitution  rules  regulation  wealth  power  communism  authority  authoritarianism  creativity  neoliberalism  austerity  justice  socialjustice  society  ideology  inequality  revolution  global  international  history  law  legal  debt  freedom  money  monetarypolicy  worldbank  imf  markets  banks  banking  certification  credentials  lobbying  collusion  corruption  privatization  credentialization  deschooling  canon  firstamendment 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Housing Can’t Be Both Affordable and a Good Investment - CityLab
[also posted here: http://cityobservatory.org/housing-cant-be-affordable_and_be-a-good-investment/ ]

"The two pillars of American housing policy are fundamentally at odds."



"Promoting homeownership as an investment strategy is a risky proposition. No financial advisor would recommend going into debt in order to put such a massive part of your savings in any other single financial instrument—and one that, as we learned just a few years ago, carries a great deal of risk.

Even worse, that risk isn’t random: It falls most heavily on low-income, black, and Hispanic buyers, who are given worse mortgage terms, and whose neighborhoods are systematically more likely to see low or even falling home values, with devastating effects on the racial wealth gap.

But let’s put all that aside for a moment. What if housing were a low-risk, can’t-miss bet for growing your personal wealth? What would that world look like?

Well, in order for your home to offer you a real profit, its price would need to increase faster than the rate of inflation. Let’s pick something decent, but not too extreme—say, annual increases of 2.5 percent, taking inflation into account. So if you bought a home for $200,000 and sold it ten years later, you’d be looking at a healthy profit of just over $56,000.

Sound good? Well, what if I told you that such a city existed? What if I told you it was in a beautiful natural setting, with hills and views of the ocean? And a booming economy? And lots of organic produce?

Maybe you’ve guessed by now: The wonderland of ever-increasing housing prices is San Francisco. When researcher Eric Fischer went back to construct a database of rental prices there, he found that rents had been growing by about 2.5 percent, net of inflation, for about 60 years. And this Zillow data suggests that San Francisco owner-occupied home prices have been growing by just over 2.5 percent since 1980 as well.

Like I said, over ten years, that gives you a profit of just over 25 percent. But compound interest is an amazing thing, and the longer this consistent wealth-building goes on, the more out of hand housing prices get. In 1980, Zillow’s home price index for San Francisco home prices was about $310,000 (in 2015 dollars). By 2015, after 35 years of averaging 2.5 percent growth, home prices were over $750,000.

Now, if all you cared about were wealth building, this would be fantastic news. The system works! (Although actually even this rosy scenario is missing some wrinkles: San Francisco real estate prices did suffer enormously, if briefly, during the late-2000s crash, and if you bought in the mid-2000s and had to sell in, say, 2010, you would have taken a massive loss.)

But this sort of wealth building is predicated on a never-ending stream of new people who are willing and able to pay current home owners increasingly absurd amounts of money for their homes. It is, in other words, a massive up-front transfer of wealth from younger people to older people, on the implicit promise that when those young people become old, there will be new young people willing to give them even more money. And of course, as prices rise, the only young people able to buy into this Ponzi scheme are quite well-to-do themselves. And because we’re not talking about stocks, but homes, “buying into this Ponzi scheme” means “able to live in San Francisco.”

In other words, possibly the only thing worse than a world in which homeownership doesn’t work as a wealth-building tool is a world in which it does work as a wealth-building tool.

This also means that the two stated pillars of American housing policy—homeownership as wealth-building and housing affordability—are fundamentally at odds. Mostly, American housing policy resolves this contradiction by quietly deciding that it really doesn’t care that much about affordability after all. While funds for low-income subsidized housing languish, much larger pots of money are set aside for promoting homeownership through subsidies like the mortgage interest deduction and capital gains exemption, most of which goes to upper-middle- or upper-class households.

But even markets with large amounts of affordable housing demonstrate the contradiction. Since at least the second half of the 20th century, the vast majority of actually affordable housing has been created via “filtering”: that is, the falling relative prices of market-rate housing as it ages, or its neighborhood loses social status, often as a result of racial changes. Low-income affordability, where it does exist, is predicated on large portions of the housing market acting as terrible investments.

And to the extent that low-income people do find a subsidized, price-fixed housing unit to live in, that means that they won’t be building any wealth, even as their richer, market-housing-dwelling neighbors do, increasing wealth inequality.

Even the community land trust, which seems to be a way of squaring the wealth-building/affordability circle, ultimately fails. Community land trusts typically provide subsidized or reduced price ownership opportunities to initial buyers, and assure longer term affordability by limiting the resale price of the home. In other words, CLT-financed homes remain affordable only because they restrict how much wealth building the initial owners are allowed to capture. The result is that CLT-financed homes only attract those who couldn’t otherwise purchase a home—which means that the lower-income people in CLTs will be building wealth more slowly than higher-income people in market-rate housing, a fundamentally inequality-increasing situation.

We say we want housing to be cheap and we want home ownership to be a great financial investment. Until we realize that these two objectives are mutually exclusive, we’ll continue to be frustrated by failed and oftentimes counterproductive housing policies."
housing  us  finance  2018  danielhertz  money  economics  generations  sanfrancisco  affordability  markets  capitalism  ownership 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The Making of a Democratic Economy | Ted Howard | RSA Replay - YouTube
"While not often reported on in the press, there is a growing movement – a Community Wealth Building movement – that is taking hold, from the ground up, in towns and cities in the United States and in the United Kingdom, in particular.

Ted Howard, co-founder and president of the Democracy Collaborative, voted one of ‘25 visionaries who are changing your world’, visits the RSA to share the story of the growth of this movement, and the principles underlying it. Join us to explore innovative models of a new economy being built in cities from Cleveland, Ohio to Preston, Lancashire, and to discuss how we might dramatically expand the vision and reality of a democratic economy."
economics  tedhoward  inequality  democracy  extraction  extractiveeconomy  us  uk  2018  capitalism  privatization  finance  wealth  power  elitism  trickledowneconomics  labor  work  universalbasicincome  ubi  austerity  democraticeconomy  precarity  poverty  change  sustainability  empowerment  socialism  socialchange  regulations  socialsafetynet  collectivism  banking  employment  commongood  unemployment  grassroots  organization  greatdepression  greatrecession  alaska  california  socialsecurity  government  governance  nhs  communities  communitywealthbuilding  community  mutualaid  laborovercapital  local  absenteeownership  localownership  consumerism  activism  participation  participatory  investment  cleveland  systemicchange  policy  credit  communityfinance  development  cooperatives  creditunions  employeeownership  richmond  virginia  nyc  rochester  broadband  publicutilities  nebraska  energy  utilities  hospitals  universities  theprestonmodel  preston  lancashire 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Marxism 101: How Capitalism is Killing Itself with Dr. Richard Wolff - YouTube
"Despite a concerted effort by the U.S. Empire to snuff out the ideology, a 2016 poll found young Americans have a much more favorable view of socialism than capitalism.

Though he died 133 years ago, the analysis put forward by one of the world’s most influential thinkers, Karl Marx, remains extremely relevant today. The Empire’s recent rigged presidential election has been disrupted by the support of an avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, by millions of voters.

To find out why Marx’s popularity has stood the test of time, Abby Martin interviews renowned Marxist economist Richard Wolff, Professor Emeritus of Economics at UMass - Amherst, and visiting professor at the New School in New York.

Prof. Wolff gives an introduction suited for both beginners and seasoned Marxists, with comprehensive explanations of key tenets of Marxism including dialectical and historical materialism, surplus value, crises of overproduction, capitalism's internal contradictions, and more."
richardwolff  karlmarx  academia  academics  capitalism  accounting  us  inequality  communism  socialism  marxism  berniesanders  labor  idealism  materialism  radicalism  philosophy  dialecticalmaterialism  humans  systems  change  friedrichengels  slavery  automation  credit  finance  studentdebt  poverty  unions  organization  systemschange  china  russia  ussr  growth  2016  power  democracy  collectives  collectivism  meansofproduction  society  climatechange  environment  sustainability  rosaluxemburg  militaryindustrialcomplex  pollution  ethics  morality  immorality  ows  occupywallstreet  politics  corruption 
november 2018 by robertogreco
.freethought
"freethought aims to blur the boundaries between thought, creativity, and critique and meld them into a trans-language practice, working with and as artists and knowledge producers in a new way. Making radical combinations of critical work and practice in the arts freethought strives to place these new models in unexpected contexts."



"WHO WE ARE
freethought is a collective working in public research and in curating concepts of urgency.

Irit Rogoff, Stefano Harney, Adrian Heathfield, Massimiliano Mollona, Louis Moreno and Nora Sternfeld formed freethought in 2011. Traversing disciplines, blending influences, and borrowing forms freethought experiments with new combinations of criticism and practice in the arts.

For 2016 Bergen Assembly, freethought focused on its continuing collective interest: Infrastructure. By looking at many different understandings of this keyword – from legacies of colonial and early capitalist systems of governance to current conditions of the financialization of the cultural field to the subversive possibilities of thinking and working with infrastructures as sites of affect and contradiction – infrastructure emerged as the invisible force of manifest culture today. This large-scale investigation reworked the term away from the language of planners and technocrats to put to creative and critical use within the cultural sphere.

Throughout 2015-16 freethought led a programme of public seminars, invited guest lectures and independent research in Bergen with the intention of developing a collective body of research and insights. This research, an interrogation of infrastructure on a local and global scale of ecology, finance, administration, labour, communication, hospitality, and the basic act of assembling culminated in a programme of exhibitions, discursive platforms, publications and artistic commissions opening for the Bergen Assembly in September 2016.

Previous projects have included freethought for FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects, Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, 2013, and freethought I: Economy of crisis workshop, Steirischer Herbst Festival, Graz, 2012.

BIOGRAPHY

Stefano Harney
CURATOR

Adrian Heathfield
WRITER/CURATOR

Massimiliano (Mao) Mollona
WRITER/FILMMAKER
ANTHROPOLOGIST

Louis Moreno
URBANIST/THEORIST

Irit Rogoff
WRITER/TEACHER/
CURATOR/ORGANISER

Nora Stenfeld
EDUCATOR/CURATOR"

[via: http://scratchingthesurface.fm/post/176253243375/85-mindy-seu ]
stefanoharney  adrianheathfield  massimilianomollona  louismoreno  iritrogoff  norastenfeld  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  infrastructure  capitalism  decolonization  colonialism  ecology  finance  administration  labor  communication  hospitality  anthropology  urban  urbanism  curation  education 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Democracy at Work
"Democracy at Work is a non-profit 501(c)3 that advocates for worker cooperatives and democratic workplaces as a key path to a stronger, democratic economic system. Based on the book Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism by Richard D. Wolff, we envision a future where workers at every level of their offices, stores, and factories have equal voices in the direction of their enterprise and its impact within their community and society at large."
economics  justice  richardwolff  capitalism  democracy  woorkercooperatives  labor  horizontality  politics  socialism  work  society  banks  banking  creditunions  finance 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Thread by @thrasherxy: "Jimmy Carter remains the one & only interesting post president from a social justice angle. Obama would have turned Habitat for Humanity […]"
[original here: https://twitter.com/thrasherxy/status/998918171791937536 ]

"Jimmy Carter remains the one & only interesting post president from a social justice angle. Obama would have turned Habitat for Humanity into an app or a "public-private partnership with Home Depot, designed to foster innovation & inspire for the next generation of homeowners!"

He'd start a student worker program by placing Starbucks in charter school cafeterias, "staffed, and managed, by students, to inspire the next generation of baristas and foster innovation in management!"

To my knowledge, Obama hasn't ever tweeted about a dead Black child killed by police or in support of BLM activists since leaving office. But he HAS donated to a Chicago youth summer jobs program (GET TO WORK, BLACK KIDS!) & applauded the Black child helping the homeless.

Worthy goals, fiiiine...but Black children don't need to work more or need more "grit," they need to be kids. And it always saddens me when he acts as though Black ppl (especially kids) need to work harder to end our own oppression & death.

Which brings me to his current phase of the post-presidency: hosting and producing "content" on Netflix. No Habitat for Humanity or teaching Sunday school for him! He'll create incremental change in the private market by creating "content" for a private network.

After he & Michelle got $65 million for their books, one might hope "my brother's keeper" might, say, wanna host a special for PBS or something public. But a neoliberal (in the sense of market "innovation" forces leading to change) in the post-presidency, Netflix makes sense.

After all, Obama installed Arnie Duncan, a neoliberal who believed in school "choice," as the pre-Betsy Devos. The Obamas didn't send their kids to Duncans' charterized Chi schools, but Obama elevated Duncan & promoted "Race to the Top" neoliberal/increasingly private schools.

THEN, Obama sent many of his White House alumni off not to public service, nor even to private industry, but to Silicon Valley upstarts focused on colonizing public goods & undermining public laws for private profit. For instance:

- Uber hired David Plouffee (Which busts public transit resources & labor regs)
With Uber's new hire, Obama alumni invade Silicon Valley: D.C. to Silicon Valley is a well-worn path.
http://fortune.com/2014/08/19/uber-plouffe-obama/


- Natalie Foster went to shill for "Share," the "front group for AirBnB (which busts housing regs)

- Michael Masserman went to Lyft
With Uber's new hire, Obama alumni invade Silicon Valley: D.C. to Silicon Valley is a well-worn path.
http://fortune.com/2014/08/19/uber-plouffe-obama/


So, it's fitting the Obamas went not to PBS but--like the depressing move of Sesame Street from PBS to HBO--took their show to Netflix.

Converting public post-presidential comms (which maybe should open to the public?) to private Netflix capitalization is on-brand-Obama.

In their Netflix press release, the Obamas wrote: "we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples."

Meaningless pabulum.

Hoping for change through cultivating & curating "voices who are able to promote greater understanding" only to Netflix subscribers is pretty status quo.

Without critique of capitalism, empire, racism, and sexism, a vague dream to "promote greater empathy" are empty.

I wish the Democratic leaders (Pelosi, Schumer, the Clintons, the Obamas) were out here barnstorming the country, railing against the facscist they've helped install. I wish they had a fraction of the rage & courage of of ADAPT and BLM.

Reading the horrific labor SCOTUS ruling, I wonder what could have been if Obama had fought his last year for his SCOTUS nominee, rather than saying, "Now let's stay calm everyone, if we're reasonable enough, they'll be reasonable, too."

Calmness hasn't helped much. And it's nauseating to see the Obamas rolling off to the bank & hiding their little bit of discourse behind a Netflix Paywall--while Hillary's hat routine seems to be the extent of her public "resistance" (cc @kath_krueger )
Hillary Clinton Did a Bit With a Russia Hat at Yale and I Want to Die
Have you felt an acute-but-nagging desire to fade back into the nothingness of the universe yet today? No? Well look no further!
https://splinternews.com/i-yearn-for-deaths-sweet-embrace-1826207903


The market is NOT the answer to every American problem. As @B_Ehrenreich wrote, the reason people are poor is NOT that they aren't educated enuf, inspired enuf, nor that they're insufficiently "innovative." Yet the Ds, just like the Rs, say it is.
Why are people poor? Because they are uneducated? No, because (1) they are paid so little for their work and (2) the pittance they are paid is quickly sucked off by landlords, credit companies, the medical industry and other predators. Solutions are obvious. [from: https://twitter.com/B_Ehrenreich/status/998571038727458816 ]


This, to me, is neoliberalism--addressing everything from market driven schools to market driven healthcare to the market driven post-presidential philanthropy (Clinton Global Inititiative, Obama media empire) to the "choice" of the market.

One of the unfortunate meeting points in thinking about Black liberation & in anti-Blackness is questioning the Obama's hauling of tens (more?) of millions in the post-presidency. White supremacists don't want him to have that money.

But I, too, have questioned his money haul, particularly in the face of his public giving going first to Black kids who work summer jobs & while raking it in to talk to the banks who bankrupt Black people...
Barack Obama's $400,000 speaking fees reveal what few want to admit | Steven W Thrasher
His mission was never racial or economic justice. It’s time we stop pretending it was
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/01/barack-obama-speaking-fees-economic-racial-justice


And it makes me sad to see the limits of viewing Black liberation imagined as "this man, for whom so many of us did so much to put into office, needs to be able to haul as much cash as possible in the coming years as a signifier of Black success."

In the name of the Black ppl who worked their butts off to install him, the Latinx people he deported in record numbers, and the the ppl who are QTPoC, immigrants, Latinx, women and/or Muslin made vulnerable by his successor, I would hope Obama would be out here fighting for us.

But that is just a dream. Obama is who he is. The hope he'd "really speak his mind on race" when he left office was a denial of who he was in office.

The presidency is the head of the American empire, in all its complexity and violence.

And only Carter has wrestled with this in the post-presidency, largely outside of the market.

Neoliberal structure encourages liberals to retreat to safe spaces created by the market. If market "choice" can provide safe schools or healthcare or water or transport for someone, they're less inclined to demand society provide these things for whom "choice" has failed.

So, I fear Obama TV will encourage a neoliberal retreat for liberals to choose to have President Obama on Netflix, even as Trump runs rampant IRL running over the rest of us who can't much retreat to safety...

..and we can only wonder what Obama TV would have looked like if, perhaps, 44 had shown up on the public airwaves sometime, marching with ADAPT or BLM.

Mind you, I am not thinking about this as a character flaw in the Obamas as such. The presidency, post-presidency, the Obamas & all of us are formed by neoliberal logic. It's the dominant frame of our polticual consciousness.

But it's still distressing."
steventhrasher  barackobama  jimmycarter  hillaryclinton  neoliberalism  2018  ntflix  uber  lyft  airbnb  siliconvalley  corruption  markets  finance  banking  inequality  privatization  race  habitatfohumanity  money  politics  scotus  democrats  liberation  philanthropy  arneduncan  chicago  schools  education  batsydefos  rttt  davidplouffee  natalifoster  michaelmasserman  grit  poverty  society  publicservice  charterschools 
may 2018 by robertogreco
DAVID GRAEBER / The Revolt of the Caring Classes / 2018 - YouTube
"The financialisation of major economies since the '80s has radically changed the terms for social movements everywhere. How does one organise workplaces, for example, in societies where up to 40% of the workforce believe their jobs should not exist? David Graeber makes the case that, slowly but surely, a new form of class politics is emerging, based around recognising the centrality of meaningful 'caring labour' in creating social value. He identifies a slowly emerging rebellion of the caring classes which potentially represents just as much of a threat to financial capitalism as earlier forms of proletarian struggle did to industrial capitalism.

David Graeber is Professor of Anthropology, London School of Economics and previously Assistant Professor and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Yale and Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His books include The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (2015) Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011) and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004). His activism includes protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, and the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York City. Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is sometimes credited with having coined the slogan, 'We are the 99 percent'.

This lecture was given at the Collège de France on the 22nd March 2018."
davidgraeber  care  caring  teaching  nursing  economics  capitalism  labor  work  employment  compensation  resentment  bullshitjobs  finance  politics  policy  us  uk  workingclass  intellectuals  intellectualism  society  manufacturing  management  jobs  liberalism  values  benefits  nobility  truth  beauty  charity  nonprofit  highered  highereducation  activism  humanrights  os  occupywallstreet  opportunity  revolution  revolt  hollywood  military  misery  productivity  creation  creativity  maintenance  gender  production  reproduction  socialsciences  proletariat  wagelabor  wage  salaries  religion  belief  discipline  maintstreamleft  hospitals  freedom  play  teachers  parenting  mothers  education  learning  unions  consumption  anarchism  spontaneity  universalbasicincome  nonprofits  ubi 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Why we should bulldoze the business school | News | The Guardian
"There are 13,000 business schools on Earth. That’s 13,000 too many. And I should know – I’ve taught in them for 20 years. By Martin Parker



Visit the average university campus and it is likely that the newest and most ostentatious building will be occupied by the business school. The business school has the best building because it makes the biggest profits (or, euphemistically, “contribution” or “surplus”) – as you might expect, from a form of knowledge that teaches people how to make profits.

Business schools have huge influence, yet they are also widely regarded to be intellectually fraudulent places, fostering a culture of short-termism and greed. (There is a whole genre of jokes about what MBA – Master of Business Administration – really stands for: “Mediocre But Arrogant”, “Management by Accident”, “More Bad Advice”, “Master Bullshit Artist” and so on.) Critics of business schools come in many shapes and sizes: employers complain that graduates lack practical skills, conservative voices scorn the arriviste MBA, Europeans moan about Americanisation, radicals wail about the concentration of power in the hands of the running dogs of capital. Since 2008, many commentators have also suggested that business schools were complicit in producing the crash.

Having taught in business schools for 20 years, I have come to believe that the best solution to these problems is to shut down business schools altogether. This is not a typical view among my colleagues. Even so, it is remarkable just how much criticism of business schools over the past decade has come from inside the schools themselves. Many business school professors, particularly in north America, have argued that their institutions have gone horribly astray. B-schools have been corrupted, they say, by deans following the money, teachers giving the punters what they want, researchers pumping out paint-by-numbers papers for journals that no one reads and students expecting a qualification in return for their cash (or, more likely, their parents’ cash). At the end of it all, most business-school graduates won’t become high-level managers anyway, just precarious cubicle drones in anonymous office blocks.

These are not complaints from professors of sociology, state policymakers or even outraged anti-capitalist activists. These are views in books written by insiders, by employees of business schools who themselves feel some sense of disquiet or even disgust at what they are getting up to. Of course, these dissenting views are still those of a minority. Most work within business schools is blithely unconcerned with any expression of doubt, participants being too busy oiling the wheels to worry about where the engine is going. Still, this internal criticism is loud and significant.

The problem is that these insiders’ dissent has become so thoroughly institutionalised within the well-carpeted corridors that it now passes unremarked, just an everyday counterpoint to business as usual. Careers are made by wailing loudly in books and papers about the problems with business schools. The business school has been described by two insiders as “a cancerous machine spewing out sick and irrelevant detritus”. Even titles such as Against Management, Fucking Management and The Greedy Bastard’s Guide to Business appear not to cause any particular difficulties for their authors. I know this, because I wrote the first two. Frankly, the idea that I was permitted to get away with this speaks volumes about the extent to which this sort of criticism means anything very much at all. In fact, it is rewarded, because the fact that I publish is more important than what I publish.

Most solutions to the problem of the B-school shy away from radical restructuring, and instead tend to suggest a return to supposedly more traditional business practices, or a form of moral rearmament decorated with terms such as “responsibility” and “ethics”. All of these suggestions leave the basic problem untouched, that the business school only teaches one form of organising – market managerialism.

That’s why I think that we should call in the bulldozers and demand an entirely new way of thinking about management, business and markets. If we want those in power to become more responsible, then we must stop teaching students that heroic transformational leaders are the answer to every problem, or that the purpose of learning about taxation laws is to evade taxation, or that creating new desires is the purpose of marketing. In every case, the business school acts as an apologist, selling ideology as if it were science."



"The easiest summary of all of the above, and one that would inform most people’s understandings of what goes on in the B-school, is that they are places that teach people how to get money out of the pockets of ordinary people and keep it for themselves. In some senses, that’s a description of capitalism, but there is also a sense here that business schools actually teach that “greed is good”. As Joel M Podolny, the former dean of Yale School of Management, once opined: “The way business schools today compete leads students to ask, ‘What can I do to make the most money?’ and the manner in which faculty members teach allows students to regard the moral consequences of their actions as mere afterthoughts.”

This picture is, to some extent, backed up by research, although some of this is of dubious quality. There are various surveys of business-school students that suggest that they have an instrumental approach to education; that is to say, they want what marketing and branding tells them that they want. In terms of the classroom, they expect the teaching of uncomplicated and practical concepts and tools that they deem will be helpful to them in their future careers. Philosophy is for the birds.

As someone who has taught in business schools for decades, this sort of finding doesn’t surprise me, though others suggest rather more incendiary findings. One US survey compared MBA students to people who were imprisoned in low-security prisons and found that the latter were more ethical. Another suggested that the likelihood of committing some form of corporate crime increased if the individual concerned had experience of graduate business education, or military service. (Both careers presumably involve absolving responsibility to an organisation.) Other surveys suggest that students come in believing in employee wellbeing and customer satisfaction and leave thinking that shareholder value is the most important issue, and that business-school students are more likely to cheat than students in other subjects."



"The sorts of doors to knowledge we find in universities are based on exclusions. A subject is made up by teaching this and not that, about space (geography) and not time (history), about collectives of people (sociology) and not about individuals (psychology), and so on. Of course, there are leakages and these are often where the most interesting thinking happens, but this partitioning of the world is constitutive of any university discipline. We cannot study everything, all the time, which is why there are names of departments over the doors to buildings and corridors.

However, the B-school is an even more extreme case. It is constituted through separating commercial life from the rest of life, but then undergoes a further specialisation. The business school assumes capitalism, corporations and managers as the default form of organisation, and everything else as history, anomaly, exception, alternative. In terms of curriculum and research, everything else is peripheral.

Most business schools exist as parts of universities, and universities are generally understood as institutions with responsibilities to the societies they serve. Why then do we assume that degree courses in business should only teach one form of organisation – capitalism – as if that were the only way in which human life could be arranged?

The sort of world that is being produced by the market managerialism that the business school sells is not a pleasant one. It’s a sort of utopia for the wealthy and powerful, a group that the students are encouraged to imagine themselves joining, but such privilege is bought at a very high cost, resulting in environmental catastrophe, resource wars and forced migration, inequality within and between countries, the encouragement of hyper-consumption as well as persistently anti-democratic practices at work.

Selling the business school works by ignoring these problems, or by mentioning them as challenges and then ignoring them in the practices of teaching and research. If we want to be able to respond to the challenges that face human life on this planet, then we need to research and teach about as many different forms of organising as we are able to collectively imagine. For us to assume that global capitalism can continue as it is means to assume a path to destruction. So if we are going to move away from business as usual, then we also need to radically reimagine the business school as usual. And this means more than pious murmurings about corporate social responsibility. It means doing away with what we have, and starting again."
mba  business  education  capitalism  businessschools  latecapitalism  2018  martinparker  highereducation  highered  corporatism  universities  colleges  society  priorities  managerialism  exclusions  privilege  environment  sustainability  markets  destruction  ethics  publicgood  neoliberalism  finance  money 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy | Cornel West | Opinion | The Guardian
"The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.

In this brief celebratory moment of King’s life and death we should be highly suspicious of those who sing his praises yet refuse to pay the cost of embodying King’s strong indictment of the US empire, capitalism and racism in their own lives.

We now expect the depressing spectacle every January of King’s “fans” giving us the sanitized versions of his life. We now come to the 50th anniversary of his assassination, and we once again are met with sterilized versions of his legacy. A radical man deeply hated and held in contempt is recast as if he was a universally loved moderate.

These neoliberal revisionists thrive on the spectacle of their smartness and the visibility of their mainstream status – yet rarely, if ever, have they said a mumbling word about what would have concerned King, such as US drone strikes, house raids, and torture sites, or raised their voices about escalating inequality, poverty or Wall Street domination under neoliberal administrations – be the president white or black.

The police killing of Stephon Clark in Sacramento may stir them but the imperial massacres in Yemen, Libya or Gaza leave them cold. Why? Because so many of King’s “fans” are afraid. Yet one of King’s favorite sayings was “I would rather be dead than afraid.” Why are they afraid? Because they fear for their careers in and acceptance by the neoliberal establishment. Yet King said angrily: “What you’re saying may get you a foundation grant, but it won’t get you into the Kingdom of Truth.”

The neoliberal soul craft of our day shuns integrity, honesty and courage, and rewards venality, hypocrisy and cowardice. To be successful is to forge a non-threatening image, sustain one’s brand, expand one’s pecuniary network – and maintain a distance from critiques of Wall Street, neoliberal leaders and especially the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and peoples.

Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people. Neoliberal soul craft avoids risk and evades the cost of prophetic witness, even as it poses as “progressive”.

The killing of Martin Luther King Jr was the ultimate result of the fusion of ugly white supremacist elites in the US government and citizenry and cowardly liberal careerists who feared King’s radical moves against empire, capitalism and white supremacy. If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises. As he rightly predicted: “I am nevertheless greatly saddened … that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling.”

If we really want to know King in all of his fallible prophetic witness, we must shed any neoliberal soul craft and take seriously – in our words and deeds – his critiques and resistances to US empire, capitalism and xenophobia. Needless to say, his relentless condemnation of Trump’s escalating neo-fascist rule would be unequivocal – but not to be viewed as an excuse to downplay some of the repressive continuities of the two Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.

In fact, in a low moment, when the American nightmare crushed his dream, King noted: “I don’t have any faith in the whites in power responding in the right way … they’ll treat us like they did our Japanese brothers and sisters in World War II. They’ll throw us into concentration camps. The Wallaces and the Birchites will take over. The sick people and the fascists will be strengthened. They’ll cordon off the ghetto and issue passes for us to get in and out.”

These words may sound like those of Malcolm X, but they are those of Martin Luther King Jr – with undeniable relevance to the neo-fascist stirrings in our day.

King’s last sermon was entitled Why America May Go to Hell. His personal loneliness and political isolation loomed large. J Edgar Hoover said he was “the most dangerous man in America”. President Johnson called him “a nigger preacher”. Fellow Christian ministers, white and black, closed their pulpits to him. Young revolutionaries dismissed and tried to humiliate him with walkouts, booing and heckling. Life magazine – echoing Time magazine, the New York Times, and the Washington Post (all bastions of the liberal establishment) – trashed King’s anti-war stance as “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi”.

And the leading black journalist of the day, Carl Rowan, wrote in the Reader’s Digest that King’s “exaggerated appraisal of his own self-importance” and the communist influence on his thinking made King “persona non-grata to Lyndon Johnson” and “has alienated many of the Negro’s friends and armed the Negro’s foes”.

One of the last and true friends of King, the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel prophetically said: “The whole future of America will depend upon the impact and influence of Dr King.” When King was murdered something died in many of us. The bullets sucked some of the free and democratic spirit out of the US experiment. The next day over 100 American cities and towns were in flames – the fire this time had arrived again!

Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!"
cornelwest  martinlutherkingjr  2018  neoliberalism  capitalism  imperialism  materialism  race  racism  poverty  inequality  progressive  militarism  violence  us  society  politics  policy  courage  death  fear  integrity  revisionism  history  justice  socialjustice  drones  wallstreet  finance  stephonclark  libya  gaza  palestine  yemen  hypocrisy  venality  cowardice  honesty  sfsh  cv  mlk  xenophobia  christianity  carlrowan  jedgarhoover  love  freedom  extremism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Una mutación social acecha a la humanidad
"las transformaciones del trabajo y de la subjetividad provocadas por la globalización y la financiarización de la economía: la desterritorialización, la precarización del empleo, el declive de la burguesía y el proletariado y su paulatina reemplazo por el “cognitariado” y la clase ejecutiva financiera, el sometimiento de los trabajadores por dispositivos de automatización y control, cuyos efectos incluyen la dificultad para crear formas de solidaridad y de relación cuerpo a cuerpo."



"Me interesa en particular la separación entre el ingeniero y el poeta, entre el conocimiento científico y la imaginación artística, que es una consecuencia de la reducción de la formación, la educación y el sistema escolar y universitario a meras herramientas para la acumulación financiera. El declive de la enseñanza humanística, la introducción de criterios puramente económicos en el pensamiento científico y en la innovación tecnológica son los efectos más evidentes y peligrosos de la sumisión del conocimiento al provecho económico. En este contexto, la figura del economista domina abusivamente el panorama cognitivo. ¿Qué es la economía? ¿Una ciencia? No me parece. La ciencia se define ante todo por su objeto, por la capacidad de formular leyes universales que nos permiten prever los acontecimientos futuros. La economía no tiene un objeto independiente de su actuación, y por ende me parece una técnica, no una ciencia. El problema es que esta técnica pretende reglar las otras formas de conocimiento según un principio que no pertenece a la ciencia, sino al interés de una minoría. La reducción de la dinámica social al provecho económico devino el dogma central del pensamiento contemporáneo: no se puede decir, pensar ni investigar nada si no sirve a la acumulación de capital."
work  labor  economics  solidarity  2018  francoberardi  precarity  capitalism  humanism  disciplines  finance  universities  colleges  education  highered  highereducation  science  humanities 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Why are Democrats so afraid of taxes?
"Tax hikes on the rich to fund child care, universal health care, higher education, and a green infrastructure bank would immensely benefit both the college-educated and non-college folks who are seeing their standard of living threatened by the GOP. According to Global Strategy Group polling, 85 percent of working-class whites and 80 percent of college-educated whites support higher taxes on the one percent.

Class politics do not threaten the Democratic Party — they may be the only way to save it. But all camps in the Democratic Party are grasping at different parts of the problem. Many strategists on the Hillary Clinton-end of things have rightfully noted that a shift in college-educated white support for Democrats is a positive harbinger for the party. But they have seemingly failed to grasp that the Bernie Sanders wing has a point: these voters can be won over on classic tax and spend social democracy. In 2016, only three percent of college-educated white Clinton voters made more than $250,000 a year, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study from that year. Far from worrying about taxes, these voters are increasingly worried about proving health care and child care for their children. Most have seen their retirement security erode and worry about whether their children can afford college. Instead of trying to appeal to a mushy center that doesn’t really exist, Democrats should embrace high taxes, particularly on the rich, to fund social services. The public is ready."
democrats  taxes  policy  208  economics  healthcare  childcare  inequality  banking  finance  richardrorty  hillaryclinton  berniesanders  spencerpiston  class  infrastructure  climatechange  publicgoods  materialism  psychology  emptiness  capitalism 
january 2018 by robertogreco
An interactive map of debt in America
"The Urban Institute has built an interactive map for exploring debt in America.
Credit can be a lifeline during emergencies and a bridge to education and homeownership. But debt-which can stem from credit or unpaid bills-often burdens families and communities and exacerbates wealth inequality. This map shows the geography of debt in America at the national, state, and county levels.

I’d love to hear why the “share with any debt in collections” is so relatively low in the Upper Midwest, Minnesota in particular.

Update: Unsurprisingly, health insurance coverage is a significant factor in American debt…and Minnesota has a low rate of medical debt in collections along with a relatively low rate of uninsured. This 2016 press release from MN Department of Health provides some clues as to why the uninsured rate is so comparatively low. (via @yodaui)"
maps  mapping  us  data  debt  economics  2017  classideas  money  finance  inequality 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Forget Coates vs. West — We All Have a Duty to Confront the Full Reach of U.S. Empire
"What are the duties of radicals and progressives inside relatively wealthy countries to the world beyond our national borders?"



" Is it even possible to be a voice for transformational change without a clear position on the brutal wars and occupations waged with U.S. weapons?"



"Our movements simply cannot afford to stick to our various comfort zones or offload internationalism as someone else’s responsibility.

The unending misery in Haiti may be the most vivid illustration of how today’s crises are all interrelated. On the island, serial natural disasters, some linked to climate change, are being layered on top of illegitimate foreign debts and coupled with gross negligence by the international aid industry, as well as acute U.S.-lead efforts to destabilize and under-develop the country. These compounding forces have led tens of thousands of Haitians to migrate to the United States in recent years, where they come face-to-face with Trump’s anti-Black, anti-immigrant agenda. Many are now fleeing to Canada, where hundreds if not thousands could face deportation. We can’t pry these various cross-border crises apart, nor should we.

IN SHORT, THERE is no radicalism — Black or otherwise — that ends at the national boundaries of our countries, especially the wealthiest and most heavily armed nation on earth. From the worldwide reach of the financial sector to the rapidly expanding battlefield of U.S. Special Operations to the fact that carbon pollution respects no borders, the forces we are all up against are global. So, too, are the crises we face, from the rise of white supremacy, ethno-chauvinism, and authoritarian strongmen to the fact that more people are being forced from their homes than at any point since World War II. If our movements are to succeed, we will need both analysis and strategies that reflect these truths about our world.

Some argue for staying in our lane, and undoubtedly there is a place for deep expertise. The political reality, however, is that the U.S. government doesn’t stay in its lane and never has — it spends public dollars using its military and economic might to turn the world into a battlefield, and it does so in the name of all of U.S. citizens.

As a result, our movements simply cannot afford to stick to our various comfort zones or offload internationalism as someone else’s responsibility. To do so would be grossly negligent of our geopolitical power, our own agency, as well as our very real connections to people and places throughout the world. So when we build cross-sector alliances and cross-issue solidarity, those relationships cannot be confined to our own nations or even our own hemisphere — not in a world as interconnected as ours. We have to strive for them to be as global as the forces we are up against.

We know this can seem overwhelming at a time when so many domestic crises are coming to a head and so many of us are being pushed beyond the breaking point. But it is worth remembering that our movement ancestors formed international alliances and placed their struggles within a global narrative not out of a sense of guilt or obligation, but because they understood that it made them stronger and more likely to win at home — and that strength terrified their enemies.

Besides, the benefit of building a broad-based, multiracial social movement — which should surely be the end goal of all serious organizers and radical intellectuals — is that movements can have a division of labor, with different specialists focusing on different areas, united by broad agreement about overall vision and goals. That’s what a real movement looks like.

The good news is that grassroots internationalism has never been easier. From cellphones to social media, we have opportunities to speak with one another across borders that our predecessors couldn’t have dreamed of. Similarly, tools that allow migrant families to stay connected with loved ones in different countries can also become conduits for social movements to hear news that the corporate media ignores. We are able, for instance, to learn about the pro-democracy movements growing in strength across the continent of Africa, as well as efforts to stop extrajudicial killings in countries like Brazil. Many would not have known that Black African migrants are being enslaved in Libya if it had not been for these same tools. And had they not known they wouldn’t have been able to engage in acts of necessary solidarity.

So let’s leave narrow, nostalgic nationalism to Donald Trump and his delusional #MAGA supporters. The forces waging war on bodies and the planet are irreversibly global, and we are vastly stronger when we build global movements capable of confronting them at every turn."
cornelwest  ta-nehisicoates  2017  us  politics  global  international  jelanicobb  barackobama  imperialism  africa  malcolmx  haiti  naomiklein  opaltometi  climatechange  colonialism  immigration  refugees  activism  outrage  crises  donaldtrump  fascism  military  borders  naturaldisasters  isolationism  debt  finance  destabilization 
december 2017 by robertogreco
After Tax Cuts Derailed the ‘California Dream,’ Can the State Get Back on Track? | The California Dream | The California Report | KQED News
"In essence, Proposition 13 became the first shot across the bow in a series of referendums some dubbed “racial propositions” that reached their apogee with Proposition 187, the famous 1994 measure that sought to cut off nearly all public services, including education, to undocumented immigrants.

That was followed by voter-approved measures to ban affirmative action, eliminate bilingual education and expand a prison system marred by racial disproportionality in its sentencing and rates of incarceration.

That Prop 13 itself was a sort of generational warfare with overtones of race was clear in its structure. Since the assessment didn’t increase more than 2 percent unless property changed hands, incumbent homeowners (who were older and whiter) wouldn’t see their tax burden change much as long as they didn’t sell. Meanwhile, new homeowners (more likely to be younger, minority and eventually immigrant) would have to pay higher tax rates and thus bear a disproportionate share of the costs of local services.

And that wasn’t the only bias against the future. The requirement for a supermajority to pass legislation to raise taxes effectively constrained the ability of future state governments to pour in the sort of money that had built the state’s famed transportation, water and university systems.

The Consequences

The immediate damage from Prop 13, however, was masked. When local property tax revenues quickly fell by about 60 percent, the state government stepped in to fill the gaps.

But over time, the damaging effects of Proposition 13 in terms of education spending and income inequality became increasingly apparent. In the 1960s, California ranked among the top 10 states in terms of per-pupil spending. By 2014, its ranking had plunged to as low as 46. And while California’s level of income inequality was in the middle of the pack nationally in 1969, it is now the fourth most unequal state in the country.

While Proposition 13 was the not the only culprit behind these trends, it didn’t help. About half of the total residential property tax relief provided by Prop 13 went to homeowners with incomes in excess of US$120,000 a year – or about 15 percent of all households.

And because the property tax was no longer a growing source of revenue for local governments, cities and counties had more reason to chase sales taxes with retail development and less incentive to promote housing, helping to set in motion the severe housing shortage that wracks the state today.

The final irony is that Prop 13 – a measure promoted by those in favor of smaller government – pushed authority and decision-making to the state capitol, which became the main source to bail out local municipalities.

Efforts to Change It

So why has Proposition 13 not been overturned?

Its political appeal remains, particularly to older residents who vote and to businesses worried about any increase in taxes. Efforts to keep the protections for residential homeowners but allow commercial and industrial property to be assessed at market rates – a so-called “split roll” – have failed or stalled and currently command the thinnest possible majority in public polling.

So while the split role remains a goal for some reformers, many concerned about the effects of Prop 13 have simply tried to raise taxes elsewhere to offset the lost revenue. California voters approved a temporary “millionaire’s tax” in 2012 and its long-term extension in 2016. And more than two-thirds of voting taxpayers in Los Angeles County approved sales tax hikes in 2008 and 2016 that will generate $160 billion over the next 40 years for transportation investments ranging from rail expansion to highway improvement to new bike paths.

But such tinkering does not solve the fundamental problems with Prop 13 that I’ve noted above. Addressing those will require a new set of conversations about optimal tax policy and how to address legitimate concerns such as how to protect older homeowners with a fixed income from the potential end of Prop 13.

California – and the Country – at a Crossroads

Unfortunately, the same demographic shifts, economic anxieties and political polarization that spurred Prop 13 have since gone national. The president’s plan to “Make America Great Again” similarly involves slashing taxes while underinvesting in education and social services – the kinds of investments that actually made America great in the 20th century.

California has the opportunity to show the nation how to get this right and invest in our future and our collective dreams rather than shortchange them. And a growing number of voices, including local governments, unions and political groups, are calling for reform.

The ConversationSo while the discussion about Prop 13 might seem to be about a few obscure tax rules, it is highly symbolic: At stake is the future of the state and, indeed, the nation. A day of reckoning for a measure that seems increasingly out of date may soon be upon us."
proposition13  california  law  education  finance  racism  race  2017  generations  infrastructure  cities  municipalities  inequality  manuelpastor  taxes  government 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Why capitalism can’t survive without socialism - Vox
"Sean Illing

This raises a thorny question: The kinds of skills this technological economy rewards are not skills that a majority of the population possesses. Perhaps a significant number of people simply can’t thrive in this space, no matter how much training or education we provide.

Eric Weinstein

I think that's an interesting question, and it depends a lot on your view of education. Buckminster Fuller (a prominent American author and architect who died in 1983) said something to the effect of, "We're all born geniuses, but something in the process of living de-geniuses us." I think with several years more hindsight, we can see that the thing that de-geniuses us is actually our education.

The problem is that we have an educational system that's based on taking our natural penchant for exploration and fashioning it into a willingness to take on mind-numbing routine. This is because our educational system was designed to produce employable products suitable for jobs, but it is jobs that are precisely going to give way to an economy increasingly based on one-off opportunities.

Sean Illing

That’s a problem with a definable but immensely complicated solution.

Eric Weinstein

Part of the question is, how do we disable an educational system that is uniformizing people across the socioeconomic spectrum in order to remind ourselves that the hotel maid who makes up our bed may in fact be an amateur painter? The accountant who does our taxes may well have a screenplay that he works on after the midnight hour? I think what is less clear to many of our bureaucrats in Washington is just how much talent and creativity exists through all walks of life.

What we don't know yet is how to pay people for those behaviors, because many of those screenplays and books and inventions will not be able to command a sufficiently high market price, but this is where the issue of some kind of hybridization of hypercapitalism and hypersocialism must enter the discussion.

“We will see the beginning stirrings of revolution as the cost for this continuing insensitivity”
Sean Illing

Let's talk about that. What does a hybrid of capitalism and socialism look like?

Eric Weinstein

I don't think we know what it looks like. I believe capitalism will need to be much more unfettered. Certain fields will need to undergo a process of radical deregulation in order to give the minority of minds that are capable of our greatest feats of creation the leeway to experiment and to play, as they deliver us the wonders on which our future economy will be based.

By the same token, we have to understand that our population is not a collection of workers to be input to the machine of capitalism, but rather a nation of souls whose dignity, well-being, and health must be considered on independent, humanitarian terms. Now, that does not mean we can afford to indulge in national welfare of a kind that would rob our most vulnerable of a dignity that has previously been supplied by the workplace.

People will have to be engaged in socially positive activities, but not all of those socially positive activities may be able to command a sufficient share of the market to consume at an appropriate level, and so I think we're going to have to augment the hypercapitalism which will provide the growth of the hypersocialism based on both dignity and need.

Sean Illing

I agree with most of that, but I’m not sure we’re prepared to adapt to these new circumstances quickly enough to matter. What you’re describing is a near-revolutionary shift in politics and culture, and that’s not something we can do on command.

Eric Weinstein

I believe that once our top creative class is unshackled from those impediments which are socially negative, they will be able to choose whether capitalism proceeds by evolution or revolution, and I am hopeful that the enlightened self-interest of the billionaire class will cause them to take the enlightened path toward finding a rethinking of work that honors the vast majority of fellow citizens and humans on which their country depends.

Sean Illing

Are you confident that the billionaire class is so enlightened? Because I'm not. All of these changes were perceptible years ago, and yet the billionaire class failed to take any of this seriously enough. The impulse to innovate and profit subsumes all other concerns as far as I can tell."



"Sean Illing

I suppose that’s my point. If the people with the power to change things are sufficiently cocooned that they fail to realize the emergency while there’s still time to act, where does that leave us?

Eric Weinstein

Well, the claim there is that there will be no warning shots across the bow. I guarantee you that when the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators left the confines of Zuccotti Park and came to visit the Upper East Side homes of Manhattan, it had an immediate focusing on the mind of those who could deploy a great deal of capital. Thankfully, those protesters were smart enough to realize that a peaceful demonstration is the best way to advertise the potential for instability to those who have yet to do the computation.

“We have a system-wide problem with embedded growth hypotheses that is turning us all into scoundrels and liars”
Sean Illing

But if you're one of those Occupy Wall Street protesters who fired off that peaceful warning shot across the bow six years ago, and you reflect on what’s happened since, do have any reason to think the message was received? Do you not look around and say, “Nothing much has changed”? The casino economy on Wall Street is still humming along. What lesson is to be drawn in that case?

Eric Weinstein

Well, that's putting too much blame on the bankers. I mean, the problem is that the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the bankers share a common delusion. Both of them believe the bankers are more powerful in the story than they actually are. The real problem, which our society has yet to face up to, is that sometime around 1970, we ended several periods of legitimate exponential growth in science, technology, and economics. Since that time, we have struggled with the fact that almost all of our institutions that thrived during the post-World War II period of growth have embedded growth hypotheses into their very foundation.

Sean Illing

What does that mean, exactly?

Eric Weinstein

That means that all of those institutions, whether they're law firms or universities or the military, have to reckon with steady state [meaning an economy with mild fluctuations in growth and productivity] by admitting that growth cannot be sustained, by running a Ponzi scheme, or by attempting to cannibalize others to achieve a kind of fake growth to keep those particular institutions running. This is the big story that nobody reports. We have a system-wide problem with embedded growth hypotheses that is turning us all into scoundrels and liars."



"Sean Illing

So our entire economy is essentially a house of cards, built on outdated assumptions and pushed along with gimmicks like quantitative easing. It seems we’ve gotten quite good at avoiding facing up to the contradictions of our civilization.

Eric Weinstein

Well, this is the problem. I sometimes call this the Wile E. Coyote effect because as long as Wile E. Coyote doesn't look down, he's suspended in air, even if he has just run off a cliff. But the great danger is understanding that everything is flipped. During the 2008 crisis, many commentators said the markets have suddenly gone crazy, and it was exactly the reverse. The so-called great moderation that was pushed by Alan Greenspan, Timothy Geithner, and others was in fact a kind of madness, and the 2008 crisis represented a rare break in the insanity, where the market suddenly woke up to see what was actually going on. So the acute danger is not madness but sanity.

The problem is that prolonged madness simply compounds the disaster to come when sanity finally sets in."
2017  capitalism  socialism  business  dystopia  history  seanilling  ericweinstein  economics  politics  policy  productivity  technology  inequality  revolution  dignity  creativeclass  creativity  repetition  ows  occupywallstreet  banks  banking  finance  ponzischemes  alangreenspan  timothygeitner  civilization  systems  systemsthinking  growth  society  science  automation 
august 2017 by robertogreco
“Neoliberalism” isn’t an empty epithet. It’s a real, powerful set of ideas. - Vox
"It’s hard to think of a term that causes more confusion, yet is more frequently used in political debate, than “neoliberalism.” It’s one thing to argue that the term should be discouraged or retired from public discussions, because it generates heat instead of light, but it is another to say that it doesn’t have any meaning or use. Jonathan Chait makes the second case in New York magazine.

Whenever I find myself reaching for “neoliberalism,” I look for a different phrase, simply because it will better communicate what I’m trying to convey. But if we throw away the term entirely, or ignore what it’s describing, we lose out on an important way of understanding where we are right now, economically speaking.

Neoliberalism, at its core, describes the stage of capitalism that has existed over the past 30 years, one that evolved out of the economic crises of the 1970s. The underpinnings of this stage are buckling under the weight of our own crises, perhaps even collapsing, all of it in ways we don’t yet understand. A careful consideration of the term can help us grasp a lot of what is going on in the world, especially as the Democratic Party looks to change.

Jonathan Chait’s sweeping condemnation of the word “neoliberal”

For Chait, the term neoliberal “now refers to liberals generally” and indiscriminately, regardless of what views they hold. The “basic claim is that, from the New Deal through the Great Society, the Democratic Party espoused a set of values defined by, or at the very least consistent with, social democracy,” but then, starting in the 1970s, “neoliberal elites hijacked the party.” However, the efforts at hijacking that the critics identify “never really took off,” in Chait’s view. As such, to use the term is simply to try “to win [an argument] with an epithet.”

Chait correctly points out that the left has historically been disappointed with the New Deal and Great Society, viewing them as lost opportunities. But he oversteps when he goes further to say that “neoliberal” is not only devoid of meaning, but that there was no essential shift in Democratic identity toward the end of the last century.

The difficulty of the term is that it’s used to described three overlapping but very distinct intellectual developments. In political circles, it’s most commonly used to refer to a successful attempt to move the Democratic Party to the center in the aftermath of conservative victories in the 1980s. Once can look to Bill Galston and Elaine Kamarck’s influential 1989 The Politics of Evasion, in which the authors argued that Democratic “programs must be shaped and defended within an inhospitable ideological climate, and they cannot by themselves remedy the electorate's broader antipathy to contemporary liberalism.”

Galston and Kamarck were calling for a New Deal liberalism that was updated to be made more palatable to a right-leaning public, after Reagan and the ascendancy of conservatism. You might also say that they were calling for “triangulation” between Reaganism and New Deal liberalism — or, at worst, abandoning the FDR-style approach.

In economic circles, however, “neoliberalism” is most identified with an elite response to the economic crises of the 1970s: stagflation, the energy crisis, the near bankruptcy of New York. The response to these crises was conservative in nature, pushing back against the economic management of the midcentury period. It is sometimes known as the “Washington Consensus,” a set of 10 policies that became the new economic common sense.

These policies included reduction of top marginal tax rates, the liberalization of trade, privatization of government services, and deregulation. These became the sensible things for generic people in Washington and other global headquarters to embrace and promote, and the policies were pushed on other countries via global institutions like the International Monetary Fund. This had significant consequences for the power of capital, as the geographer David Harvey writes in his useful Brief Introduction to Neoliberalism. The upshot of such policies, as the historical sociologist Greta Krippner notes, was to shift many aspects of managing the economy from government to Wall Street, and to financiers generally.

Chait summarizes this sense of the term in the following way: It simply “means capitalist, as distinguished from socialist.” But what kind of capitalism? The Washington Consensus represents a particularly laissez-faire approach that changed life in many countries profoundly: To sample its effects, just check out a book like Joseph Stiglitz’s Globalization and its Discontents. The shock therapy of mass privatization applied to Russia after the Soviet collapsed, for example, reduced life expectancy in that country by five years and ensured that Russia was taken over by strongmen and oligarchs.

International pressure forced East Asian countries to liberalize their capital flows, which led to a financial crisis that the IMF subsequently made use of to demand even more painful austerity. The European Union was created to facilitate the austerity that is destroying a generation in such countries as Greece, Portugal, and Spain. (The IMF itself is reexamining its actions over the past several decades; titles it has published, including Neoliberalism, Oversold?, demonstrate the broad usefulness of the term.)

Markets are defining more and more aspects of our lives

The third meaning of “neoliberalism,” most often used in academic circles, encompasses market supremacy — or the extension of markets or market-like logic to more and more spheres of life. This, in turn, has a significant influence on our subjectivity: how we view ourselves, our society, and our roles in it. One insight here is that markets don’t occur naturally but are instead constructed through law and practices, and those practices can be extended into realms well beyond traditional markets.

Another insight is that market exchanges can create an ethos that ends up shaping more and more human behavior; we can increasingly view ourselves as little more than human capital maximizing our market values.

This is a little abstract, but it really does matter for our everyday lives. As the political theorist Wendy Brown notes in her book Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution, the Supreme Court case overturning a century of campaign finance law, Citizens United, wasn’t just about viewing corporations as political citizens. Kennedy’s opinion was also about viewing all politics as a form of market activity. The question, as he saw it, was is how to preserve a “political marketplace.” In this market-centric view, democracy, access, voice, and other democratic values are flattened, replaced with a thin veneer of political activity as a type of capital right.

You may not believe in neoliberalism, but neoliberalism believes in you

Why does this matter if you couldn’t care less about either the IMF or subjectivity? The 2016 election brought forward real disagreements in the Democratic Party, disagreements that aren’t reducible to empirical arguments, or arguments about what an achievable political agenda might be. These disagreements will become more important as we move forward, and they can only be answered with an understanding of what the Democratic Party stands for.

One highly salient conflict was the fight over free college during the Democratic primary. It wasn’t about the price tag; it was about the role the government should play in helping to educate the citizenry. Clinton originally argued that a universal program would help people who didn’t need help — why pay for Donald Trump’s kids? This reflects the focus on means-tested programs that dominated Democratic policymaking over the past several decades. (Some of the original people who wanted to reinvent the Democratic Party, such as Charles Peters in his 1983 article “A Neoliberal’s Manifesto,” called for means-testing Social Security so it served only the very poor.)

Bernie Sanders argued instead that education was a right, and it should be guaranteed to all Americans regardless of wealth or income. The two rivals came to a smart compromise after the campaign, concluding that public tuition should be free for all families with income of less than $125,000 — a proposal that is already serving as a base from which activists can build.

This points to a disagreement as we move forward. Should the Democratic Party focus on the most vulnerable, in the language of access and need? Or should it focus on everyone, in the language of rights?

We’ll see a similar fight in health care. The horror movie villain of Republican health care reform has been killed and thrown into the summer camp lake, and we’re all sitting on the beach terrified that the undead body will simply walk right back out. In the meantime, Democrats have to think about whether their health care goals will build on the ACA framework or whether they should more aggressively extend Medicare for more people.

Chait argues that “[t]he Democratic Party has evolved over the last half-century, as any party does over a long period of time. But the basic ideological cast of its economic policy has not changed dramatically since the New Deal.” Whether you believe that’s true hinges on what you think of the relative merits of public and private provisioning of goods. For there was clearly some change in Democratic policymaking — and, arguably, in its “ideological cast” — sometime between 1976 and 1992. It became much more acceptable to let the private market drive outcomes, with government helping through tax credits and various nudges. One influential 1992 book, Reinventing Government, by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, described a government that should “steer, not row.” (FDR believed government could and should row.)

Another place we can see a break in the Democratic Party … [more]
neoliberalism  capitalism  democrats  history  politics  2017  mikekonczal  jonathanchait  billgalston  elainekamarck  newdeal  liberalism  conservatism  economics  policy  liberalization  privatization  government  governance  josephstiglitz  globalization  markets  berniesanders  ideology  dvidorsborne  tedgaebler  finance  banking  boblitan  jonathanruch  education  corporations  1988  ronaldreagan 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Apocalypse, Now - On The Media - WNYC
"Science fiction has always been an outlet for our greatest anxieties. This week, we delve into how the genre is exploring the reality of climate change. Plus: new words to describe the indescribable.

1. Jeff VanderMeer @jeffvandermeer, author of the Southern Reach Trilogy and Borne, on writing about the relationships between people and nature.

2. Claire Vaye Watkins @clairevaye talks about Gold Fame Citrus, her work of speculative fiction in which an enormous sand dune threatens to engulf the southwest. 

3. Kim Stanley Robinson discusses his latest work, New York 2140. The seas have risen 50 feet and lower Manhattan is submerged. And yet, there's hope.

4. British writer Robert Macfarlane @RobGMacfarlane on new language for our changing world.

Throughout the show: listeners offer their own new vocabulary for the Anthropocene era. Many thanks to everyone who left us voice memos!"
robertmacfarlane  kimstanleyrobinson  clairevayewatkins  jeffvandermeer  sciencefiction  scifi  speculativefiction  anthropocene  humans  nature  multispecies  language  tolisten  economics  finance  cli-fi  climatechange  utopia  names  naming  silence  pessimism  optimism  hope  dystopia  anthopocene  deserts  natue  change  earth 
july 2017 by robertogreco
the three hot trends in Silicon Valley horseshit – Freddie deBoer – Medium
"For a long time I told the same basic joke about Silicon Valley, just updating as some new walled garden network replicated long-existing technology in a format better able to attract VC cash and, presumably, get them ad dollars.

2002, Friendster: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
2003, Photobucket: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
2003, Myspace: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
2004, Flickr: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
2004, Facebook: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
2005, YouTube: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
2006, Twitter: At last, a way to post text on the internet!
2010, Instagram: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
2013, Vine: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
2013, YikYak: At last, a way to post text on the internet!

You get the idea. An industry that never stops lauding itself for its creativity and innovation has built its own success mythology by endlessly repackaging the same banal functions that have existed for about as long as the Web.

It seems, though, that SnapChat will be the last big new player in “social” for awhile, at least until the kids get their dander up for something new. What’s the new hotness in an industry that exemplifies 21st American capitalism, in that it’s a cannibalistic hustle where only the most shameless hucksters survive? As someone who rides the New York subway every day and is forced to look at its ads, let me take you on a journey.

[1] Give Away the Razors, Make Your Money on DRM-Infected Blades

Juicero deserved all of the attention it got and more — it was so pure, so impossibly telling about the pre-apocalyptic American wasteland. It was also just one of a whole constellation of companies that now operate under an ingenious model: take some banal product that has been sold forever at low margins, attach the disposable part to a proprietary system that pretends to improve it but really just locks pepole into a particular vendor, add a touch screen manufactured by Chinese tweens, call it “Smart,” and sell it to schlubby dads too indebted to buy a midlife crisis car and too unattractive to have an affair. As the Juicero saga shows us, you don’t even really have to honor the whole “make the initial purchase cheap” stage. Just ensure that you market your boondoggle to the kind of person who stood in line to buy an $800 “smartwatch” that poorly duplicates a tenth of the functions already present in the phone in their pocket. (You know, those dead inside.) Then get them “locked into your ecosystem,” which means “get their credit card number and automatically charge them every month for your version of a product that can be purchased at the supermarket for a third of the price.” Profit, baby, profit.

Are you the kind of person who is so worn down by the numbing drudgery of late capitalism that you can’t summon the energy to drag a 2 ounce toothbrush across your gums for 90 seconds a day? Well, the electric toothbrush has been a thing for a long time. And that means that it’s not good enough. After years of deadening your limbic system through psychotropic medication, video games, and increasingly-extreme internet pornography, you need something new. Enter Quip, the company disrupting the toothbrush. Quip wants you to know that its product is inexpensive, despite the fact that it will charge you $40/year for for its “refill plan” and I just bought 5 perfectly functional regular toothbrushes for $1 in the most expensive city in the country. Of course, you’re also buying the convenience of automation — who wants to run down stairs to the bodega for a toothbrush when you can hand over your banking info to a toothbrush company? Bonus points to Quip for emphasizing simplicity while hawking a product that employs an engineering team to innovate the concept of a brush.

[2] I’ve got one word for you, Benjamin, just one word: rents.

It’s one thing to take a product that is already cheap and just fine and replace it with a vastly more expensive version that locks people into exploitative proprietary systems for years in exchange for giving them a 15 second hit of dopamine derived from Going Digital. I mean, Quip and Juicero and whatever Silicon Valley dildo company is selling dongs with DRM-equipped replaceable heads are actually fundamentally selling you a product. It’s a horribly, uselessly expensive product that could only be embraced by chumps, but it’s a tangible thing. The real next level is just inserting yourself into someone else’s transaction and collecting a % while offering nothing. (When this is a job, we call it “consulting.”) Why charge a lot for the blades when you can charge a lot for literally nothing?

RentBerry is useful here because the word “rent” is literally in the name. Here’s the value proposition that RentBerry offers. For landlords who are already raking in record profits, RentBerry provides a chance at making even more, as potential tenants must set upon each other in a dystopian nightmare auction system that compels them to ask, how much am I willing to pay to avoid sleeping in the park, really? For tenants, RentBerry offers… well, the opportunity to pay more in a pre-existing housing crisis, the chance to make the process of finding an apartment an even more horrific exercise in stress and disappointment, a reason to hate faceless strangers with even more intensity, and more reason to view city life as a ceaseless Nietzschean struggle from which they will never escape. What RentBerry gets in return is, eventually, a % of your already hideously overpriced rent, for the duration of the lease. I bet you can’t wait to know a portion of your rent check is going not just to the landlord you hate but also to a company that did nothing beyond giving him the ability to take more of your money! Of course, if you live in New York, your “landlord” might very well be a hedge fund that also funded RentBerry! Sweet, right?

RentBerry will tell you that tenants might get a deal thanks to the auction system. Of course, it’s landlords who chose to use RentBerry, not tenants, and if landlords thought they were losing money on the deal they’d never use it, meaning the service’s very reason for being necessarily entails grabbing more and more tenant money. Details!

Why is everything so expensive? Because Silicon Valley and Wall Street are taking huge percentages out of transactions they once didn’t. That’s why. The Juiceros make inexpensive and functional products far more expensive and often less functional; the RentBerrys cut out the middleman by just becoming middlemen. Dare to dream.

[3] We Love Doers So Much We Want to Give Them a Hellish Existence of Endless Precarity

This is the type of company that has become inescapable in NYC subway advertising. Not coincidentally the time I spend contemplating stepping in front of the train to enjoy the sweet oblivion of death is also up dramatically. There’s legit dozens of these companies out there.

The basic idea here is that 40 years of stagnant wages, the decline of unions, the death of middle class blue collar jobs, the demise of pensions, and a general slide of the American working world into a PTSD-inducing horror show of limitless vulnerability has been too easy on workers. I’m sorry, Doers, or whatever the fuck. The true beauty of these ads is that they are all predicated on mythologizing the very workers who their service is intended to immisserate. Sorry about your medical debt; here’s a photo of a model who we paid in “exposure” over ad copy written by an intern who we paid in college credit that cost $3,000 a credit hour. Enjoy.

The purpose of these companies is to take whatever tiny sense of social responsibility businesses might still feel to give people stable jobs and destroy it, replacing whatever remains of the permanent, salaried, benefit-enjoying workforce with an army of desperate freelancers who will never go to bed feeling secure in their financial future for their entire lives. These companies are for people who think temp agencies are too coddling and well remunerative. The only service they sell is making it easier to kill minimally stable, well-compensated jobs. That’s it. They have no other function. They valorize Doers while killing workers. They siphon money from the desperate throngs back to the employers who will use them up and throw them aside like a discarded Juicero bag and, of course, to themselves and their shareholders. That’s it. That’s all they are. That’s all they do. They are the final logic of late capitalism, the engine of human creativity applied to the essential work of making life worse for regular people.

Our society is a hellish wasteland and I am dying inside.
freddiedeboer  siliconvalley  business  internet  society  technology  capitalism  middlemen  technosolutionism  precarity  finance  2017  juicero  subscriptions  drm  rent  rentseeking  latecapitalism  inequality  realestate  housing  socialresponsibility  stability  instability  economics 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Richard Walker: The Golden State Adrift. New Left Review 66, November-December 2010.
"Since the apotheosis of the state’s favourite son Ronald Reagan, California has been at the forefront of the neoliberal turn in global capitalism. The story of its woes will sound familiar to observers across Europe, North America and Japan, suffering from the neoliberal era’s trademark features: financial frenzy, degraded public services, stagnant wages and deepening class and race inequality. But given its previous vanguard status, the Golden State should not be seen as just one more case of a general malaise. Its dire situation provides not only a sad commentary on the economic and political morass into which liberal democracies have sunk; it is a cautionary tale for what may lie ahead for the rest of the global North."



"California’s government is in profound disarray. The proximate cause is the worst fiscal crisis in the United States, echoing at a distance that of New York in the 1970s. Behind the budgetary mess is a political deadlock in which the majority no longer rules, the legislature no longer legislates, and offices are up for sale. At a deeper level, the breakdown stems from the long domination of politics by the moneyed elite and an ageing white minority unwilling to provide for the needs of a dramatically reconstituted populace.

The Golden State is now in permanent fiscal crisis. It has the largest budget in the country after the federal government—about $100 billion per year at its 2006 peak—and the largest budget deficit of any state: $35 billion in 2009–10 and $20 billion for 2010–11. The state’s shortfall accounts for one-fifth of the total $100 billion deficit of all fifty states. These fiscal woes are not new. They stem in large measure from the woefully inadequate and inequitable tax system, in which property is minimally taxed—at 1 per cent of cash value—and corporations bear a light burden: at most 10 per cent. Until the late 1970s, California had one of the most progressive tax systems in the country, but since then there has been a steady rollback of taxation. In the 1970s, it was one of the top four states in taxation and spending relative to income, whereas it is now in the middle of the pack.

The lynchpin of the anti-tax offensive is Proposition 13, passed by state-wide referendum in 1978, which capped local property taxes and required a two-thirds majority in the state legislature for all subsequent tax increases—a daunting barrier if there is organized opposition. Proposition 13 was the brainchild of Howard Jarvis, a lobbyist for the Los Angeles Apartment Owners’ Association. Support for it came not so much from voters in revolt against Big Government as from discontent with rising housing costs and property-tax assessments. But it was to prove a bridgehead for American neoliberalism, which triumphed two years later with Reagan’s ascent to the presidency."



"The fiscal crisis overlays a profound failure of politics and government in California. The origins of the stalemate lie in the decline of the legislative branch, which has popularity ratings even lower than Schwarzenegger’s. Led by Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh in the 1960s, California’s legislature was admired across the country for its professionalism. But by the 1980s, under Speaker Willie Brown, it had become largely a patronage system for the Democratic Party, which has controlled the state legislature continuously since 1959. Republicans went after Brown and the majority party by means of a ballot proposition imposing term limits on elected officials in 1990. Term limits neutered the legislature, taking away its collective knowledge, professional experience and most forceful voices, along with much of the staff vital to well-considered legislation. Sold as a way of limiting the influence of ‘special interests’, term limits have reinforced the grip of industry lobbyists over legislators."



"Efforts to jettison Proposition 13, such as that by the public-sector unions in 2004, have been stillborn because the Democratic Party leadership refuses to touch the ‘third rail’ of California politics. Most left-liberal commentators attribute this impasse to an anti-tax electorate and organized opposition from the right, but this does not square with the evidence. Electorally, the Democrats have easily dominated the state for the last four decades: both houses of the legislature, one or both us Senate seats, the majority of the House delegation, and the mayoralties of Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco; and, from Clinton onwards, every Democrat presidential candidate has carried the state by at least 10 per cent.

Rather than electoral vulnerability, it is the Democrats’ fundamental identification with the agenda of Silicon Valley, Hollywood and financiers—and dependence on money from these sources—that explains their unwillingness to touch the existing system."



"The victor, septuagenarian Democrat Jerry Brown, was governor of the state from 1975–83 and mayor of Oakland from 1999–2007; his most recent post was that of state Attorney General. Once a knight-errant of the liberal-left, it was his blunders in dealing with a budget surplus that paved the way for Proposition 13, and his harping on the theme of an ‘era of limits’ made him a rhetorical precursor to neoliberalism. In Oakland, his main contribution was to revivify the downtown area through massive condo development in the midst of the housing boom; he was also instrumental in pushing through charter schools. Brown’s low-key campaign kept its promises vague, but adhered to a broadly neoliberal agenda: pledging to cut public spending, trim the pensions of public employees, and put pressure on the unions to ‘compromise’. He has a fine nose for the political winds, but lacks any strong connection to a popular base."



"Yet whites have continued to dominate electoral politics, still making up two-thirds of the state’s regular voters. The majority of colour is vastly under-represented, because so many are non-citizens (60 per cent), underage (45 per cent) or not registered to vote. Turnout rates among California’s eligible Latinos are an abysmal 30 per cent, and the number of Latino representatives in city councils, the legislature and Congress remains far below what would be proportionate; Antonio Villaraigosa is the first Latino Mayor of Los Angeles since the 19th century. The fading white plurality continues to exert a disproportionate influence on the state. Markedly older, richer and more propertied, the white electorate has correspondingly conservative views: for many, immigrants are the problem, the Spanish language a threat, and law and order a rallying cry. Even the centrist white voter tends to view taxes as a burden, schools of little interest, and the collective future as someone else’s problem."



"The current economic and fiscal crises are just the latest symptoms of the slow decline of California’s postwar commonwealth. Here, as much as anywhere in the us, the golden age of American capitalism was built on a solid foundation of public investment and competent administration. Here, too, the steady advance of neoliberalism has undermined the public sector, and threatens to poison the wellsprings of entrepreneurial capitalism as well. This is especially apparent in the realm of education, from primary to university levels. The state’s once-great public-school system has been brought to its knees. Primary and secondary education (K–12: from kindergarten to twelfth grade) has fallen from the top of national rankings to the bottom by a range of measures, from test scores to dropout rates; the latter is currently at 25 per cent. There are many reasons for the slide, but the heart of the matter is penury—both of pupils and of the schools themselves, as economic inequalities and budget cuts bear down on California’s children."



"The upper middle class shield themselves by simply taking their children out of the public-school system and sending them to private institutions instead; previously rare, such withdrawals have now become commonplace—along with another alternative for the well-off, which is to move to prosperous, whiter suburbs where the tax base is richer. If public funds are insufficient, parents raise money amongst themselves for school endowments. In July of this year, a combination of civil-society groups launched a lawsuit over the injustice of school funding, hoping to produce a ‘son of Serrano’ ruling."



"California has been living off the accrued capital of the past. The New Deal and postwar eras left the state with an immense legacy of infrastructural investments. Schools and universities were a big part of this, along with the world’s most advanced freeway network, water-storage and transfer system, and park and wilderness complex. For the last thirty years, there has been too little tax revenue and too little investment. To keep things running, Sacramento has gone deeper and deeper into debt through a series of huge bond issues for prisons, parks and waterworks. By this sleight of hand, Californians have been fooled into thinking they could have both low taxes and high quality public infrastructure. The trick was repeated over and over, in a clear parallel to the nationwide accumulation of excessive mortgage debt. As a result, California now has the worst bond rating of any state."
richardwalker  california  via:javierarbona  2010  politics  policy  proposition13  inequality  education  schools  publicschools  highereducation  highered  government  termlimits  democrats  neoliberalism  liberalism  progressivism  elitism  nancypelosi  jerrybrown  ronaldreagan  race  demographics  history  1973  poverty  children  class  economics  society  technosolutionism  siliconvalley  finance  housingbubble  2008  greatrecession  taxes 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Clinton & co are finally gone. That is the silver lining in this disaster | Hazem Salem | Opinion | The Guardian
"I am as frightened as everyone else about Donald Trump’s victory. But we must also recognize: this is a revolutionary moment"



"Hillary Clinton has given us back our freedom. Only such a crushing defeat could break the chains that bound us to the New Democrat elites. The defeat was the result of decades of moving the Democratic party – the party of FDR – away from what it once was and should have remained: a party that represents workers. All workers.

For three decades they have kept us in line with threats of a Republican monster-president should we stay home on election day. Election day has come and passed, and many did stay home. And instead of bowing out gracefully and accepting responsibility for their defeat, they have already started blaming it largely on racist hordes of rural Americans. That explanation conveniently shifts blame away from themselves, and avoids any tough questions about where the party has failed.

In a capitalist democracy, the party of the left has one essential reason for existing: to speak for the working class. Capitalist democracies have tended towards two major parties. One, which acts in the interest of the capitalist class – the business owners, the entrepreneurs, the professionals – ensuring their efforts and the risks they took were fairly rewarded. The other party represented workers, unions and later on other groups that made up the working class, including women and oppressed minorities.

This delicate balance ended in the 1990s. Many blame Reagan and Thatcher for destroying unions and unfettering corporations. I don’t. In the 1990s, a New Left arose in the English-speaking world: Bill Clinton’s New Democrats and Tony Blair’s New Labour. Instead of a balancing act, Clinton and Blair presided over an equally aggressive “new centrist” dismantling of the laws that protected workers and the poor.

Enough examples should by now be common knowledge. Bill Clinton signed the final death warrant of the Glass-Steagall Act (itself originally signed into law by FDR), removing the final blocks preventing the banking industry from gambling away our prosperity (leading to the 2008 recession). Bill Clinton also sold us on the promise of free trade. Our well-made American products were supposed to have flooded the world markets. Instead, it was our well-paid jobs that left in a flood of outsourcing. After the investment bankers gambled away our economy the New Democrats bailed them out against the overwhelming objection of the American people.

This heralded the Obama years, as the New Democrats continued to justify their existence through a focus on social causes that do not threaten corporate power. Or as Krystal Ball put it so powerfully: “We lectured a struggling people watching their kids die of drug overdoses about their white privilege.” Add to this that we did it while their life expectancy dropped through self-destructive behaviors brought on by economic distress.

This is not to deny the reality of structural racism or xenophobia or the intolerance shown to Muslims or the antisemitic undertones of Trump’s campaign. I am myself a person of color with a Muslim-sounding name, I know the reality and I am as frightened as everyone else. But it is crucial that our cultural elite, most of it aligned with the New Democrats, not be allowed to shirk their responsibility for Trump’s success.

So let us be as clear about this electoral defeat as possible, because the New Democratic elite will try to pin their failure, and keep their jobs, by blaming this largely on racism, sexism – and FBI director Comey. This is an extremely dangerous conclusion to draw from this election.

So here is our silver lining. This is a revolutionary moment. We must not allow them to shift the blame on to voters. This is their failure, decades in the making. And their failure is our chance to regroup. To clean house in the Democratic party, to retire the old elite and to empower a new generation of FDR Democrats, who look out for the working class – the whole working class."
hazemsalem  2016  elections  donaldtrump  hillaryclinton  billclinton  democrats  liberalism  neoliberalism  economics  policy  politics  government  revolution  elitism  dynasties  workingclass  poverty  us  inequality  race  racism  labor  populism  capitalism  ronaldreagan  barackobama  banking  finance  newdemocrats  xenophobia 
november 2016 by robertogreco
How Post-Watergate Liberals Killed Their Populist Soul - The Atlantic
"In the 1970s, a new wave of post-Watergate liberals stopped fighting monopoly power. The result is an increasingly dangerous political system."



"It was January 1975, and the Watergate Babies had arrived in Washington looking for blood. The Watergate Babies—as the recently elected Democratic congressmen were known—were young, idealistic liberals who had been swept into office on a promise to clean up government, end the war in Vietnam, and rid the nation’s capital of the kind of corruption and dirty politics the Nixon White House had wrought. Richard Nixon himself had resigned just a few months earlier in August. But the Watergate Babies didn’t just campaign against Nixon; they took on the Democratic establishment, too. Newly elected Representative George Miller of California, then just 29 years old, announced, “We came here to take the Bastille.”

One of their first targets was an old man from Texarkana: a former cotton tenant farmer named Wright Patman who had served in Congress since 1929. He was also the chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Banking and Currency and had been for more than a decade. Antiwar liberal reformers realized that the key to power in Congress was through the committee system; being the chairman of a powerful committee meant having control over the flow of legislation. The problem was: Chairmen were selected based on their length of service. So liberal reformers already in office, buttressed by the Watergate Babies’ votes, demanded that the committee chairmen be picked by a full Democratic-caucus vote instead.

Ironically, as chairman of the Banking Committee, Patman had been the first Democrat to investigate the Watergate scandal. But he was vulnerable to the new crowd he had helped usher in. He was old; they were young. He had supported segregation in the past and the war in Vietnam; they were vehemently against both. Patman had never gone to college and had been a crusading economic populist during the Great Depression; the Watergate Babies were weaned on campus politics, television, and affluence.

What’s more, the new members were antiwar, not necessarily anti-bank. “Our generation did not know the Depression,” then-Representative Paul Tsongas said. “The populism of the 1930s doesn’t really apply to the 1970s,” argued Pete Stark, a California member who launched his political career by affixing a giant peace sign onto the roof of the bank he owned.

In reality, while the Watergate Babies provided the numbers needed to eject him, it was actually Patman’s Banking Committee colleagues who orchestrated his ouster. For more than a decade, Patman had represented a Democratic political tradition stretching back to Thomas Jefferson, an alliance of the agrarian South and the West against Northeastern capital. For decades, Patman had sought to hold financial power in check, investigating corporate monopolies, high interest rates, the Federal Reserve, and big banks. And the banking allies on the committee had had enough of Patman’s hostility to Wall Street.

Over the years, Patman had upset these members by blocking bank mergers and going after financial power. As famed muckraking columnist Drew Pearson put it: Patman “committed one cardinal sin as chairman. ... He wants to investigate the big bankers.” And so, it was the older bank allies who truly ensured that Patman would go down. In 1975, these bank-friendly Democrats spread the rumor that Patman was an autocratic chairman biased against junior congressmen. To new members eager to participate in policymaking, this was a searing indictment.

The campaign to oust Patman was brief and savage. Michigan’s Bob Carr, a member of the 1975 class, told me the main charge against Patman was that he was an incompetent chairman (a charge with which the nonprofit Common Cause agreed). One of the revolt’s leaders, Edward Pattison, actually felt warmly toward Patman and his legendary populist career. But, “there was just a feeling that he had lost control of his committee.”

Not all on the left were swayed. Barbara Jordan, the renowned representative from Texas, spoke eloquently in Patman’s defense. Ralph Nader raged at the betrayal of a warrior against corporate power. And California’s Henry Waxman, one of the few populist Watergate Babies, broke with his class, puzzled by all the liberals who opposed Patman’s chairmanship. Still, Patman was crushed. Of the three chairmen who fell, Patman lost by the biggest margin. A week later, the bank-friendly members of the committee completed their takeover. Leonor Sullivan—a Missouri populist, the only woman on the Banking Committee, and the author of the Fair Credit Reporting Act—was removed from her position as the subcommittee chair in revenge for her support of Patman. “A revolution has occurred,” noted The Washington Post.

Indeed, a revolution had occurred. But the contours of that revolution would not be clear for decades. In 1974, young liberals did not perceive financial power as a threat, having grown up in a world where banks and big business were largely kept under control. It was the government—through Vietnam, Nixon, and executive power—that organized the political spectrum. By 1975, liberalism meant, as Carr put it, “where you were on issues like civil rights and the war in Vietnam.” With the exception of a few new members, like Miller and Waxman, suspicion of finance as a part of liberalism had vanished.

Over the next 40 years, this Democratic generation fundamentally altered American politics. They restructured “campaign finance, party nominations, government transparency, and congressional organization.” They took on domestic violence, homophobia, discrimination against the disabled, and sexual harassment. They jettisoned many racially and culturally authoritarian traditions. They produced Bill Clinton’s presidency directly, and in many ways, they shaped President Barack Obama’s.

The result today is a paradox. At the same time that the nation has achieved perhaps the most tolerant culture in U.S. history, the destruction of the anti-monopoly and anti-bank tradition in the Democratic Party has also cleared the way for the greatest concentration of economic power in a century. This is not what the Watergate Babies intended when they dethroned Patman as chairman of the Banking Committee. But it helped lead them down that path. The story of Patman’s ousting is part of the larger story of how the Democratic Party helped to create today’s shockingly disillusioned and sullen public, a large chunk of whom is now marching for Donald Trump."

[That's just the opening.]
mattstoller  2016  democrats  politics  elections  history  democracy  us  capitalism  banking  markets  neoliberalism  liberalism  populism  1975  finance  power  economics  ralphnader  bobcarr  wrightpatman  change  1970s  campaignfinance  government  transparency  inequality 
november 2016 by robertogreco
John Lanchester · Brexit Blues · LRB 28 July 2016
"I once asked Danny Dorling why, when I was at school, geography was about the shapes of rivers, but now all the best-known geographers seem to be Marxists. He said it’s because when you look at a map and see that the people on one side of some line are rich and healthy and long-lived and the people on the other side are poor and sick and die young, you start to wonder why, and that turns you towards deep-causal explanations, which then lead in the direction of Marxism. Travelling around England, I’ve often had cause to remember that remark. We’re used to political analysis based on class, not least because Britain’s political system is arranged around two political parties whose fundamental orientations are around class. What strikes you if you travel to different parts of the country, though, is that the primary reality of modern Britain is not so much class as geography. Geography is destiny. And for much of the country, not a happy destiny.

To be born in many places in Britain is to suffer an irreversible lifelong defeat – a truncation of opportunity, of education, of access to power, of life expectancy. The people who grow up in these places come from a cultural background which equipped them for reasonably well-paid manual labour, un- and semi- and skilled. Children left school as soon as they could and went to work in the same industries that had employed their parents. The academically able kids used to go to grammar school and be educated into the middle class. All that has now gone, the jobs and the grammar schools, and the vista instead is a landscape where there is often work – there are pockets of unemployment, but in general there’s no shortage of jobs and the labour force participation rate is the highest it has ever been, a full 15 points higher than in the US – but it’s unsatisfying, insecure and low-paid. This new work doesn’t do what the old work did: it doesn’t offer a sense of identity or community or self-worth. The word ‘precarious’ has as its underlying sense ‘depending on the favour of another person’. Somebody can take away the things you have whenever they feel like it. The precariat, as the new class is called, might not know the etymology, but it doesn’t need to: the reality is all too familiar."



"As for the economics of the post-Brexit world, the immediate chaos was both predictable and predicted. The longer-term picture is much harder to discern. It’s not all bad news: the weakened pound is a good thing, and the likely crash in London property was long overdue. It might even make property in the capital affordable for the young again, which would be a strong overall positive for our national life. The uncertainties around the immediate future are quite likely to make demand slow down so much that it triggers another recession. The primary victims of that will be the working-class voters who voted Leave; the recessionary shrinking of the tax take will target them too. The faltering economy will cause immigration to slow, which will further damage the economy.

Once the particularities of our post-Brexit arrangement have been established, we’ll know a lot more about where we are. A great deal of economic uncertainty will attach not so much to the issue of trade – since the advantages of the freest trade possible are clear to all parties – as to the status of the City of London. Nobody outside the City loves the City, but the tax revenues raised by London’s global role in financial services are very important to the UK. At the moment, the City is the beneficiary of ‘passporting’, which allows it to deal freely in services across the EU. That passporting is likely, highly likely, to be the subject of an attack by the combined powers of Frankfurt and Paris (and English-speaking, low-business tax, well-educated Dublin too). Other anti-London regulatory moves can be expected. That could prove expensive for the UK.

A reduction in the dominance of finance might be a net positive; we would have a smaller GDP, probably, but the country wouldn’t be bent out of shape – or not to the same degree – by the supremacy of the City. There’s a lot to unpick here, though. For one thing, the anti-London moves might well have been coming anyway: one finance-world Brexiter of my acquaintance was in favour of Leave precisely because a narrow win for Remain (which is what he was expecting) would in his view have encouraged the regulatory bodies to gang up and crack down on London. There are likely to be all sorts of unintended consequences to exploit, and the City is full of people whose entire working lives revolve around exploiting unintended consequences. The biggest source of finance in the world is Eurodollars, the confusing name for dollars held on deposit outside the US. That entire market was an unintended consequence of US banking regulation in the 1960s and 1970s. The Eurobond (a bond denominated in a currency not native to the country where it is issued) was a huge new market created in the City in 1963, long before the Euro was even a glint in Frankfurt’s eye. The City is creative, opportunistic, experienced and amoral; if any entity has the right ‘skill-set’ to benefit from the post-Brexit world, it is the City of London.

In addition, nervous governments, desperate for revenue, are likely to bend even further backwards to give the City the policies it wants. An early sign of policy direction was George Osborne’s announcement that he wanted to cut corporation tax to 15 per cent to show that post-Brexit Britain is ‘open for business’. Osborne has gone; the policy probably hasn’t. The business press has been full of speculation that the government will backtrack on its plans to crack down on non-domiciled tax status for ultra-wealthy foreigners. The need for revenues makes it important not to drive non-doms out of the country, one City lawyer told the FT. ‘We need a friendly regime.’ There will be plenty more where that came from.

None of this is what working-class voters had in mind when they opted for Leave. If it’s combined with the policy every business interest in the UK wants – the Norwegian option, in which we contribute to the EU and accept free movement of labour, i.e. immigration, as part of the price – it will be a profound betrayal of much of the Leave vote. If we do anything else, we will be inflicting severe economic damage on ourselves, and following a policy which most of the electorate (48 per cent Remain, plus economically liberal Leavers) think is wrong. So the likeliest outcome, I’d have thought, is a betrayal of the white working class. They should be used to it by now."
brexit  johnlancaster  2016  politics  uk  inequality  globalization  london  immigration  finance  class  middleclass  workingclass  england  wealth  geography  marxism  destiny  upwadmobility  society  elitism  policy  precarity  precariat 
july 2016 by robertogreco
TPM Features: The Hidden History of the Privatization of Everything
"PART 1: The History of Privatization: How an Ideological and Political Attack on Government Became a Corporate Grab for Gold"

"PART 2: The True Cost: Why the Private Prison Industry is About so Much More Than Prisons"

"PART 3: Who Really Runs Your City-Citizens of Corporations?: Privatization of Municipal Services Often Means Selling Off Democracy"
privatization  policy  neoliberalism  capitalism  2016  history  via:audreywatters  cities  democracy  prisons  prisonindustrialcomplex  us  government  corporatism  finance 
july 2016 by robertogreco
welcome to the future – Fredrik deBoer
"For several decades, neoliberal politicians worked tirelessly to remove any checks to our systems of financial speculation, causing the inflation of massive bubbles, driven by elite greed. They simultaneously shredded the social safety nets that would allow the lower classes to better endure the consequences of the inevitable collapse of those bubbles. The bubbles did collapse. The lower classes were devastated with unemployment, instability, and economic hopelessness. Those same elites responded by insisting that the only path forward was deeper austerity, even more vicious cuts to our already-tattered redistributive systems. Anger, naturally, grew. Nativist, nationalist demagogues responded by seizing on this anger, telling ignored and marginalized people that their problems were the fault of even-more-marginalized minorities, migrants, and refugees. Their political adversaries, rather than appealing to those angry people by offering them an economic platform that works for them and by arguing that their best interests are also the best interests of those minorities, migrants, and refugees, have doubled down on austerity politics and have dismissed those voters as deluded racists who are not fit to be appealed to. In general, liberals have entrenched deeper and deeper into geographical and social bubbles that permit them to ignore vast swaths of increasingly-embittered voters. They thus ensure that those many among the angry people who are not in fact incorrigible racists but who could be convinced to join forces for a political movement of shared prosperity never do so. The worst people appeal to the desperate, while their political opponents dismiss that desperation, and the outcome is predictable.

This is the future of the West: a contest between elitist greed and populist proto-fascism. On one side, the limitless self-interest of a financial and social elite that has created not only an economic system that siphons more and more money into their own pockets but also a bizarre, jury-rigged ideology of cultural liberalism divorced from any foundations in economic egalitarianism which argues that anyone who opposes the neoliberal order is not worthy even of trying to convince. On the other side, an increasingly-unhinged movement of racist grievance-mongering and fear-stoking populist demagoguery, which utilizes the age-old tactic of pitting different groups of poor people against each other to powerful effect, helped immensely by the corruption and callousness of the pro-austerity class. These sides share nothing except for an absolute commitment to preventing the kind of robustly redistributive platform of economic and social justice that could unite the needs of all suffering people into a formidable political bloc that is devoted to opposing austerity, inequality, racism, sexism, nativism, nationalism, and the rest of humanity’s political ills.

The choice humanity had was between socialism and barbarism. Decades of neoliberalism have ensured that we’ve chosen the latter. The choice ahead is less substantive and more aesthetic: which would you prefer crushing down on your neck, the combat boot of a fascist or the business shoe of a plutocrat?"
freddiedeboer  politics  neoliberalism  history  2016  policy  us  humanity  socialism  barbarism  bubbles  economics  greed  elitism  socialsafetynet  inequality  class  classism  marginalization  austertity  brexit  fascism  corruption  finance  capitalism  self-interest  eglitarianism  socialjustice  racism  sexism  nativism  nationalism  plutocracy  desperation 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions
"IN SUM, THE West’s establishment credibility is dying, and their influence is precipitously eroding — all deservedly so. The frenetic pace of online media makes even the most recent events feel distant, like ancient history. That, in turn, makes it easy to lose sight of how many catastrophic and devastating failures Western elites have produced in a remarkably short period of time.

In 2003, U.S. and British elites joined together to advocate one of the most heinous and immoral aggressive wars in decades: the destruction of Iraq; that it turned out to be centrally based on falsehoods that were ratified by the most trusted institutions, as well as a complete policy failure even on its own terms, gutted public trust.

In 2008, their economic worldview and unrestrained corruption precipitated a global economic crisis that literally caused, and is still causing, billions of people to suffer — in response, they quickly protected the plutocrats who caused the crisis while leaving the victimized masses to cope with the generational fallout. Even now, Western elites continue to proselytize markets and impose free trade and globalization without the slightest concern for the vast inequality and destruction of economic security those policies generate."



"Because that reaction is so self-protective and self-glorifying, many U.S. media elites — including those who knew almost nothing about Brexit until 48 hours ago — instantly adopted it as their preferred narrative for explaining what happened, just as they’ve done with Trump, Corbyn, Sanders, and any number of other instances where their entitlement to rule has been disregarded. They are so persuaded of their own natural superiority that any factions who refuse to see it and submit to it prove themselves, by definition, to be regressive, stunted, and amoral."



"BUT THERE’S SOMETHING deeper and more interesting driving the media reaction here. Establishment journalistic outlets are not outsiders. They’re the opposite: They are fully integrated into elite institutions, are tools of those institutions, and thus identify fully with them. Of course they do not share, and cannot understand, anti-establishment sentiments: They are the targets of this establishment-hating revolt as much as anyone else. These journalists’ reaction to this anti-establishment backlash is a form of self-defense. As NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen put it last night, “Journalists today report on hostility to the political class, as if they had nothing to do with it,” but they are a key part of that political class and, for that reason, “if the population — or part of it — is in revolt against the political class, this is a problem for journalism.”

There are many factors explaining why establishment journalists now have almost no ability to stem the tide of anti-establishment rage, even when it’s irrational and driven by ignoble impulses. Part of it is that the internet and social media have rendered them irrelevant, unnecessary to disseminate ideas. Part of it is that — due to their distance from them — they have nothing to say to people who are suffering and angry about it other than to scorn them as hateful losers. Part of it is that journalists — like anyone else — tend to react with bitterness and rage, not self-assessment, as they lose influence and stature.

But a major factor is that many people recognize that establishment journalists are an integral part of the very institutions and corrupted elite circles that are authors of their plight. Rather than being people who mediate or inform these political conflicts, journalists are agents of the forces that are oppressing them. And when journalists react to their anger and suffering by telling them that it’s invalid and merely the byproduct of their stupidity and primitive resentments, that only reinforces the perception that journalists are their enemy, thus rendering journalistic opinion increasingly irrelevant.

Brexit — despite all of the harm it is likely to cause and despite all of the malicious politicians it will empower — could have been a positive development. But that would require that elites (and their media outlets) react to the shock of this repudiation by spending some time reflecting on their own flaws, analyzing what they have done to contribute to such mass outrage and deprivation, in order to engage in course correction. Exactly the same potential opportunity was created by the Iraq debacle, the 2008 financial crisis, the rise of Trumpism and other anti-establishment movements: This is all compelling evidence that things have gone very wrong with those who wield the greatest power, that self-critique in elite circles is more vital than anything.

But, as usual, that’s exactly what they most refuse to do. Instead of acknowledging and addressing the fundamental flaws within themselves, they are devoting their energies to demonizing the victims of their corruption, all in order to de-legitimize those grievances and thus relieve themselves of responsibility to meaningfully address them. That reaction only serves to bolster, if not vindicate, the animating perceptions that these elite institutions are hopelessly self-interested, toxic, and destructive and thus cannot be reformed but rather must be destroyed. That, in turn, only ensures that there will be many more Brexits, and Trumps, in our collective future."
glenngreenald  economics  europe  politics  brexit  2016  vincentbevins  michaelsandel  elitism  garyyounge  ianjack  jeremycorbyn  hillaryclinton  donaltrump  neoliberalism  policy  government  eu  uk  us  establishment  inequality  greatrecession  2008  freemarket  markets  finance  refugees  iraq  libya  tonyblair  financialcrisis  disenfranchisement  alienation  corruption  journalism  media  jayrosen  class  classism  globalization  insularity  oppression  authority  berniesanders  christopherhayes  capitalism  nationalism  racism  xenophobia  condescension  michaeltracey  authoritarianism  fascism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
American Capitalism’s Great Crisis | TIME
"America’s economic problems go far beyond rich bankers, too-big-to-fail financial institutions, hedge-fund billionaires, offshore tax avoidance or any particular outrage of the moment. In fact, each of these is symptomatic of a more nefarious condition that threatens, in equal measure, the very well-off and the very poor, the red and the blue. The U.S. system of market capitalism itself is broken.

[…]

America’s economic illness has a name: financialization. It’s an academic term for the trend by which Wall Street and its methods have come to reign supreme in America, permeating not just the financial industry but also much of American business. It includes everything from the growth in size and scope of finance and financial activity in the economy; to the rise of debt-fueled speculation over productive lending; to the ascendancy of shareholder value as the sole model for corporate governance; to the proliferation of risky, selfish thinking in both the private and public sectors; to the increasing political power of financiers and the CEOs they enrich; to the way in which a “markets know best” ideology remains the status quo. Financialization is a big, unfriendly word with broad, disconcerting implications.

[…]

The changes were driven by the fact that in the 1970s, the growth that America had enjoyed following World War II began to slow. Rather than make tough decisions about how to bolster it (which would inevitably mean choosing among various interest groups), politicians decided to pass that responsibility to the financial markets. Little by little, the Depression-era regulation that had served America so well was rolled back, and finance grew to become the dominant force that it is today. The shifts were bipartisan, and to be fair they often seemed like good ideas at the time; but they also came with unintended consequences.

[…]

This sickness, not so much the product of venal interests as of a complex and long-term web of changes in government and private industry, now manifests itself in myriad ways: a housing market that is bifurcated and dependent on government life support, a retirement system that has left millions insecure in their old age, a tax code that favors debt over equity. Debt is the lifeblood of finance; with the rise of the securities-and-trading portion of the industry came a rise in debt of all kinds, public and private. That’s bad news, since a wide range of academic research shows that rising debt and credit levels stoke financial instability. And yet, as finance has captured a greater and greater piece of the national pie, it has, perversely, all but ensured that debt is indispensable to maintaining any growth at all in an advanced economy like the U.S., where 70% of output is consumer spending. Debt-fueled finance has become a saccharine substitute for the real thing, an addiction that just gets worse. (The amount of credit offered to American consumers has doubled in real dollars since the 1980s, as have the fees they pay to their banks.)

[…]

Remooring finance in the real economy isn’t as simple as splitting up the biggest banks (although that would be a good start). It’s about dismantling the hold of financial-oriented thinking in every corner of corporate America. It’s about reforming business education, which is still permeated with academics who resist challenges to the gospel of efficient markets in the same way that medieval clergy dismissed scientific evidence that might challenge the existence of God. It’s about changing a tax system that treats one-year investment gains the same as longer-term ones, and induces financial institutions to push overconsumption and speculation rather than healthy lending to small businesses and job creators. It’s about rethinking retirement, crafting smarter housing policy and restraining a money culture filled with lobbyists who violate America’s essential economic principles.

It’s also about starting a bigger conversation about all this, with a broader group of stakeholders. The structure of American capital markets and whether or not they are serving business is a topic that has traditionally been the sole domain of “experts”—the financiers and policymakers who often have a self-interested perspective to push, and who do so in complicated language that keeps outsiders out of the debate. When it comes to finance, as with so many issues in a democratic society, complexity breeds exclusion. "

[via: http://finalbossform.com/post/146159698129/americas-economic-problems-go-far-beyond-rich ]
ranafarhoo  culture  economics  us  capitalism  banking  taxes  accounting  policy  politics  finance  banks  hedgefunds  inequality  financialization  wallstreet  debt  speculation  interestgroups  corruption  government  instability  regulation  democracy  markets 
june 2016 by robertogreco
TARP: A Love Story — The Billfold
"Regardless, even if I could explain my love of TARP, it was clear. Nobody else outside my banker friends liked it. They hated it.

They hated it with everything they had. Some hated it with rants. But most hated it with a knowing resignation. They had seen this shit before.

It was the extreme example of a rigged system. Truck driver: “It wasn’t the needle that broke the camel’s back. It was the anvil that broke it.”

I also saw first hand why it resonated so badly with them. They were right, the system was rigged. At every level.

There really were two Americas. Two opportunity sets. Two education systems. Two legal systems. Two sets of rules.

The elites (Sorry about that word) got the better of it all. Better opportunities. Better educations. Better laws. Better bailouts.

And TARP was just a continuation of that, regardless of the relative merits of it at the time.

It represented how shit plays out in America: If you have money, you get cut all the breaks. If you don’t, you suffer all the breaks.

Nobody wanted to hear, “You know TARP benefited you too…” They have heard that shit all their lives. Everything is spun that way.

Me: “Really, it was also the best policy for you.” Them: “Funny how the person telling us that is always sitting on a pile of gold while we stand in shit.”

So regardless of what I think about the past beauty of TARP. The reality is: TARP was all about maintaining two separate and unequal systems.

So I look back at that distant day on the trading floor, when I first fell in love with TARP. It was only a marriage of convenience. For me.

I look back at that young banker and think. Damn he had it good. Damn he had it so easy. Damn he was so naïve. Damn did he ever love that TARP.

And damn if that TARP didn’t ever love him back."
2009  tarp  bailouts  elites  elitism  chrisarnade  greatrecession  banking  finance  class  middleclass  financialcrisis  politics  policy  us  classism 
june 2016 by robertogreco
The Problem With Hillary Clinton Isn’t Just Her Corporate Cash. It’s Her Corporate Worldview. | The Nation
"While Clinton is great at warring with Republicans, taking on powerful corporations goes against her entire worldview, against everything she’s built, and everything she stands for. The real issue, in other words, isn’t Clinton’s corporate cash, it’s her deeply pro-corporate ideology: one that makes taking money from lobbyists and accepting exorbitant speech fees from banks seem so natural that the candidate is openly struggling to see why any of this has blown up at all.

To understand this worldview, one need look no further than the foundation at which Hillary Clinton works and which bears her family name. The mission of the Clinton Foundation can be distilled as follows: There is so much private wealth sloshing around our planet (thanks in very large part to the deregulation and privatization frenzy that Bill Clinton unleashed on the world while president), that every single problem on earth, no matter how large, can be solved by convincing the ultra-rich to do the right things with their loose change. Naturally, the people to convince them to do these fine things are the Clintons, the ultimate relationship brokers and dealmakers, with the help of an entourage of A-list celebrities.

So let’s forget the smoking guns for the moment. The problem with Clinton World is structural. It’s the way in which these profoundly enmeshed relationships—lubricated by the exchange of money, favors, status, and media attention—shape what gets proposed as policy in the first place.

For instance, under the Clintons’ guidance, drug companies work with the foundation to knock down their prices in Africa (conveniently avoiding the real solution: changing the system of patenting that allows them to charge such grotesque prices to the poor in the first place). The Dow Chemical Company finances water projects in India (just don’t mention their connection to the ongoing human health disaster in Bhopal, for which the company still refuses to take responsibility). And it was at the Clinton Global Initiative that airline mogul Richard Branson made his flashy pledge to spend billions solving climate change (almost a decade later, we’re still waiting, while Virgin Airlines keeps expanding).

In Clinton World it’s always win-win-win: The governments look effective, the corporations look righteous, and the celebrities look serious. Oh, and another win too: The Clintons grow ever more powerful.

At the center of it all is the canonical belief that change comes not by confronting the wealthy and powerful but by partnering with them. Viewed from within the logic of what Thomas Frank recently termed “the land of money,” all of Hillary Clinton’s most controversial actions make sense. Why not take money from fossil-fuel lobbyists? Why not get paid hundreds of thousands for speeches to Goldman Sachs? It’s not a conflict of interest; it’s a mutually beneficial partnership—part of a never-ending merry-go-round of corporate-political give and take.

Books have been filled with the failures of Clinton-style philanthrocapitalism. When it comes to climate change, we have all the evidence we need to know that this model is a disaster on a planetary scale. This is the logic that gave the world fraud-infested carbon markets and dodgy carbon offsets instead of tough regulation of polluters—because, we were told, emission reductions needed to be “win-win” and “market-friendly.”

If the next president wastes any more time with these schemes, the climate clock will run out, plain and simple. If we’re to have any hope of avoiding catastrophe, action needs to be unprecedented in its speed and scope. If designed properly, the transition to a post-carbon economy can deliver a great many “wins”: not just a safer future, but huge numbers of well-paying jobs; improved and affordable public transit; more liveable cities; as well as racial and environmental justice for the communities on the frontlines of dirty extraction.

Bernie Sanders’s campaign is built around precisely this logic: not the rich being stroked for a little more noblesse oblige, but ordinary citizens banding together to challenge them, winning tough regulations, and creating a much fairer system as a result.

Sanders and his supporters understand something critical: It won’t all be win-win. For any of this to happen, fossil-fuel companies, which have made obscene profits for many decades, will have to start losing. And losing more than just the tax breaks and subsidies that Clinton is promising to cut. They will also have to lose the new drilling and mining leases they want; they’ll have to be denied permits for the pipelines and export terminals they very much want to build. They will have to leave trillions of dollars’ worth of proven fossil-fuel reserves in the ground.

Meanwhile, if solar panels proliferate on rooftops, big power utilities will lose a significant portion of their profits, since their former customers will be in the energy-generation business. This would create opportunities for a more level economy and, ultimately, for lower utility bills—but once again, some powerful interests will have to lose (which is why Warren Buffett’s coal-fired utility in Nevada has gone to war against solar).

A president willing to inflict these losses on fossil-fuel companies and their allies needs to be more than just not actively corrupt. That president needs to be up for the fight of the century—and absolutely clear about which side must win. Looking at the Democratic primary, there can be no doubt about who is best suited to rise to this historic moment.

The good news? He just won Wisconsin. And he isn’t following anyone’s guidelines for good behavior."
hillaryclinton  naomiklein  2016  politics  philanthrocapitalism  climatechange  corporations  money  finance  influence  establishment  policy  lobbying  status  media  wealth  inequality  environment  elections  berniesanders 
april 2016 by robertogreco
James Meek · Robin Hood in a Time of Austerity · LRB 18 February 2016
"How like the Middle Ages, if it were so. Behind the twisted rhetoric of a hardworking majority oppressed by a welfare-mad government, a modern version of the medieval world has been constructed, one where the real poor are taxed more heavily than the rich; where most of those who are not rich are burdened by an onerous roster of fees and monopolies levied by remote, unaccountable private landlords; and where many of us live out our lives shackled to an endless chain of private debt.

Since the Thatcher revolution in 1979, British governments have boasted of how they’ve lowered taxes. And they have, except for one section of society: the poorest 20 per cent. In 1977, the least well-off fifth of households paid 37 per cent of their gross income in direct taxes (like income tax) and indirect taxes (like VAT), against 38 per cent for the richest fifth. In 2014, the tax take from the poorest group had gone up to 37.8 per cent, while the taxes paid by the richest had gone down to less than 35 per cent.

Not only does this understate the extent of tax cuts for the top 1 per cent; it shows only part of the burden borne by the least well off. Piketty writes that ‘modern redistribution does not consist in transferring income from the rich to the poor, at least not in so explicit a way. It consists rather in financing public services and replacement incomes that are more or less equal for everyone, especially in the areas of health, education and pensions.’ This is a very cautious definition of the modern social state. Health, education and social security make up the lion’s share of public spending, but they’re intimately linked to a wider set of networks that includes energy, water and transport and, some would argue, should include housing. What these networks have in common is that society has decided they’re essential, and therefore should be universal – that is, we think everyone should have access to them, all the time. The significance of this is that, on the one hand, society takes on itself the obligation to give its poorest members access to these networks, which they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford; and, on the other, payment to use these networks, if it isn’t funded out of general taxation, becomes in itself a tax, particularly when that network is a monopoly. In Britain, many of these universal networks, such as electricity and water, have been privatised, often twice – once to put them on the stock market, once to put them into the hands of overseas owners. Bills for these services have increased faster than inflation, and take little account of people’s ability to pay. It is the poorest, then, who as well as paying the heaviest combination of indirect and direct taxation bear the brunt of such hybrid public-private taxes as the water tax and the electricity tax.

Other universal networks, such as health and education, haven’t been privatised, but have been through another process that makes them ripe for the introduction of flat fees for usage in future. This process really got going under Labour, and it is a sign of the liberal left’s failure to recognise what it has done that there isn’t a name for it. One word to describe it might be ‘autonomisation’ – the process by which state-run bodies continue to be funded by the state but are run autonomously on a non-profit basis. So state secondary schools become academies, NHS hospitals become NHS foundation trusts, and council estates are transferred to housing associations. The British state is in a condition of rolling abdication, leaving behind a partly privatised, partly autonomised set of universal networks, increasingly run by absentee landlords in the form of global companies and overseas corporate investors, that is disproportionately funded by the poorest payers of taxes, fees and duties, many of whom are also deep in debt.

There is a cynical view which says that as long as the majority of the population feel they’re doing all right, a democratically elected government is safe to squeeze the poor and pamper the rich. But cynicism is a risky thing to rely on when a government is simultaneously cutting spending and shedding control of the universal networks on which its entire population relies. As Hobsbawm writes in Bandits, ‘concentration of power in the modern territorial state is what eventually eliminated rural banditry, endemic or epidemic. At the end of the 20th century it looks as though this situation might be coming to an end, and the consequences of this regression of state power cannot yet be foreseen.’ We’re a long way from the return of the literal outlaw to Nottinghamshire. But we need to remember the insight given our ancestors when they saw through the illusion of the Robin Hood myth, when they saw that the strongbox of silver coins wasn’t just money stolen from each of them individually, but power robbed from them collectively, and that they needed to wield that power collectively as much as they needed their money back. For sure, freedom to choose is a grand thing, and the market will try to help you exercise it. With a bit of money in the bank, a middle-class family might choose to send their child to private school, provided by the market; but that same family can’t choose to build and maintain a universal education network by itself, and the market won’t provide it. With money, you can choose to buy a car, and the market will provide it; but you can’t choose, all by yourself, to build and maintain a universal road network, and the market won’t provide it. To make and keep universal networks requires the authority of the state, an authority that has been absent; and it’s hard to see where that authority might come from if the people don’t find a way to assert their kingship."
2016  jamesmeek  capitalism  politics  policy  welfare  poor  class  rich  wealthdistribution  inequality  taxes  taxation  health  education  thomaspiketty  neoliberalism  autonomization  housing  uk  finance  davidcameron  margaretthatcher  ronaldreagan  stephenharper  us  canada  australia  marcorubio  georgeosborne  power  money  economics  labor  erichobsbawm  government  markets  universalnetworks  infrastructure  via:anabjain 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Education Has a Glock to Its Head
"The plight of the small liberal-arts college is well known. Hundreds of these colleges dot the map of America (at least its eastern half). Most of them are far more expensive than public universities, because they are (a) private and (b) often have expensive, historic campuses to maintain. In an era of diminishing economic returns on a Bachelor's degree, the costly private option becomes less attractive.

Liberal-arts colleges now find themselves in a brutal competition to attract a certain kind of paying student. By and large, students are not moneymakers for the college if they are poor enough to qualify for need-based aid, pedigreed enough to command major scholarship offers, or a minority who must be lured, with a nice tuition discount, to a place like Crawfordsville, Indiana. In short, white mediocrity is the bread and butter of the contemporary liberal-arts college.

But in order for the formula to work, these colleges must have a critical mass of students. There have to be enough profit-generating students to allow the college to take a loss on the students who will boost selectivity™ and diversity™. This is why Simon Newman wants to increase enrollment at MSMU and why college presidents everywhere lose sleep over enrollment numbers. These pressures are not unique to liberal-arts colleges, just more acute because of their relatively small size and their already inflated tuition.

Historically, at public universities, tuition dollars have been less important for the bottom line, but this is changing. Legislators in most states have become less friendly to funding public universities, even as students and faculty become less white. Coincidence? University administrators themselves, many of them cast in the mold of Gordon Gecko (or Simon Newman), now increasingly prefer tuition dollars over state funds, which have more strings attached.

Public universities, like their private counterparts, game the rankings in order to compete for paying students, many of whom are international or from other states and pay higher tuition. One way to climb the ladder is to boost "selectivity" by making admissions standards more stringent. Consequentially, public universities become more stratified, with top flagships accepting fewer local students.

Since international and out-of-state students pay more, this limits the income diversity, and therefore the ethnic diversity, of the student body. Top publics are now hard to distinguish from private universities, where students are mostly white and wealthy. The carefully calibrated diversity quota, along with the ubiquitous "multicultural center," allow universities to plausibly claim that they support minorities. However, a closer look at demographics belies this claim."
highereducation  finance  money  tuition  2016  jonathandettman  diversity  highered 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Dr. Cornel West | Reflections on the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela | Official Web Site
[previously on militant tenderness and subversive sweetness: https://twitter.com/search?q=rogre%20militant%20tenderness ]

"The natural death of Nelson Mandela is the end of not only a monumental life but also an historic era. Like any spectacular cultural icon, Mandela was many things to all of us. Yet if we are to be true to his complex life and precious legacy, we must pierce through the superficial surfaces and market-driven fanfares. Mandela was a child of his age and a man who transcended and transformed his times. He was a revolutionary South African nationalist who embraced communists even as he embodied his Christian faith and enacted his democratic temperament. He was a congenial statesman whose prudential style and message of reconciliation saved South Africa from an ugly and bloody civil war.

Mandela the man was rooted in a rich African tradition of soulcraft that put a premium on personal piety, cultural manners and social justice. Ancestor appreciation, gentle embrace of others and fair treatment of all was shot through the "soul-making" of the young Nelson Mandela. The fusion of his royal family background, high Victorian and Edwardian education and anti-imperialist formation yielded a person of immense self-respect, moral integrity and political courage. These life-enhancing qualities pit Mandela against the life-denying realities of the dark underside of European imperialism—realities of pervasive terror, chronic trauma and vicious stigma. Yet though deeply wounded and perennially scarred by these realities, Mandela emerged from such nightmarish circumstances with sterling character—a militant tenderness, subversive sweetness and radical gentleness even acknowledged by his foes. To put it bluntly, Mandela the man chose to live a life of wise remembrance, moral reverence and political resistance rather than a life of raw ambition, blind avarice and personal subservience. More pointedly, Mandela refused to be intimidated by the Goliath-like powers of an authoritarian regime.

Mandela the revolutionary movement leader was blessed with a rich South African progressive tradition unmatched anywhere on the globe. Where else can we find so many spiritual giants and political exemplars of courage—from Desmond Tutu, Walter Sisulu, Beyers Naudé, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Albertina Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Billy Nair, Allen Boesak, Ronnie Kasrils, Rusty Bernstein, Oliver Tambo and so many others. Mandela the man was deeply shaped by the South African freedom movement. He began as a narrow black nationalist, shifted quickly to a United Front strategy, supported the armed struggle and called off the counter-violent stance only when the government renounced violence. Mandela was designated a dangerous enemy of the South African government—a terrorist, communist, traitor and hater—because he led a movement that saw South African laws as themselves criminal. He was imprisoned for over 27 years, permitted one visit and one letter every six months, forbidden to attend the funerals of his mother and oldest son, often relegated to solitary confinement, and sometimes permitted to read only his Bible because his courageous witness as part of the freedom movement constituted the major threat to the South African government. As international support for Mandela and the movement escalated (including many African leaders, the Soviet Union, and millions of people of all colors around the world) and international support for the South African regime was exposed (including America's Reagan and Britain's Thatcher), old-style apartheid began to crumble. The writing on the wall was clear as the Berlin Wall fell.

Mandela the statesman tried to hold together a fragile emerging multiracial democracy and heal a traumatized society against the backdrop of a possible civil war. This incredible balancing act highlighted the spiritual qualities and moral sentiments of Mandela the man—and made him the democratic saint of our time. Yet this gallant effort also downplayed Mandela the revolutionary movement leader who highlighted targeting wealth inequality, corporate power and sheer corruption and cronyism in high places. Mandela is the undisputed father of South African democracy because the freedom movement he led broke the back of old-style apartheid. Yet his neoliberal policies—much to the delight of corporate elites and new black middle-class beneficiaries—failed to address in a serious manner the massive unemployment, inadequate housing, poor medical facilities and decrepit education. The masses of precious poor people—disproportionately black—have been overlooked by the full-fledge integration of the South African economy into the global capitalist world.

I asked the great Nelson Mandela about this grave situation after I gave the Nelson Mandela lecture in Pretoria a few years ago. I lambasted the Santa-Clausification of Nelson Mandela that turned Mandela the man and the revolutionary leader into an unthreatening, huggable old man with a smile with bags full of toys—especially for cheering oligarchs like the Oppenheimers or newly rich elites like Cyril Ramaphosa. Even global neoliberal figures like Bill Clinton and Richard Stengel of Time Magazine become major caretakers of Mandela's legacy as his revolutionary comrades fade into the dustbin of history. As I approached him, he greeted me with a genuine smile of deep love and respect, expressed in the most elevating and encouraging language his appreciation of my righteous indignation in my speech and told me to be steadfast in my witness.

The most valuable lesson we can draw from the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela is to be neither afraid nor intimidated by the neoliberal powers that be. We must create our own deep democratic forms of soulcraft, social movements and statecraft—forms that resist the dominant forces of privatizing, financializing and militarizing that overlook poor and working people. Nelson Mandela met the most pressing challenges of his day with great dignity, decency and integrity. Let us confront the free-market fundamentalism, escalating militarism and insidious xenophobia in our day with his spirit of love, courage and humor.

-- Dr. Cornel West"

[via: "Showed kids 60 Minutes with Cornel West last night. ("I'm unimpressed by smartness.") http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-cornel-west-on-race-in-the-u-s/ "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908596540379136

"+ See also West on Mandela: "a militant tenderness, subversive sweetness and radical gentleness." http://www.cornelwest.com/nelson_mandela.html "
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/711908847695368192 ]
cornelwest  tenderness  sweetness  care  caring  gentleness  radicalism  radicalgentleness  subversivesweetness  militanttenderness  militancy  nelsonmandela  soulcraft  piety  manners  culture  justice  socialjustice  ancestors  appreciation  fairness  imperialism  trauma  terror  stigma  character  democracy  freedom  society  fear  neoliberalism  legacy  statecraft  privatization  finance  militarization  poverty  dignity  decency  integrity  courage  love  humor  canon  xenophobia  militarism  via:ablerism 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Why the Economic Fates of America’s Cities Diverged - The Atlantic
"What accounts for these anomalous and unpredicted trends? The first explanation many people cite is the decline of the Rust Belt, and certainly that played a role."



"Another conventional explanation is that the decline of Heartland cities reflects the growing importance of high-end services and rarified consumption."



"Another explanation for the increase in regional inequality is that it reflects the growing demand for “innovation.” A prominent example of this line of thinking comes from the Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti, whose 2012 book, The New Geography of Jobs, explains the increase in regional inequality as the result of two new supposed mega-trends: markets offering far higher rewards to “innovation,” and innovative people increasingly needing and preferring each other’s company."



"What, then, is the missing piece? A major factor that has not received sufficient attention is the role of public policy. Throughout most of the country’s history, American government at all levels has pursued policies designed to preserve local control of businesses and to check the tendency of a few dominant cities to monopolize power over the rest of the country. These efforts moved to the federal level beginning in the late 19th century and reached a climax of enforcement in the 1960s and ’70s. Yet starting shortly thereafter, each of these policy levers were flipped, one after the other, in the opposite direction, usually in the guise of “deregulation.” Understanding this history, largely forgotten today, is essential to turning the problem of inequality around.

Starting with the country’s founding, government policy worked to ensure that specific towns, cities, and regions would not gain an unwarranted competitive advantage. The very structure of the U.S. Senate reflects a compromise among the Founders meant to balance the power of densely and sparsely populated states. Similarly, the Founders, understanding that private enterprise would not by itself provide broadly distributed postal service (because of the high cost of delivering mail to smaller towns and far-flung cities), wrote into the Constitution that a government monopoly would take on the challenge of providing the necessary cross-subsidization.

Throughout most of the 19th century and much of the 20th, generations of Americans similarly struggled with how to keep railroads from engaging in price discrimination against specific areas or otherwise favoring one town or region over another. Many states set up their own bureaucracies to regulate railroad fares—“to the end,” as the head of the Texas Railroad Commission put it, “that our producers, manufacturers, and merchants may be placed on an equal footing with their rivals in other states.” In 1887, the federal government took over the task of regulating railroad rates with the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Railroads came to be regulated much as telegraph, telephone, and power companies would be—as natural monopolies that were allowed to remain in private hands and earn a profit, but only if they did not engage in pricing or service patterns that would add significantly to the competitive advantage of some regions over others.

Passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890 was another watershed moment in the use of public policy to limit regional inequality. The antitrust movement that sprung up during the Populist and Progressive era was very much about checking regional concentrations of wealth and power. Across the Midwest, hard-pressed farmers formed the “Granger” movement and demanded protection from eastern monopolists controlling railroads, wholesale-grain distribution, and the country’s manufacturing base. The South in this era was also, in the words of the historian C. Vann Woodward, in a “revolt against the East” and its attempts to impose a “colonial economy.”"



"By the 1960s, antitrust enforcement grew to proportions never seen before, while at the same time the broad middle class grew and prospered, overall levels of inequality fell dramatically, and midsize metro areas across the South, the Midwest, and the West Coast achieved a standard of living that converged with that of America’s historically richest cites in the East. Of course, antitrust was not the only cause of the increase in regional equality, but it played a much larger role than most people realize today.

To get a flavor of how thoroughly the federal government managed competition throughout the economy in the 1960s, consider the case of Brown Shoe Co., Inc. v. United States, in which the Supreme Court blocked a merger that would have given a single distributor a mere 2 percent share of the national shoe market.

Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren explained that the Court was following a clear and long-established desire by Congress to keep many forms of business small and local: “We cannot fail to recognize Congress’ desire to promote competition through the protection of viable, small, locally owned business. Congress appreciated that occasional higher costs and prices might result from the maintenance of fragmented industries and markets. It resolved these competing considerations in favor of decentralization. We must give effect to that decision.”

In 1964, the historian and public intellectual Richard Hofstadter would observe that an “antitrust movement” no longer existed, but only because regulators were managing competition with such effectiveness that monopoly no longer appeared to be a realistic threat. “Today, anybody who knows anything about the conduct of American business,” Hofstadter observed, “knows that the managers of the large corporations do their business with one eye constantly cast over their shoulders at the antitrust division.”

In 1966, the Supreme Court blocked a merger of two supermarket chains in Los Angeles that, had they been allowed to combine, would have controlled just 7.5 percent of the local market. (Today, by contrast there are nearly 40 metro areas in the U.S where Walmart controls half or more of all grocery sales.) Writing for the majority, Justice Harry Blackmun noted the long opposition of Congress and the Court to business combinations that restrained competition “by driving out of business the small dealers and worthy men.”

During this era, other policy levers, large and small, were also pulled in the same direction—such as bank regulation, for example. Since the Great Recession, America has relearned the history of how New Deal legislation such as the Glass-Steagall Act served to contain the risks of financial contagion. Less well remembered is how New Deal-era and subsequent banking regulation long served to contain the growth of banks that were “too big to fail” by pushing power in the banking system out to the hinterland. Into the early 1990s, federal laws severely limited banks headquartered in one state from setting up branches in any other state. State and federal law fostered a dense web of small-scale community banks and locally operated thrifts and credit unions.

Meanwhile, bank mergers, along with mergers of all kinds, faced tough regulatory barriers that included close scrutiny of their effects on the social fabric and political economy of local communities. Lawmakers realized that levels of civic engagement and community trust tended to decline in towns that came under the control of outside ownership, and they resolved not to let that happen in their time.

In other realms, too, federal policy during the New Deal and for several decades afterward pushed strongly to spread regional equality. For example, New Deal programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the Rural Electrification Administration dramatically improved the infrastructure of the South and West. During and after World War II, federal spending on the military and the space program also tilted heavily in the Sunbelt’s favor.

The government’s role in regulating prices and levels of service in transportation was also a huge factor in promoting regional equality. In 1952, the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered a 10-percent reduction in railroad freight rates for southern shippers, a political decision that played a substantial role in enabling the South’s economic ascent after the war. The ICC and state governments also ordered railroads to run money-losing long-distance and commuter passenger trains to ensure that far-flung towns and villages remained connected to the national economy.

Into the 1970s, the ICC also closely regulated trucking routes and prices so they did not tilt in favor of any one region. Similarly, the Civil Aeronautics Board made sure that passengers flying to and from small and midsize cities paid roughly the same price per mile as those flying to and from the largest cities. It also required airlines to offer service to less populous areas even when such routes were unprofitable.

Meanwhile, massive public investments in the interstate-highway system and other arterial roads added enormously to regional equality. First, it vastly increased the connectivity of rural areas to major population centers. Second, it facilitated the growth of reasonably priced suburban housing around high-wage metro areas such as New York and Los Angeles, thus making it much more possible than it is now for working-class people to move to or remain in those areas.

Beginning in the late 1970s, however, nearly all the policy levers that had been used to push for greater regional income equality suddenly reversed direction. The first major changes came during Jimmy Carter’s administration. Fearful of inflation, and under the spell of policy entrepreneurs such as Alfred Kahn, Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. This abolished the Civil Aeronautics Board, which had worked to offer rough regional parity in airfares and levels of service since 1938… [more]
us  cities  policy  economics  history  inequality  via:robinsonmeyer  2016  philliplongman  regulation  deregulation  capitalism  trusts  antitrustlaw  mergers  competition  markets  banks  finance  ronaldreagan  corporatization  intellectualproperty  patents  law  legal  equality  politics  government  rentseeking  innovation  acquisitions  antitrustenforcement  income  detroit  nyc  siliconvalley  technology  banking  peterganong  danielshoag  1950s  1960s  1970s  1980s  1990s  greatdepression  horacegreely  chicago  denver  cleveland  seattle  atlanta  houston  saltlakecity  stlouis  enricomoretti  shermanantitrustact  1890  cvannwoodward  woodrowwilson  1912  claytonantitrustact  louisbrandeis  federalreserve  minneapolis  kansascity  robinson-patmanact  1920s  1930s  miller-tydingsact  fdr  celler-kefauveract  emanuelceller  huberhumphrey  earlwarren  richardhofstadter  harryblackmun  newdeal  interstatecommercecommission  jimmycarter  alfredkahn  airlinederegulationact  1978  memphis  cincinnati  losangeles  airlines  transportation  rail  railroads  1980  texas  florida  1976  amazon  walmart  r 
march 2016 by robertogreco
I Used to Be In Love With Hillary Clinton | theindependentthinker2016
"I used to be in love with Hillary Clinton.

These days, not so much.

It always hurts when you allow yourself to be duped.

I didn’t really know Hillary.

I projected my wants onto her.

I believed that she represented me and when I found out that she didn’t it hurt.

I’ve moved on and I sincerely hope others will learn the things that I did.

I do not believe that Hillary supporters are bad people.

I believe they are just like I was.

Life is busy.

Who has time to research politicians.

Pretty lies are more fun than ugly truths.



But I can’t support someone who has done the things she has done.

Maybe you will think I am just a scorned, former lover.

All I know is that the more I learned, the more it hurt me to see someone with so many people looking up to her, do things that hurt so many.

I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton.

I cannot live with blood on my hands."
2016  hillaryclinton  us  politics  policy  corruption  money  campaignfinance  tpp  prisonindustrialcomplex  inequality  welfare  taxes  unions  labor  walmart  monsanto  climatechange  arms  miltary  democrats  podestagroup  childlabor  wallstreet  finance  racism  doma  iraq  history  libya  syria  campaigning  vicitmblaming  gender  feminism 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Universities Are Becoming Billion-Dollar Hedge Funds With Schools Attached | The Nation
" Students are beginning to urge divestment."



"All told, hedge funds have over $3 trillion worth of assets under management globally. In theory, they exist to provide a “hedge” to protect investor portfolios in tough times. Hedging, seen in this light, is simply one investment strategy among many. In practice, however, they are alternative investment vehicles that tend to be housed offshore to avoid oversight and taxes, which means they are largely unregulated, face minimal disclosure requirements, and can engage in all sorts of risky bets and market manipulations.

Not long ago universities were, in the words of one report, “careful stewards of endowment income” and avoided such shenanigans. In the early seventies Harvard and Yale spearheaded committees on investor responsibility and devised ethical investment policies for endowments that considered things like social impact. In the nineties things began to change. Many schools, private and public, have become high-risk gamblers, with finance overtaking fundraising as the main engine of endowment growth. A more aggressive approach to investing paid off—until the economy melted down and caused some endowments to lose up to 30 percent of their value.

But experts and activists have other concerns. Some commentators, for example, are troubled by public tax-exempt educational institutions doing business with companies notorious for dodging taxes in offshore havens. More generally, tax exemption is a giant government subsidy that disproportionately benefits elite schools (the ones that attract the biggest donations and earn the largest investment returns), thus further polarizing an educational system already separated into haves and have-nots.

And it gets worse. In a report called “Educational Endowments and the Financial Crisis,” Joshua Humphreys, president and senior fellow at Croatan Institute points to an even more disturbing consequence of risky investment practices. By embracing speculative trading tactics, exotic derivatives, hedge funds and private equity, “endowments played a role in magnifying certain systemic risks in the capital markets,” Humphreys writes. What’s more, their initial success encouraged other institutional investors (think pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, and foundations) to follow in their footsteps, amplifying the system’s overall volatility and instability. In other words, endowments were not just innocent victims of the 2008 financial crisis, but actually helped enable it.

“Hedge funds, as they were initially conceived, have a potential role to play in a long-term endowment seeking to ‘hedge’ certain risks,” Humphreys told me, making clear he’s hesitant to write them off entirely. “But their arbitrarily high fee structures, the excessive compensation of their managers, and their deliberate evasion of taxes and transparency make hedge funds easy targets for stakeholders rightly concerned about the simmering crisis of higher education today.”"



" The time has come for students to connect the dots between ballooning student debt, the poor treatment of campus workers, and the obscene wealth of hedge fund oligarchs. Once they do, they can fight back by following in the footsteps of recent mobilizations against the financial sector. In 2013, a group called Kick Wall Street Off Campus forced Minnesota’s Macalester College to move some, though not all, of its money out of Wells Fargo to protest the bank’s role in community foreclosures. In June of last year, Santa Cruz County pulled together to get its money out of five giant banks—including Citicorp and JPMorgan Chase and Barclays—that pleaded guilty in the spring to felony charges that they rigged the world’s foreign-currency market. Similar campaigns could easily be waged against university endowment partnerships with hedge funds.

Of course, kicking hedge funds of campus won’t solve the college crisis or instantly reform the financial sector. Nevertheless, targeting hedge funds remains a promising tactic for uniting students and workers against hedge funds’ efforts to increase inequality, and using our tuition dollars and public subsidies to do so. This tactic would be especially effective at public institutions where divestment campaigns should be coupled with calls for increased state funding for higher education and better pay for low-wage workers.

“It’s easy to feel powerless, but hedge funds need university endowments, just like they also need public pensions. If that money was taken away, it would really affect them,” Strain says, and he’s right. Campus divestment movements have a proven track record, going back to campaigns against Apartheid in the 1980s. Over the last few years, climate activists have pressured school trustees to divert trillions of dollars from fossil fuels, and last year Columbia became the first university to divest from private prisons. Hedge funds deserve to be next on the chopping block."
astrataylor  education  neoliberalism  2016  universities  colleges  endowments  divestment  finance  politics  money  hedgefunds  highered  highereducation  nonprofit  taxes  taxation  funding  inequality  ivyleague  harvard  princeton  stanford  yalconflisctsofinterest  nonprofits 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Why Harvard should be taxed ["Harvard is a 'hedge fund with a university attached to it'"] - Business Insider
"“The joke about Harvard is that it’s a hedge fund with a university attached to it,” Mark Schneider tells me. It’s a quip that, for obvious reasons, has become pretty popular in recent years.

In 2014, the university’s legendary endowment, overseen by a team of in-house experts and spread across a mind-bending array of investments that range from stocks and bonds to California wine vineyards, hit $36.4 billion.

“They’re just collecting tons, and tons, and tons of money,” says Schneider, a former Department of Education official who is currently a fellow at the American Institutes for Research.

Of course, normal hedge funds have to pay taxes on their earnings. Because it’s a nonprofit, Harvard doesn’t. And since bestowing tax exemptions is the same as spending cash from the government’s perspective (budgeteers call them “tax expenditures” for a reason), that means the American public effectively subsidizes Harvard’s moneymaking engine.

The same goes for Stanford (endowment: $21.4 billion), Princeton (endowment: $21 billion), Yale (endowment$23.9 billion), and the country’s other elite institutions of higher education.

Aiding wealthy research universities that cater to largely affluent undergraduates might have been acceptable in a more flush era. But at a time when state colleges are still suffering from deep budget cuts that have driven up tuition and politicians are stretching for ways to make school more affordable for middle-class students, clawing back some of that cash to spend on needier schools is starting to sound awfully appealing. Which is why it might just be time to start taxing Harvard and its cohort.

This isn’t a new idea by any stretch—in 2008, lawmakers in Massachusetts considered slapping a 2.5 percent tax on large university endowments—but Schneider has made an especially intriguing case for it."



"Another quandary: Today, the government generally doesn’t tax savings. It taxes income. So why take a cut of wealth from colleges when we don’t do it to individuals? As Kim Rueben, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, put it to me, “We’re going to tax Harvard, but we’re not going to tax Warren Buffet?”

And, of course, there might be unintended consequences. Even with write-offs for financial aid, taxing endowments could encourage schools to spend less on things society generally likes, such as new research labs. The government could tax schools and require them to spend a minimum amount, which is how it treats private foundations. But then you have to consider to what creative lengths Harvard might go to avoid the IRS.

Cutting down the tax advantages of rich schools, obviously, would not be simple. But it still worth seriously considering the idea. Maybe we should consider taxing the Met as well. Maybe the government could stick to what it knows and tax Harvard’s capital gains instead of its whole endowment. Maybe we could learn to live with a little tax avoidance. However we choose to do it, I think we’d all like to spend a little less money sending other people’s kids to Harvard."
colleges  highered  highereducation  nonprofit  universities  money  finance  taxes  taxation  funding  inequality  ivyleague  harvard  endowments  princeton  stanford  yale  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  government  hedgefunds  jordanweissmann  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  nonprofits  capitalism  power  control 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Who owns our cities – and why this urban takeover should concern us all | Cities | The Guardian
"The huge post-credit crunch buying up of urban buildings by corporations has significant implications for equity, democracy and rights"



"De-urbanisation

Global geographies of extraction have long been key to the western world’s economic development. And now these have moved on to urban land, going well beyond the traditional association with plantations and mines, even as these have been extended and made more brutally efficient.

The corporatising of access and control over urban land has extended not only to high-end urban sites, but also to the land beneath the homes of modest households and government offices. We are witnessing an unusually large scale of corporate buying of whole pieces of cities in the last few years. The mechanisms for these extractions are often far more complex than the outcomes, which can be quite elementary in their brutality.

One key transformation is a shift from mostly small private to large corporate modes of ownership, and from public to private. This is a process that takes place in bits and pieces, some big and some small, and to some extent these practices have long been part of the urban land market and urban development. But today’s scale-up takes it all to a whole new dimension, one that alters the historic meaning of the city.

This is particularly so because what was small and/or public is becoming large and private. The trend is to move from small properties embedded in city areas that are crisscrossed by streets and small public squares, to projects that erase much of this public tissue of streets and squares via mega-projects with large, sometimes huge, footprints. This privatises and de-urbanises city space no matter the added density.

Large cities have long been complex and incomplete. This has enabled the incorporation of diverse people, logics, politics. A large, mixed city is a frontier zone where actors from different worlds can have an encounter for which there are no established rules of engagement, and where the powerless and the powerful can actually meet.

This also makes cities spaces of innovations, small and large. And this includes innovations by those without power: even if they do not necessarily become powerful in the process, they produce components of a city, thus leaving a legacy that adds to its cosmopolitanism – something that few other places enable.

Such a mix of complexity and incompleteness ensures a capacity to shape an urban subject and an urban subjectivity. It can partly override the religious subject, the ethnic subject, the racialised subject and, in certain settings, also the differences of class. There are moments in the routines of a city when we all become urban subjects – rush hour is one such mix of time and space.

But today, rather than a space for including people from many diverse backgrounds and cultures, our global cities are expelling people and diversity. Their new owners, often part-time inhabitants, are very international – but that does not mean they represent many diverse cultures and traditions. Instead, they represent the new global culture of the successful – and they are astoundingly homogeneous, no matter how diverse their countries of birth and languages. This is not the urban subject that our large, mixed cities have historically produced. This is, above all, a global “corporate” subject.

Much of urban change is inevitably predicated on expelling what used to be. Since their beginnings, whether 3,000 years old or 100, cities have kept reinventing themselves, which means there are always winners and losers. Urban histories are replete with accounts of those who were once poor and quasi-outsiders, or modest middle classes, that gained ground – because cities have long accommodated extraordinary variety.

But today’s large-scale corporate buying of urban space in its diverse instantiations introduces a de-urbanising dynamic. It is not adding to mixity and diversity. Instead it implants a whole new formation in our cities – in the shape of a tedious multiplication of high-rise luxury buildings.

One way of putting it is that this new set of implants contains within it a logic all of its own – one which cannot be tamed into becoming part of the logics of the traditional city. It keeps its full autonomy and, one might say, gives us all its back. And that does not look pretty."
saskiasassen  provatization  cities  puclic  policy  ownership  property  urban  urbanism  2015  business  history  rights  democracy  equity  inequality  corporatization  finance  de-urbanization 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Bloom and Bust by Phillip Longman | The Washington Monthly
"Yet starting in the early 1980s, the long trend toward regional equality abruptly switched. Since then, geography has come roaring back as a determinant of economic fortune, as a few elite cities have surged ahead of the rest of the country in their wealth and income. In 1980, the per capita income of Washington, D.C., was 29 percent above the average for Americans as a whole; by 2013 it had risen to 68 percent above. In the San Francisco Bay area, the rise was from 50 percent above to 88 percent. Meanwhile, per capita income in New York City soared from 80 percent above the national average in 1980 to 172 percent above in 2013.

Adding to the anomaly is a historic reversal in the patterns of migration within the United States. Throughout almost all of the nation’s history, Americans tended to move from places where wages were lower to places where wages were higher. Horace Greeley’s advice to “Go West, young man” finds validation, for example, in historical data showing that per capita income was higher in America’s emerging frontier cities, such as Chicago in the 1850s or Denver in 1880s, than back east.

But over the last generation this trend, too, has reversed. Since 1980, the states and metro areas with the highest and fastest-growing per capita incomes have generally seen hardly, if any, net domestic in-migration, and in many notable examples have seen more people move away to other parts of the country than move in. Today, the preponderance of domestic migration is from areas with high and rapidly growing incomes to relatively poorer areas where incomes are growing at a slower pace, if at all."



"Since 1980, mergers have reduced the number of major railroads from twenty-six to seven, with just four of these mega systems controlling 90 percent of the country’s rail infrastructure. Meanwhile, many cities and towns have lost access to rail transportation altogether as railroads have abandoned secondary lines and consolidated rail service in order to maximize profits.

In this era, government spending on new roads and highways also plummeted, even as the number of people and cars continued to grow strongly. One result of this, and of the continuing failure to adequately fund mass transit and high-speed rail, has been mounting traffic congestion that reduces geographic mobility, including the ability of people to move to or remain in the areas offering the highest-paying jobs.

The New York metro area is a case in point. Between 2000 and 2009, the region’s per capita income rose from 25 percent above the average for all U.S. metro areas to 29 percent above. Yet over the same period, approximately two million more people moved away from the area to other parts of the country than moved in, according to the Census Bureau. Today, the commuter rail system that once made it comparatively easy to live in suburban New Jersey and work in Manhattan is falling apart, and commutes from other New York suburbs, whether by road or rail, are also becoming unworkable. Increasingly, this means that only the very rich can still afford to work in Manhattan, much less live there, while increasing numbers of working- and middle-class families are moving to places like Texas or Florida, hoping to break free of the gridlock, even though wages in Texas and Florida are much lower.

The next big policy change affecting regional equality was a vast retreat from antitrust enforcement of all kinds. The first turning point in this realm came in 1976 when Congress repealed the Miller-Tydings Act. This, combined with the repeal or rollback of other “fair trade” laws that had been in place since the 1920s and ’30s, created an opening for the emergence of super-chains like Walmart and, later, vertically integrated retail “platforms” like Amazon. The dominance of these retail goliaths has, in turn, devastated (to some, the preferred term is “disrupted”) locally owned retailers and led to large flows of money out of local economies and into the hands of distant owners.

Another turning point came in 1982, when President Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department adopted new guidelines for antitrust prosecutions. Largely informed by the work of Robert Bork, then a Yale law professor who had served as solicitor general under Richard Nixon, these guidelines explicitly ruled out any consideration of social cost, regional equity, or local control in deciding whether to block mergers or prosecute monopolies. Instead, the only criteria that could trigger antitrust enforcement would be either proven instances of collusion or combinations that would immediately bring higher prices to consumers.

This has led to the effective colonization of many once-great American cities, as the financial institutions and industrial companies that once were headquartered there have come under the control of distant corporations. Empirical studies have shown that when a city loses a major corporate headquarters in a merger, the replacement of locally based managers by “absentee” managers usually leads to lower levels of local corporate giving, civic engagement, employment, and investment, often setting in motion further regional decline. A Harvard Business School study that analyzed the community involvement of 180 companies in Boston, Cleveland, and Miami found that “[l]ocally headquartered companies do most for the community on every measure,” including having “the most active involvement by their leaders in prominent local civic and cultural organizations.”

According to another survey of the literature on how corporate consolidation affects the health of local communities, “local owners and managers … are more invested in the community personally and financially than ‘distant’ owners and managers.” In contrast, the literature survey finds, “branch firms are managed either by ‘outsiders’ with no local ties who are brought in for short-term assignments or by locals who have less ability to benefit the community because they lack sufficient autonomy or prestige or have less incentive because their professional advancement will require them to move.” The loss of social capital in many Heartland communities documented by Robert Putnam, George Packer, and many other observers is at least in part a consequence of the wave of corporate consolidations that occurred after the federal government largely abandoned traditional antitrust enforcement thirty-some years ago.

Financial deregulation also contributed mightily to the growth of regional inequality. Prohibitions against interstate branching disappeared entirely by the 1990s. The first-order effect was that most midsize and even major cities saw most of their major banks bought up by larger banks headquartered somewhere else. Initially, the trend strengthened some regional banking centers, such as Charlotte, North Carolina, even as it hollowed out local control of banking nearly everywhere else across America. But eventually, further financial deregulation, combined with enormous subsidies and bailouts for banks that had become “too big to fail,” led to the eclipse of even once strong regional money centers like Philadelphia and St. Louis by a handful of elite cities such as New York and London, bringing the geography of modern finance full circle back to the patterns prevailing in the Gilded Age.

Meanwhile, dramatic changes in the treatment of what, in the 1980s, came to be known as “intellectual property,” combined with the general retreat from antitrust enforcement, had the effect of vastly concentrating the geographical distribution of power in the technology sector. At the start of the 1980s, federal policy remained so hostile to patent monopolies that it refused even to grant patents for software. But then came a series of Supreme Court decisions and acts of Congress that vastly expanded the scope of patents and the monopoly power granted to patent holders. In 1991, Bill Gates reflected on the change and noted in a memo to his executives at Microsoft that “[i]f people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”

These changes caused the tech industry to become much more geographically concentrated than it otherwise would have been. They did so primarily by making the tech industry much less about engineering and much more about lawyering and deal making. In 2011, spending by Apple and Google on patent lawsuits and patent purchases exceeded their spending on research and development for the first time. Meanwhile, faced with growing barriers to entry created by patent monopolies and the consolidated power of giants like Apple and Google, the business model for most new start-ups became to sell themselves as quickly as possible to one of the tech industry’s entrenched incumbents.

For both of these reasons, success in this sector now increasingly requires being physically located where large concentrations of incumbents are seeking “innovation through acquisition,” and where there are supporting phalanxes of highly specialized legal and financial wheeler-dealers. Back in the 1970s, a young entrepreneur like Bill Gates was able to grow a new high-tech firm into a Fortune 500 company in his hometown of Seattle, which at the time was little better off than Detroit and Cleveland are today—a depopulating, worn-out manufacturing city, labeled by the Economist as “the city of despair.” Today, a young entrepreneur as smart and ambitious as the young Gates is most likely aiming to sell his company to a high-tech goliath—or will have to settle for doing so. Sure, high-tech entrepreneurs still emerge in the hinterland, and often start promising companies there. But to succeed they need to cash out, which means that they typically need to go where they’ll be in the deal flow of patent trading and mergers and acquisition, which means an already-established hub of high-tech “innovation” … [more]
us  inequality  urban  urbanism  coasts  economics  policy  politics  1980s  ronaldreagan  ip  intellectualproperty  wages  salaries  states  socialcapital  robertputnam  georgepacker  trusts  law  legal  regulation  business  finance  philliplongman 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You — Medium
"We are a community branded as leaders living through this revolutionary moment, living through this extreme winning and extreme losing. It falls on us to ask the tough questions about it.

But we here in Aspen are in a bit of a tight spot.

Our deliberations about what to do about this extreme winning and losing are sponsored by the extreme winners. This community was formed by stalwarts of American capitalism; today we sit in spaces named after Pepsi (as in the beverage) and Koch (as in the brothers); our discussion of Martin Luther King and Omelas is sponsored by folks like Accenture, David Rubenstein and someone named Pom; we are deeply enmeshed and invested in the establishment and systems we are supposed to question. And yet we are a community of leaders that claims to seek justice. These identities are tricky to reconcile.

Today I want to challenge how we reconcile them. There is no consensus on anything here, as any seminar participant knows. But I believe that many of our discussions operate within what I will call the “Aspen Consensus,” which, like the “Washington Consensus” or “Beijing Consensus,” describes a nest of shared assumptions within which diverse ideas hatch. The “Aspen Consensus” demarcates what we mostly agree not to question, even as we question so much. And though I call it the Aspen Consensus, it is in many ways the prevailing ethic among the winners of our age worldwide, across business, government and even nonprofits.

The Aspen Consensus, in a nutshell, is this: the winners of our age must be challenged to do more good. But never, ever tell them to do less harm.

The Aspen Consensus holds that capitalism’s rough edges must be sanded and its surplus fruit shared, but the underlying system must never be questioned.

The Aspen Consensus says, “Give back,” which is of course a compassionate and noble thing. But, amid the $20 million second homes and $4,000 parkas of Aspen, it is gauche to observe that giving back is also a Band-Aid that winners stick onto the system that has privileged them, in the conscious or subconscious hope that it will forestall major surgery to that system — surgery that might threaten their privileges.

The Aspen Consensus, I believe, tries to market the idea of generosity as a substitute for the idea of justice. It says: make money in all the usual ways, and then give some back through a foundation, or factor in social impact, or add a second or third bottom line to your analysis, or give a left sock to the poor for every right sock you sell.

The Aspen Consensus says, “Do more good” — not “Do less harm.”

I want to sow the seed of a difficult conversation today about this Aspen Consensus. Because I love this community, and I fear for all of us — myself very much included — that we may not be as virtuous as we think we are, that history may not be as kind to us as we hope it will, that in the final analysis our role in the inequities of our age may not be remembered well.

This may sound strange at first, because the winners of our disruptive age are arguably as concerned about the plight of the losers as any elite in human history. But the question I’m raising is about what the winners propose to do in response. And I believe the winners’ response, certainly not always but still too often, is to soften the blows of the system but to preserve the system at any cost. This response is problematic. It keeps the winners too safe. It allows far too many of us to evade hard questions about our role in contributing to the disease we also seek to treat."



"Now, a significant minority of us here don’t work in business. Yet even in other sectors, we’re living in an age in which the assumptions and values of business are more influential than they ought to be. Our culture has turned businessmen and -women into philosophers, revolutionaries, social activists, saviors of the poor. We are at risk of forgetting other languages of human progress: of morality, of democracy, of solidarity, of decency, of justice.

Sometimes we succumb to the seductive Davos dogma that the business approach is the only thing that can change the world, in the face of so much historical evidence to the contrary.

And so when the winners of our age answer the problem of inequality and injustice, all too often they answer it within the logic and frameworks of business and markets. We talk a lot about giving back, profit-sharing, win-wins, social-impact investing, triple bottom lines (which, by the way, are something my four-month-old son has).

Sometimes I wonder whether these various forms of giving back have become to our era what the papal indulgence was to the Middle Ages: a relatively inexpensive way of getting oneself seemingly on the right of justice, without having to alter the fundamentals of one’s life.

Because when you give back, when you have a side foundation, a side CSR project, a side social-impact fund, you gain an exemption from more rigorous scrutiny. You helped 100 poor kids in the ghetto learn how to code. The indulgence spares you from questions about the larger systems and structures you sustain that benefit you and punish others: weak banking regulations and labor laws, zoning rules that happen to keep the poor far from your neighborhood, porous safety nets, the enduring and unrepaired legacies of slavery and racial supremacy and caste systems.

These systems and structures have victims, and we here are at risk, I think, of confusing generosity toward those victims with justice for those victims. For generosity is a win-win, but justice often is not. The winners of our age don’t enjoy the idea that some of them might actually have to lose, to sacrifice, for justice to be done. In Aspen you don’t hear a lot of ideas involving the privileged and powerful actually being in the wrong, and needing to surrender their status and position for the sake of justice.

We talk a lot here about giving more. We don’t talk about taking less.

We talk a lot here about what we should be doing more of. We don’t talk about what we should be doing less of.

I think sometimes that our Aspen Consensus has an underdeveloped sense of human darkness. There is risk in too much positivity. Sometimes to do right by people, you must begin by naming who is in the wrong.

So let’s just come out and say the thing you’re never supposed to say in Aspen: that many of the winners of our age are active, vigorous contributors to the problems they bravely seek to solve. And for the greater good to prevail on any number of issues, some people will have to lose — to actually do less harm, and not merely more good.

We know that enlightened capital didn’t get rid of the slave trade. Impact investing didn’t abolish child labor and put fire escapes on tenement factories. Drug makers didn’t stop slipping antifreeze into medicine as part of a CSR initiative. In each of these cases, the interests of the many had to defeat the interests of the recalcitrant few.

Look, I know this speech won’t make me popular at the bar tonight. But this, for me, is an act of stepping into the arena — something our wonderful teacher-moderators challenged us to do.

I know many of you agree with me already, because we have bonded for years over a shared feeling that something in this extraordinary community didn’t feel quite right. There are many others who, instead of criticizing as I do, are living rejections of this Aspen Consensus — quitting lucrative lives, risking everything, to fight the system. You awe me: you who battle for gay rights in India, who live ardently among the rural poor in South Africa, who risk assassination or worse to report news of corruption.

I am not speaking to you tonight, and I know there are many of you. I am speaking to those who, like me, may feel caught between the ideals championed by this Institute and the self-protective instinct that is always the reflex of people with much to lose.

I am as guilty as anyone. I am part of the wave of gentrification and displacement in Brooklyn, one of the most rapidly gentrifying places in America. Any success I’ve had can be traced to my excellent choice in parents and their ability to afford incredibly expensive private schools. I like good wine. I use Uber — a lot. I once stole playing cards from a private plane. I want my new son to have everything I can give him, even though I know that this is the beginning of the inequality I loathe.

I often wonder if what I do — writing — is capable of making any difference.

When I entered this fellowship, I was so taken with that summons to make a difference. But, to be honest, I have also always had a complicated relationship to this place.

I have heard too many of us talking of how only after the IPO or the next few million will we feel our kids have security. These inflated notions of what it takes to “make a living” and “support a family” are the beginning of so much neglect of our larger human family.

I walk into too many rooms named for people and companies that don’t mean well for the world, and then in those rooms we talk and talk about making the world better.

I struggled in particular with the project. I couldn’t figure out what bothered me about it for the longest time. I wasn’t very good at coming up with one or getting it done.

And I realized, through conversation with fellows in similar dilemmas, what my problem was. Many people, including some being featured later tonight, are engaged in truly extraordinary and commendable projects. We are at our best when our projects take the system head on. But I wrestled with what I perceived to be the idea behind the project, of creating generous side endeavors rather than fighting to reform, bite by bite, the hands that feed us. I felt the project distracted us from the real question: is your regular life — not your side project — on the right side … [more]
anandgiridharadas  capitalism  change  cooperation  aspeninstitute  philanthropy  climatechange  inequality  virtue  competition  inequity  elitism  power  systemschange  privilege  finance  wealth  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  wealthdistribution  davos  riggedgames  goldmansachs  indulgence  handwashing  via:tealtan  risk  stackeddecks  labor  employment  disruption  work  civics  commongood  abstraction  business  corporatism  corporations  taxes  government  socialgood  virtualization  economics  politics  policy  speculation  democracy  solidarity  socialjustice  neoliberalism  well-being  decency  egalitarianism  community  indulgences  noblesseoblige  absolution  racism  castes  leadership  generosity  sacrifice  gambling  gender  race  sexism  emotionallabor  positivity  slavery  socialsafetnet  winwin  zerosum  gentrification  stewardship  paradigmshifts  charitableindustrialcomplex  control 
august 2015 by robertogreco
Trickle-Down Economics Must Die, Long Live Grow-Up Economics — Basic income — Medium
"For over thirty years we’ve treated something as fact which is actually false. Economists we trusted to know better, didn’t, and so people have suffered and continue to suffer. This pernicious economic myth is the idea that a rising yacht lifts all tides, or as more popularly described, “trickle-down economics.” If we are to start running our economy in a way we could one day describe as notably less insane, we must finally come to see it for what it actually is.

An Undead Idea
This belief that it’s good economics to give a relatively greater and greater share of the pie to the top of the economic spectrum because the absolute sizes of all remaining shares will grow, has taken some mortal hits in recent years by some major players, most notably even the OECD and IMF. In fact, it has now reached the point that the idea even being left alive at all in the minds of anyone, makes it a good candidate as an extra in The Walking Dead.

Surveying the data, we’ll start with Wall Street bonuses versus the economic multiplier effects of higher velocity money, go on to economic growth research in relation to distributional inequality, and end with what we know from global cash transfer evidence and the economic effects of billionaires. Let’s burn this undead idea of inequality-driven economic growth with napalm and bury it in concrete shall we?"



"What Mother Jones neglected to mention however is something that goes well beyond “fucked up”, and something which did not go unmentioned in a piece by the Institute for Policy Studies after identical news the year prior.
Every extra dollar going into the pockets of low-wage workers, standard economic multiplier models tell us, adds about $1.21 to the national economy. Every extra dollar going into the pockets of a high-income American, by contrast, only adds about 39 cents to the GDP. These pennies add up considerably on $26.7 billion in earnings. If the $26.7 billion Wall Streeters pulled in on bonuses in 2013 had gone to minimum wage workers instead, our GDP would have grown by about $32.3 billion, over triple the $10.4 billion boost expected from the Wall Street bonuses.

Yeah, you just read that right. In 2013, by giving huge bonuses to those on Wall Street instead of low-wage workers, we actively prevented the creation of about $22 billion in additional national wealth. In 2014, we did the same thing, but to an even larger degree, preventing about $23 billion in additional national wealth that would have otherwise been created, had those billions in bonuses been distributed to low-income earners instead."



"Our politics have become a twisted version of the principles we claim to hold dear, where everyone is to have a voice in this supposed democracy of ours. Instead, dollars have become speech, and where dollars are speech, the voices of the many are drowned out in a deluge of the best speech money can buy.

When 1% of the electorate has the majority of the voice, democracy does not exist. When 1% of the electorate owns the majority of the stocks and bonds, the economy is effectively privately owned. The phrase “going public” with each new IPO holds little actual meaning today. When 1% of the electorate is able to rig the game in their favor, they do, but as if that isn’t bad enough, a rigged game destroys the game itself.

By allowing our inequality to grow to the point it exists now, every single one of us is supporting something against our own best interests, poor and rich alike. To continue to allow our economy to fallaciously serve only the interests of a small fraction of the population, everyone will be worse off.

We need to recognize myths where they are perpetuated and the myth of trickle-down economics can not be allowed to stand any longer in the 21st century. To grow our economies we need to accept the policies that enable economies to flourish. Policies that reduce our inequality — policies like universal basic income designed to move stagnant money from the hands at the top not spending it into the hands of all those who will — are the policies we need.

No more trickle-down economics.

Without a pump to circulate money throughout our entire economy, systemic failure is inevitable. Essentially, the economy needs a heart, not more blood, because on its own, money has one net direction — up. It’s time for our economics to grow up too, in realization that all economies are built from the ground up, upon the shoulders of the many — not the few — who comprise them.

The fact that even the phrase “trickle down” as a description of government policy was born in the mind of a comedian, should serve as a sober reminder of how the joke has always been, and without needed changes will continue to remain, entirely on us."
economics  trickledowneconomics  scottsantens  2015  growth  inequality  ha-joonchang  finance  wallastreet  politics  policy 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Entrepreneurs don’t have a special gene for risk—they come from families with money - Quartz
"We’re in an era of the cult of the entrepreneur. We analyze the Tory Burches and Evan Spiegels of the world looking for a magic formula or set of personality traits that lead to success. Entrepreneurship is on the rise, and more students coming out of business schools are choosing startup life over Wall Street.

But what often gets lost in these conversations is that the most common shared trait among entrepreneurs is access to financial capital—family money, an inheritance, or a pedigree and connections that allow for access to financial stability. While it seems that entrepreneurs tend to have an admirable penchant for risk, it’s usually that access to money which allows them to take risks.

And this is a key advantage: When basic needs are met, it’s easier to be creative; when you know you have a safety net, you are more willing to take risks. “Many other researchers have replicated the finding that entrepreneurship is more about cash than dash,” University of Warwick professor Andrew Oswald tells Quartz. “Genes probably matter, as in most things in life, but not much.”

University of California, Berkeley economists Ross Levine and Rona Rubenstein analyzed the shared traits of entrepreneurs in a 2013 paper, and found that most were white, male, and highly educated. “If one does not have money in the form of a family with money, the chances of becoming an entrepreneur drop quite a bit,” Levine tells Quartz.

New research out this week from the National Bureau of Economic Research (paywall) looked at risk-taking in the stock market and found that environmental factors (not genetic) most influenced behavior, pointing to the fact that risk tolerance is conditioned over time (dispelling the myth of an elusive “entrepreneurship gene“).

Resilience is undoubtably a necessary trait for success; many notable entrepreneurs experienced success only after leading failed ventures. But the barrier to entry is very high.

For creative professions, starting a new venture is the ultimate privilege. Many startup founders do not take a salary for some time. The average cost to launch a startup is around $30,000, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor show that more than 80% of funding for new businesses comes from personal savings and friends and family.

“Following your dreams is dangerous,” a 31-year-old woman who runs in social entrepreneurship circles in New York, and asked not to be named, told Quartz. “This whole bulk of the population is being seduced into thinking that they can just go out and pursue their dream anytime, but it’s not true.”
1
So while yes, there’s certainly a lot of hard work that goes into building something, there’s also a lot of privilege involved—a factor that is often underestimated."
entrepreneurship  economics  business  inequality  wealth  2015  startups  aimeegroth  oligarchy  plutocracy  establishment  risk  risktaking  capital  capitalism  finance  privilege  conservatism 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Exclusive: Yanis Varoufakis opens up about his five month battle to save Greece
" “It’s not that it didn’t go down well – there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on, to make sure it’s logically coherent, and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply.”

This weekend divisions surfaced within the Eurogroup, with countries split between those who seemed to want a “Grexit” and those demanding a deal. But Varoufakis said they were always been united in one respect: their refusal to renegotiate.

“There were people who were sympathetic at a personal level, behind closed doors, especially from the IMF.” He confirmed that he was referring to Christine Lagarde, the IMF director. “But then inside the Eurogroup [there were] a few kind words and that was it: back behind the parapet of the official version. … Very powerful figures look at you in the eye and say ‘You’re right in what you’re saying, but we’re going to crunch you anyway’.”

Varoufakis was reluctant to name individuals, but added that the governments that might have been expected to be the most sympathetic towards Greece were actually their “most energetic enemies”. He said that the “greatest nightmare” of those with large debts – the governments of countries like Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland – “was our success”. “Were we to succeed in negotiating a better deal, that would obliterate them politically: they would have to answer to their own people why they didn’t negotiate like we were doing.”"



"The referendum of 5 July has also been rapidly forgotten. It was preemptively dismissed by the Eurozone, and many people saw it as a farce – a sideshow that offered a false choice and created false hope, and was only going to ruin Tsipras when he later signed the deal he was campaigning against. As Schäuble supposedly said, elections cannot be allowed to change anything. But Varoufakis believes that it could have changed everything. On the night of the referendum he had a plan, Tsipras just never quite agreed to it.

The Eurozone can dictate terms to Greece because it is no longer fearful of a Grexit. It is convinced that its banks are now protected if Greek banks default. But Varoufakis thought that he still had some leverage: once the ECB forced Greece’s banks to close, he could act unilaterally.

He said he spent the past month warning the Greek cabinet that the ECB would close Greece’s banks to force a deal. When they did, he was prepared to do three things: issue euro-denominated IOUs; apply a “haircut” to the bonds Greek issued to the ECB in 2012, reducing Greece’s debt; and seize control of the Bank of Greece from the ECB.

None of the moves would constitute a Grexit but they would have threatened it. Varoufakis was confident that Greece could not be expelled by the Eurogroup; there is no legal provision for such a move. But only by making Grexit possible could Greece win a better deal. And Varoufakis thought the referendum offered Syriza the mandate they needed to strike with such bold moves – or at least to announce them.

He hinted at this plan on the eve of the referendum, and reports later suggested this was what cost him his job. He offered a clearer explanation.

As the crowds were celebrating on Sunday night in Syntagma Square, Syriza’s six-strong inner cabinet held a critical vote. By four votes to two, Varoufakis failed to win support for his plan, and couldn’t convince Tsipras. He had wanted to enact his “triptych” of measures earlier in the week, when the ECB first forced Greek banks to shut. Sunday night was his final attempt. When he lost his departure was inevitable.

“That very night the government decided that the will of the people, this resounding ‘No’, should not be what energised the energetic approach [his plan]. Instead it should lead to major concessions to the other side: the meeting of the council of political leaders, with our Prime Minister accepting the premise that whatever happens, whatever the other side does, we will never respond in any way that challenges them. And essentially that means folding. … You cease to negotiate.”

Varoufakis’s resignation brought an end to a four-and-a-half year partnership with Tsipras, a man he met for the first time in late 2010. An aide to Tsipras had sought him out after his criticisms of George Papandreou’s government, which accepted the first Troika bailout in 2010.

“He [Tsipras] wasn’t clear back then what his views were, on the drachma versus the euro, on the causes of the crises, and I had very, well shall I say, ‘set views’ on what was going on. A dialogue begun … I believe that I helped shape his views of what should be done.”

And yet Tsipras diverged from him at the last. He understands why. Varoufakis could not guarantee that a Grexit would work. After Syriza took power in January, a small team had, “in theory, on paper,” been thinking through how it might. But he said that, “I’m not sure we would manage it, because managing the collapse of a monetary union takes a great deal of expertise, and I’m not sure we have it here in Greece without the help of outsiders.” More years of austerity lie ahead, but he knows Tsipras has an obligation to “not let this country become a failed state”.

Their relationship remains “extremely amicable”, he said, although when we spoke on Thursday, they hadn’t talked all week."

[See also: http://www.newstatesman.com/world-affairs/2015/07/yanis-varoufakis-full-transcript-our-battle-save-greece ]
greece  europe  debt  politics  2105  grexit  yanisvaroufakis  policy  imf  europeanunion  finance  economics  democracy  germany 
july 2015 by robertogreco
How 50 reporters exposed the World Bank’s broken promises | International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
"At a military camp in a violence-stained region of Central America, a Honduran Army officer informed Sasha Chavkin that he knew the reporter’s itinerary – where Chavkin was going and the people he planned to interview. When Chavkin asked how he had acquired this information, the colonel said simply: “Yo soy un militar.” (“I am a military man.”)

In Kenya’s western highlands, rifle-toting officers from the Kenya Forest Service confronted Anthony Langat and Jacob Kushner as the Nairobi-based reporters tried to interview indigenous peoples who claimed forest rangers had burned them out of their homes. The officers questioned the reporters for nearly an hour, refusing to say whether they were under arrest.

Along the Gulf of Kutch, a manager for one of India’s largest coal-powered plants, flanked by security guards, confronted Barry Yeoman, a freelance magazine journalist: Who was he and what was he doing at the fishing settlement near the plant? When Yeoman tried to sidestep the questions, one of the guards said they already knew who he was: “Aren’t you with ICIJ?”

These kinds of encounters aren’t unusual when it comes to boots-in-the-mud foreign reporting. What’s different is that all these journalists were working together, on the same story, as a part of a reporting partnership involving more than 50 journalists led by ICIJ, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Their subject: How power plants, dams and other big projects bankrolled by the World Bank can harm people and the environment.

Over the course of a decade, the reporting team found, projects financed by the World Bank physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people. These vulnerable people, often among the poorest in their societies, were forced from their homes, lost land or other assets or saw their livelihoods damaged. During this period, the investigation found, the bank regularly failed to follow its own rules for protecting the people living in the path of development.

To show the human consequences of the bank’s investments, reporters from ICIJ, The Huffington Post and more than 20 other ICIJ media partners reported on the ground in 14 countries. They traveled to isolated villages and urban slums in the Balkans, Asia, Africa and Latin America. They entered areas bloodied by civil conflicts. And they asked tough questions in places where journalists are often watched, questioned and, in some instances, targeted for violence or arrest.

“What connects a lot of the work on the investigation is that people were reporting in places where the local authorities are heavily invested in controversial projects,” says Ben Hallman, an editor and reporter for HuffPost who traveled to the mountains of Peru as a part of the investigation. “These places tend to have weak rule of law, and essentially the system that exists is opposed to you getting out the story. There’s definitely a chilling effect.”

ICIJ is a non-profit news organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. We have a full-time staff of 11 in the U.S., Europe and Latin America and 190 member journalists in 65 countries who team with us on cross-border reporting collaborations.

At ICIJ, we operate on the principle that many stories are too big, too complicated and too global for a lone-wolf muckraker – or even a single news organization – to tackle.

That’s certainly the case with the reporting team’s World Bank Group investigation, which focuses on a sprawling organization with more than 10,000 employees and a PR operation that works hard to deflect negative coverage.

The World Bank Group is owned by 188 member countries, with the U.S. and a few other Western nations holding much of the voting power. It funnels money to governments and corporations with the goal, it says, of ending extreme poverty.

Its push to end poverty is complicated by the reality that dams and other game-changing projects can make things worse rather than better for people nearby. People forced to resettle because of big projects often end up poorer than before. Some face hunger and disease. Even when people aren’t evicted from their homes, projects can destroy or damage their livelihoods. A dam that changes a river flow, for example, can drastically reduce catches for fishing communities.

The World Bank’s “safeguard” rules are supposed to protect people whose lives are disrupted by its investments. Families pushed from their homes must be provided new homes. People whose ability to earn a living has been damaged must get help to restore or replace their livelihoods.

The bank often fails to enforce these rules. In some cases, the World Bank and its private-sector lending arm, the International Finance Corp., have financed governments or companies accused of human rights violations such as rape, murder and torture.

In Kenya, for example, indigenous people claim they have been burned out of their homes and evicted from ancestral forests by a World Bank-funded forest conservation program.

“I don’t understand why they chase us like this,” Selly Rotich, a mother of five, told Langat and Kushner in September as she sat outside her scorched home in Kenya’s Embobut Forest."
worldbank  development  kenya  india  honduras  sashachavkin  anthonylangat  jacobkushner  barryyeoman  journalism  balkans  latinamerica  asia  africa  investment  economics  policy  politics  finance 
july 2015 by robertogreco
—Ethel Baraona Pohl— dpr-barcelona — Have several mixed feelings by the inherent...
"Have several mixed feelings by the inherent contradictions from this crowdfunding project. At first sight it seems like a great, creative idea, but with a simple double thought, you realise how easy is to ‘find a creative solution’ for our problems, without thinking in deep if the problem doesn’t rely on our need of keep doing the same again and again… I mean collecting the same old money that will go to the same old banks, and not to the citizens in Greece; because, where does the final goal of this campaign will go if it succeed? To Tsirpas pocket? Don’t think so.

As a symbolic project is super strong indeed, but perhaps we need to use 'the power of the crowd’ to ask responsibilities to the EU, to remind them about the real fact that we are already 'crowdfunding’ our social health by paying our taxes —taxes that are being used to rescue banks and enrich the rich—. The problem at the end is not the money, is the failed system of considering 'democratic’ those decisions taken by just a few, and even worse, when those few are economic institution (FMI, CEB, etc.)

Perhaps we need the 'power of the crowd not to collect the same old money that has taken us to this stupid discourse of austerity, but to think how to use the collective power to provoke structural changes in the political field. Difficult though, but which change hasn’t been difficult along history?"
ethelbaraonapohl  2015  greece  bailouts  crowdfunding  imf  debt  money  power  change  systemsthinking  creativity  zoominginandzoomingout  finance  banks  banking  capitalism  policy  politics  geopolitics 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The microfinance delusion: who really wins? | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian
"Far from being a panacea, small loans add to poverty and undermine people by saddling them with unsustainable debt, argues anthropologist Jason Hickel"

"I’m always amazed at how many students show up each year in the classrooms of the London School of Economics, where I teach, quivering with excitement about microfinance and other “bottom-of-the-pyramid” development strategies. Like eager young missionaries, they feel they’ve stumbled upon the One Idea that is sure to save the world.

Would that it were true. What’s so fascinating about the microfinance craze is that it persists in the face of one unfortunate fact: microfinance doesn’t work. Of course, there are some lovely anecdotes out there about the transformative power of micro-loans, but as David Roodman from the Center for Global Development put it in his recent book, “The best estimate of the average impact of microcredit on the poverty of clients is zero.” This is not a fringe opinion. A comprehensive DFID-funded review of extant data comes to the same conclusion: the microfinance craze has been built on “foundations of sand” because “no clear evidence yet exists that microfinance programmes have positive impacts.”

In fact, it turns out that microfinance usually ends up making poverty worse. The reasons for this are fairly simple. Most microfinance loans are used to fund consumption – to help people buy the basic necessities they need to survive. In South Africa, for example, consumption accounts for 94% of microfinance use. As a result, borrowers don’t generate any new income that they can use to repay their loans so they end up taking out new loans to repay the old ones, wrapping themselves in layers of debt.

When micro-loans are used to fund new businesses, budding entrepreneurs tend to encounter a lack of consumer demand. After all, their potential customers are poor and low on cash, and what little money they do have gets spent on basic goods that tend already to be available. In this context, new businesses end up displacing already-existing ones, yielding no net increase in employment and incomes. And that’s the best of the likely outcomes. The worst – and much more likely – is that the new businesses fail, which then leads, once again, to vicious cycles of over-indebtedness that drive borrowers even further into poverty.

This demand-side problem can be stated quite simply: poor people don’t have enough money. Apparently we need expensive research studies to point this out.

The only consistent winners in the microfinance game are the lenders, many of whom charge exorbitant interest rates that sometimes reach up to 200% per annum (as in the case of Banco Compartamos). In the past we would have called such people loan sharks, but today they’re called microfinance providers, and they crown themselves with the moral halo that this term carries. Microfinance has become a socially acceptable mechanism for extracting wealth and resources from poor people.

The failure of microfinance is recognised at even the highest levels, and yet for some reason it retains its staying power, like a zombie that refuses to die. Why is microfinance such a resilient idea? Because it promises an elegant, win-win solution to the problem of poverty. It assures us that we – the rich world – can eradicate poverty in the global South without any cost to us, and without any threat to existing arrangements of political and economic power. In other words, it promises revolution without the messiness of class struggle. And, what is more, it promises that we can help save the poor while making money from it. It’s an irresistible tale.

It’s also a very effective tool of political control. Milford Bateman, one of the most compelling critics of microfinance, points out that the movement had its roots in the US government’s “containment strategy” in Latin America. The idea was to prevent people from subscribing to leftist movements by reframing poverty not as a political problem, but as a private problem. Microfinance became a powerful way of casting the poor as responsible for bootstrapping themselves out of poverty: all you need is a bit of gumption and some credit, and you should do just fine – if you fail, you have no one to blame but yourself.

It’s the neoliberal development strategy par excellence. Forget about colonialism, structural adjustment, austerity, financial crises, land grabs, tax evasion, and climate change. Forget about challenging the concentration of power and wealth. And, above all, forget about collective mobilisation. Bankers shall be our new heroes and debt our salvation. Debt, incidentally, is a great way to keep people docile.

If we expand our view to encompass the actual causes of poverty, it becomes clear that microfinance just won’t do. Structural problems require structural solutions. What might this look like? We could start by democratising the World Bank and the IMF, renegotiating trade agreements, clamping down on capital flight, rebuilding labour rights, and so on. If we want to eliminate poverty, rich countries and rich individuals are going to have to feel the pinch – there’s no way around it. Unfortunately, the missionaries of microfinance are unlikely to be happy about this.

This is not to say that we should abolish microfinance altogether, but simply that microfinance will never work until we address the background conditions that produce poverty in the first place. We also need to set up the right systems for small businesses to succeed, such as strong subsidies, state assistance, and welfare support to prop up entrepreneurs when they fail – the very systems that neoliberalism has convinced us to abandon.

There’s also a much more immediate solution we could try. Why not just give money to the poor, for free? A growing body of evidence suggests that direct cash transfers, with no strings attached, not only deliver success where microfinance fails, they appear to be the single most impactful anti-poverty intervention available. Experiments with basic income grants have been conducted in Namibia, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia, and elsewhere, all with astonishingly good results. They smooth out consumption deficits, improve health indicators, and allow people to start small businesses that are successful because they can take advantage of increased local demand.

The beauty of this approach is not just that it actually works; it also brings about a fundamental change of attitude toward the poor. It treats them not as hopeless victims to be pitied with charity, nor as sources of potential value for a rapacious financial sector, but rather as human beings with an innate right to the wealth that we draw from our planet’s common resources."
jasonhickel  2015  microfinance  leanding  loans  usury  finance  economics  poverty  debt 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Iceland put bankers in jail rather than bailing them out — and it worked - Vox
"Yesterday, Iceland's prime minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, announced a plan that will essentially close the books on his country's approach to handling the financial crisis — an approach that deviated greatly from the preferences of global financial elites and succeeded quite well. Instead of embracing the orthodoxy of bank bailouts, austerity, and low inflation, Iceland did just the opposite. And even though its economy was hammered by the banking crisis perhaps harder than any other in the world, its labor didn't deteriorate all that much, and it had a great recovery.

How great? Well, compare the evolution of Iceland's unemployment rate with what happened in Ireland, the star pupil of the Very Serious People:

[chart]

Or compare it with the United States:

[chart]

How did Iceland pull it off?

Let the banks go bust

For starters, rather than scrambling to mobilize public resources to make sure banks didn't default on their various obligations, Iceland let the banks go bust. Executives of the country's most important bank were prosecuted as criminals.

Reject austerity

[chart]

Iceland was nonetheless hit by a very serious recession that caused its debt-to-GDP ratio to soar. But even after several years of steady increases, the government didn't panic. It prioritized recovery. And when recovery was underway and the ratio began to fall, the government let it fall gently.

Devalue and accept inflation

[chart]

There's no free lunch in life, and no country recovers from a severe recession without some bad things happening. But while most developed countries have gone through years of grindingly high unemployment paired with super-low inflation, Iceland did the reverse. It let the value of its currency tumble, which naturally brought about higher prices.

But as a result, the country's export industries rapidly gained ground in international markets. Unemployment rose, but maxed out at a modest 7.6 percent before falling steadily to a very low level. In the US and Europe, the priority has been on low inflation to protect the asset values of the wealthy. Iceland prioritized jobs, and it worked.

Impose temporary capital controls

In the context of bank defaults and a plunging currency, the government felt it was necessary to impose an additional measure — capital controls, regulations restricting Icelandic citizens' ability to take their money out of the country. This is a serious violation of free market orthodoxy. More importantly, it can be a major hassle to ordinary people's lives and an impediment to starting new businesses. In some countries, like Argentina, capital controls become a breeding ground of corruption and mischief.

That leads some to believe that no matter how well heterodox policies work economically, they're ultimately doomed to political failure.

Iceland shows that's not the case. Getting policy right is difficult, but it can be done. And the upside to doing the right thing — devaluing the currency massively, then imposing capital controls to contain the fallout, then ending the capital controls once the economy recovers — can be enormous. Iceland has had a rough time over the past seven or eight years, but so have a lot of other countries. Things are looking up there now because the country's leaders had the wisdom to reject elements of the self-satisfied conventional wisdom that have proven so harmful elsewhere."
iceland  banking  greatrecession  austerity  finance  2015  economics  matthewyglesias  unemployment  employment  labor  policy  politics  regulation  capitalcontols  currency  devaluation  inflation 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Robert Reich (The Political Roots of Widening Inequality)
"A deeper understanding of what has happened to American incomes over the last 25 years requires an examination of changes in the organization of the market. These changes stem from a dramatic increase in the political power of large corporations and Wall Street to change the rules of the market in ways that have enhanced their profitability, while reducing the share of economic gains going to the majority of Americans.

This transformation has amounted to a redistribution upward, but not as “redistribution” is normally defined. The government did not tax the middle class and poor and transfer a portion of their incomes to the rich. The government undertook the upward redistribution by altering the rules of the game.

Intellectual property rights—patents, trademarks, and copyrights—have been enlarged and extended, for example. This has created windfalls for pharmaceuticals, high tech, biotechnology, and many entertainment companies, which now preserve their monopolies longer than ever. It has also meant high prices for average consumers, including the highest pharmaceutical costs of any advanced nation.

At the same time, antitrust laws have been relaxed for corporations with significant market power. This has meant large profits for Monsanto, which sets the prices for most of the nation’s seed corn; for a handful of companies with significant market power over network portals and platforms (Amazon, Facebook, and Google); for cable companies facing little or no broadband competition (Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, Verizon); and for the largest Wall Street banks, among others. And as with intellectual property rights, this market power has simultaneously raised prices and reduced services available to average Americans. (Americans have the most expensive and slowest broadband of any industrialized nation, for example.)

Financial laws and regulations instituted in the wake of the Great Crash of 1929 and the consequential Great Depression have been abandoned—restrictions on interstate banking, on the intermingling of investment and commercial banking, and on banks becoming publicly held corporations, for example—thereby allowing the largest Wall Street banks to acquire unprecedented influence over the economy. The growth of the financial sector, in turn, spawned junk-bond financing, unfriendly takeovers, private equity and “activist” investing, and the notion that corporations exist solely to maximize shareholder value.

Bankruptcy laws have been loosened for large corporations—notably airlines and automobile manufacturers—allowing them to abrogate labor contracts, threaten closures unless they receive wage concessions, and leave workers and communities stranded. Notably, bankruptcy has not been extended to homeowners who are burdened by mortgage debt and owe more on their homes than the homes are worth, or to graduates laden with student debt. Meanwhile, the largest banks and auto manufacturers were bailed out in the downturn of 2008–2009. The result has been to shift the risks of economic failure onto the backs of average working people and taxpayers.

Contract laws have been altered to require mandatory arbitration before private judges selected by big corporations. Securities laws have been relaxed to allow insider trading of confidential information. CEOs have used stock buybacks to boost share prices when they cash in their own stock options. Tax laws have created loopholes for the partners of hedge funds and private-equity funds, special favors for the oil and gas industry, lower marginal income-tax rates on the highest incomes, and reduced estate taxes on great wealth.

All these instances represent distributions upward—toward big corporations and financial firms, and their executives and shareholders—and away from average working people."



"The underlying problem, then, is not that most Americans are “worth” less in the market than they had been, or that they have been living beyond their means. Nor is it that they lack enough education to be sufficiently productive. The more basic problem is that the market itself has become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it, while average workers have steadily lost bargaining power—both economic and political—to receive as large a portion of the economy’s gains as they commanded in the first three decades after World War II. As a result, their means have not kept up with what the economy could otherwise provide them.

To attribute this to the impersonal workings of the “free market” is to disregard the power of large corporations and the financial sector, which have received a steadily larger share of economic gains as a result of that power. As their gains have continued to accumulate, so has their power to accumulate even more.

Under these circumstances, education is no panacea. Reversing the scourge of widening inequality requires reversing the upward distributions within the rules of the market, and giving workers the bargaining leverage they need to get a larger share of the gains from growth. Yet neither will be possible as long as large corporations and Wall Street have the power to prevent such a restructuring. And as they, and the executives and managers who run them, continue to collect the lion’s share of the income and wealth generated by the economy, their influence over the politicians, administrators, and judges who determine the rules of the game may be expected to grow.

The answer to this conundrum is not found in economics. It is found in politics. The changes in the organization of the economy have been reinforcing and cumulative: As more of the nation’s income flows to large corporations and Wall Street and to those whose earnings and wealth derive directly from them, the greater is their political influence over the rules of the market, which in turn enlarges their share of total income.

The more dependent politicians become on their financial favors, the greater is the willingness of such politicians and their appointees to reorganize the market to the benefit of these moneyed interests. The weaker unions and other traditional sources of countervailing power become economically, the less able they are to exert political influence over the rules of the market, which causes the playing field to tilt even further against average workers and the poor.

Ultimately, the trend toward widening inequality in America, as elsewhere, can be reversed only if the vast majority, whose incomes have stagnated and whose wealth has failed to increase, join together to demand fundamental change. The most important political competition over the next decades will not be between the right and left, or between Republicans and Democrats. It will be between a majority of Americans who have been losing ground, and an economic elite that refuses to recognize or respond to its growing distress."
robertreich  2015  economics  inequality  histoy  corporatism  politics  policy  wealth  productivity  globalization  markets  capitalism  labor  work  insecutiry  greatrecession  recession  unemployment  underemployment  finance  banks  banking  wallstreet  education  government  ideology 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The US payday loans crisis: borrow $100 to make ends meet, owe 36 times that sum | US news | The Guardian
"In Missouri, there are 958 more payday lenders than there are McDonald’s restaurants as payday loans have become part of the economic landscape"



"Poor Americans no longer live check to check: they live loan to loan, with no end in sight."
loans  paydayloans  us  2015  poverty  usury  paydaylending  sarahkendzior  injustice  finance  banks  banking  money  inequality  evil 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Re:publica Keynote: The System is Broken – That’s the Good News | ... My heart’s in Accra
"…Ivan Krastev, chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies, in Sofia, Bulgaria. He worries that even if protests like the Indignados or Occupy succeed in ousting a government, much of what protesters are asking for is not possible. “Voters can change governments, yet it is nearly impossible for them to change economic policies.” When Indignados grows into Podemos, Krastev predicts that it’s going to be very hard for them to truly reverse policies on austerity – global financial markets are unlikely to let them do so, punish them by making it impossibly expensive to borrow

Krastev offers the example of how Italy finally got rid of Silvio Berlusconi – wasn’t through popular protest, but through the bond market – the bond market priced italian debt at 6.5%, and Berlusconi resigned, leaving Mario Monti to put austerity measures in place. You may have been glad to see Berlusconi go, but don’t mistake this as a popular revolt that kicked him out – it was a revolt by global lenders, and basically set the tone for what the market would allow an Italian leader to do. As Krastev puts it, “Politics has been reduced to the art of adjusting to the imperatives of the market” – we’ve got an interesting test of whether this theory is right with Syriza, a left-wing party rooted in anti-austerity protests now in power, and facing possible default and exit from the Eurozone this month. What Krastev is saying is really chilling – we can oust bad people through protest and elect the right people and put them in power, we can protest to pressure our leaders to do the right things, and they may not be powerful enough to give us the changes we really want."



"These three approaches – building new institutions, becoming engaged critics of the institutions we’ve got, and looking for ways to build a post-institutional world – all have their flaws. We need the new decentralized systems we build to work as well as the institutions we are replacing, and when Mt. Gox disappears with our money, we’re reminded what a hard task this is. Monitorial citizenship can lead to more responsible institutions, but not to structural change. When we build new companies, codebases and movements, we’ve got to be sure these new institutions we’re creating stay closer to our values than those we mistrust now, and that they’re worthy of the trust of generations to come.

What these approaches have in common is this: instead of letting mistrust of the institutions we have leave us sidelined and ineffective, these approaches make us powerful. Because this is the middle path between the ballot box and the brick – it’s taking the dangerous and corrosive mistrust we now face and using it to build the institutions we deserve. This is the challenge of our generation, to build a better world than the one we inherited, one that’s fairer, more just, one that’s worthy of our trust."
ethanzuckerman  ivankrastev  quinnnorton  zeyneptufekci  democracy  politics  institutions  euope  us  protest  occupywallstreet  ows  voting  decentralization  internet  citizenship  civics  monotorialcitizenship  globalization  finance  capitalism  austerity  markets  indignados  government  power  control 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Sweet Briar Dilemma: Will Predatory Lending Take Down More Colleges? | Next New Deal
"What we can say, though, is that a million dollars here and a million dollars there adds up to real money that was desperately needed as Sweet Briar fought to stay afloat.  

We know that Wall Street collects higher fees on risky and complicated deals involving variable rate debt and hedging instruments, like the ones found in Sweet Briar's last few decades of financials, than from fixed rate debt deals. We know that they add on things like credit enhancements, further driving up the costs. We know that those higher fees mean that there is a clear financial incentive to sell schools, municipalities, and pension funds on these risky deals. And we know that it works in Wall Street's favor that someone like me can spend days digging into this stuff and still not be totally sure what the exact costs of these deals are.  

What we don't know is how all these things were allowed to happen at this particular school in this particular timeframe.  

Sweet Briar appears slated to close because it is a small organization without the resources to counter the huge information imbalance that has helped precipitate the financialization crisis. It is closing because it signed some terrible deals to get what must have felt like "needed" money at the time. You can see the reasons: a $14 million bond (with swaps) in 2001 for campus improvements. A $10 million bond in 2006 to pay off other bonds that had revealed their ugly side and were costing the school too much to be allowed to fully mature. But, as has so often been the case in everything from municipal finance to personal home loans, there was a problem in the small print. Like many other colleges, what appeared to be vital and even beneficial deals turned out to be nothing of the sort. Unlike many others, Sweet Briar was already close enough to the financial brink that these ongoing debts made the difference between staying open and closing its doors.

There are, of course, other very real pressures on Sweet Briar. Lower enrollment numbers do really hurt a school, and there are real questions about how to keep small, rural liberal arts institutions competitive in a higher education economy. None of these issues, however, compare to the fees, fines, penalties, and other losses that are all over Sweet Briar’s books.

Is Sweet Briar the canary in the coalmine? Banks are certainly making obscene profits on the backs of the swap deals in the UC system, at the University of Michigan, and at American University — and those are the places that we’ve found in our first month of looking. While those schools are solvent enough that these swaps are not pushing them to the brink of closing, they are exacerbating budget shortfalls and passing debt on to students through increased costs. These deals are also clearly making money for many school trustees whose day jobs happen to be with the giant banks. Here I find myself agreeing with Mark Cuban, at least in part: these trends are a part of a vicious cycle of borrowing that is wholly unsustainable, and will eventually lead to a crisis.

This is why the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network is working to track the ways in which financial institutions are extracting wealth from our colleges and universities, and make a clear case for demanding our money back. I hope that the storied institution of Sweet Briar can find a way to keep it's doors open in 2016, but even if it fails, that failure should wake us up to predatory practices at colleges and universities around the country."
sweetbriarcollege  education  highered  highereducation  wallstreet  banking  finance  2015  alansmith  predatorylending  banks 
march 2015 by robertogreco
"Bonded Life: Technologies of Racial Finance from Slavery to Philanthrocapitalism" | Zenia Kish and Justin Leroy - Academia.edu
"Amid public critiques of Wall Street’s amorality and protests against sharpening inequality since the financial crisis of 2008, the emergent discourse of philanthrocapitalism – philanthropic capitalism – has sought to recuperate amoral centre for finance capitalism. Philanthrocapitalism seeks to marry financecapital with a moral commitment to do good. These strategies require new financial instruments to make poverty reduction and other forms of social welfare profitable business ventures. Social impact bonds (SIBs) – which offer private investors competitive returns on public sector investments – and related instruments have galvanized the financialization of both public services and the life possibilities of poor communities in the USA and the Global South. This article maps new intrusions of credit and debt into previously unmarketable spheres of life, such as prison recidivism outcomes, and argues that contemporary social finance practices such as SIBs are inextricable from histories of race – that financialization has been and continues to be a deeply racialized process. Intervening in debatesabout the social life of financial practices and the coercive creation of new debtor publics, we chart technologies meant to transform subjects considered valueless intoappropriate, even laudable, objects of financial investment. Because their proponents frame SIBs as philanthropic endeavours, the violence required to financialize human life becomes obfuscated. We aim to historicize the violence of financialization by drawing out links between financial capitalism as it developed during the height of the Atlantic slave trade and the more subtle violence of philanthropic financial capitalism. Though the notion that slaves could be a good investment – both in the profitable and moral sense of the word – seems far removed from our contemporary sensibilities, the shadow of slavery haunts SIBs; despite their many differences, both required black bodies to be made available for investment. Both also represent an expansion to the limits of financialization."
charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  slavery  capitalism  philanthrocapitalism  zeniakish  justinleroy  slaveinsurance  insurance  finance  banking  inequality  race  racism  financialization  neoliberalism  via:javierarbona  socialfinance  poverty  socialimpactbonds  investment  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  power  control 
march 2015 by robertogreco
A negative interest rate world? Why? | Ian Welsh
"Why there is too much money chasing returns is important, however, so I’m going to tease apart some of the reasons.

Central Bank Policy

Look, the ECB is buying bonds. The BOJ is buying bonds. The US was doing so. This is demand. It pushes the yield of bonds down.

China is printing piles of money, Japan is printing it, etc… That money isn’t staying in those economies, it is hunting through the world for returns or even just security. Federal Reserve policy has put a floor under losses from various securities by accepting that at near par, and Fed policy of free money has underwritten an epic bull market in securities.

No cleanup of the banking or shadow banking systems.

Most money is created by private actors. Banks, shadow banks (brokerages, etc…) There is no effective oversight of these organizations, still (you’d think after 2007, but you’d be wrong.) In fact, not only is there not enough oversight, but in most cases they’ve been effectively encourages to create more money. We have another derivatives bubble underway, we have housing bubbles in multiple countries (e.g. Canada and the UK), and while the US doesn’t have one, parts of the US, like Manhattan, do.

Oligopolistic profits.

US broadband profits are almost 100%-annualized. Every app store takes a 30% cut (a level which would have been shut down by regulators of the post-war liberal period.) Copyright law makes it difficult to impossible to create generic alternatives to common items. These have all led to very high profit levels, and those profits have largely been plowed back into stock buy backs (most corporate borrow is matched by stock buy backs). But much of the economy is not available to be bought on the stock market, many large investors can’t invest on the stock market by law (they have to invest in high-grade bonds), and much of those profits are now priced into stock prices anyway.

Inequality

In the United States more than all the gains of the last “recovery” have gone to the top 10% (really the top 3% or so.) There has limited broad based demand for new goods. Luxury goods, investment art, and London and Manhattan real-estate do not scale. Without widespread demand, opportunities for new businesses, with new employers, are limited.

Barriers to Entry

Much of this came under oligoplistic profits. Draconic “intellectual property” laws make it difficult to compete, bringing prices down and increasing volumes while freeing up money for people to spend on other things. 30% cuts from app stores and other virtual marketplaces make many businesses simply unprofitable—first they must make 30% for Apple or whoever, then they get to make a profit for themselves. But if you aren’t on those virtual marketplaces (and there is usually one which controls most of the business) you will not make enough sales to be viable. This sort of “you make no money without us, so we’ll take all the profits” behavior is little different from what the railroads did to farmers in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries.

And while there’s tons of credit for big business and people who are already rich, a new business trying to get funding faces huge barriers to getting money. It’s boutique investment, it requires a lot of time, and most investors would rather just buy bonds, structured securities, or play the stock market. Money may be cheap, but not for you.



No Future Till The Current Rich Can Monetize It

We could have had a lot of what we have today many years ago.  But the rich control the politicians, and the politicians won’t allow it to occur.  There was great squealing for years about subsidies for solar, and corruption in how they were given out, but they were always a rounding error compared to subsidies for oil, let along the military-industrial complex, big agriculture, pharma, health insurance, and so on.  All of those industries were powerful enough to strangle subsidies to competitors (solar, generic drugs, whatever) and strong enough to insist on new laws which strangled startups and competition (every copyright extension is nothing but an anti-competitive measure intended to keep profits coming to incumbents.)

Bottom Line

We have too much money chasing too few returns because we’ve spent 40 odd years making sure that ordinary people get less and less money; the rich get more; and that oligopolies are nurtured and protected.  The rich control government, and they intend to make sure that all the money goes to them.  Unfortunately, in a mass market economy, that means the economy becomes lousier and lousier.  This doesn’t matter to the rich because they are comparatively better off. Better a Czar amidst serfs than the CEO of General Motors in 1955."
deflation  inflation  labor  capitalism  power  inequality  economics  2015  ianwelsh  wealth  us  policy  banking  finance  wallstreet  oligarchs  intellectualproperty  copyright  patents  business 
march 2015 by robertogreco
How will I pay the bills?
"This mini-rant was originally posted on Twitter, but people really responded to it, so I’m archiving it here.

“How will I pay the bills?” is a perfectly reasonable question from a young person, worth a thoughtful answer.

“How will I pay the bills?” is not a question of the scared or cowardly, it’s a question of the sane and responsible.

1. Make a budget. Start a spreadsheet and figure out exactly how much you’ll need to live on. It might be more or less than you think.

2. Figure out how to get ahold of that money. For many, it will be a day job, or doing things that aren’t sexy and/or fun. (You know, work.)

3. Budget your time. Find every free second you have that you can devote to what you really want to be doing. Use that time best you can.

* * *

Write the following quotes on index cards and stick them above where you work:

“The key to eternal happiness is low overhead and no debt.”
—Lynda Barry

“If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do, kid.”
—Bill Cunningham

* * *

The next time someone tells you to “do what you love no matter what,” ask to see their tax return.

Anybody who tells people to “do what you love no matter what” should also have to teach a money management course.

Low overhead + “do what you love” = a good life.

“I deserve nice things” + “do what you love” = a time bomb.

* * *

In summary: Live below your means. Don’t go into debt. Jam econo. Do the best you can with what you have."
2015  austinkleon  homeeconomics  life  debt  living  creativity  thegoodlife  happiness  money  finance  budgets  dayjobs 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Evidence Grows Showing Wall Street as a Negative Economic Force
"Wall Street’s overarching function today is that of an institutionalized wealth transfer mechanism, propped up by compromised regulators and a dysfunctional Congress. As the PBS program Frontline reported in 2013, if your work career spans 50 years and you receive the historic return of 7 percent on stocks in your 401(k) plan, the 2 percent typical fee charged by Wall Street mutual funds will gobble up almost two-thirds of your account.

The Frontline program was called “The Retirement Gamble.” Wall Street On Parade checked the math and found this was not a gamble but a certainty: “under a 2 percent 401(k) fee structure, almost two-thirds of your working life will go toward paying obscene compensation to Wall Street; a little over one-third will benefit your family – and that’s before paying taxes on withdrawals to Uncle Sam.”

All of these examples cited above are part and parcel of why the United States has the fourth most unequal income distribution in the developed world. That income inequality, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) is dampening growth prospects. The OECD found in a study released in September of 2014 that “countries where income inequality is decreasing grow faster than those with rising inequality.” The study noted that in Italy, the U.K. and the United States, “the cumulative growth rate would have been six to nine percentage points higher had income disparities not widened.”"
wallstreet  finance  capitalism  2015  government  policy  politics  economics  inequality 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Art World’s Patron Satan - NYTimes.com
"More than supportive, Simchowitz had stepped out of a fairy tale — a godfather whose emissary swooped down from the heavens to rescue Ulman from catastrophe. Ulman had not yet heard all the stories about Simchowitz’s generosity and its fatal attraction for young, penniless artists whom he lured into Faustian bargains. He would provide them with “all those adult things” they needed and so often lacked: room, board, materials. In exchange for extraordinary support, Simchowitz asked not for his artists’ souls but for their art, a deal that many of his protégés lived to regret. In any event, lying alone in a hospital bed, broken and delirious, Ulman did not have the luxury of worrying about a far-off day of reckoning.

Ulman met Simchowitz earlier that year after an email introduction from the editor of Sex Magazine, an online arts publication, and was unaware of his reputation for aggressive accumulation. She agreed to sell him two giant paintings covered in blue eyes, but she was surprised by his brutal plans for them. Like a land developer subdividing a great estate, Simchowitz planned to chop up Ulman’s paintings into roughly a dozen smaller units. “He wanted me to cut the eyes into pieces so he could sell more paintings!” she said. Ulman, who put herself through art school by working as a librarian, was taken aback by the proposed dismemberment, but she wasn’t in a strong position to negotiate. “I was very desperate,” she said. “I didn’t have anything to eat.” She ended up selling Simchowitz the smaller units for less than $150 apiece, adding that he could “wipe his ass with them” if he really wanted to.

“He paid me nothing, basically, but at the moment it seemed like a lot,” she said. “And it was great. It allowed me to go to Berlin. I think I lived three months out of that.”

Since 2007, Simchowitz has sponsored and promoted roughly two dozen young artists. In addition to arranging sales for their work, Simchowitz often provides them with a studio, purchases their materials, covers their rent and subsidizes their living expenses. Perhaps most consequentially, he also posts photos of them and their work on his influential Instagram account, thereby creating what he calls “heat” and “velocity” for the artists he supports, who have included market darlings like the Colombian Oscar Murillo, the Japanese-American Parker Ito and the Brazilian Christian Rosa, all under the age of 35. But Simchowitz’s methods call down the opprobrium of art-world stalwarts, who are contemptuous of his taste, suspicious of his motives and fearful of his network’s potential to subvert the intricate hierarchies that have regulated art for centuries.

Reputations in the art world are forged over many years across countless fairs, openings, reviews and dinners. Although laypeople may look at a $30 million Richter and compare it to splatters from a second grader, Richter’s prices are determined not by chance but by the elaborate academic, journalistic and institutional infrastructure the art world has built to mete out prizes and anoint the next generation of cultural torchbearers. The collector class has traditionally come from the very top of the wealth spectrum and has included people looking to trade money for social prestige by participating in the art world’s stately rituals. Over the last few years, though, a new class of speculators has emerged with crasser objectives: They are less interested in flying to Basel to attend a dinner than in riding the economic wave that has caused the market for emerging contemporary art to surge in the past decade.

Critics charge that Simchowitz often preys on vulnerable young artists without gallery representation — some say without talent — and buys up huge quantities of their work, then flips the pieces back and forth at escalating prices among a cultivated group of buyers: a network of movie stars, professional poker players, orthodontists, nightclub promoters, financiers, football players and corned-beef magnates, many of whom hold Simchowitz in such high esteem that they’re willing to purchase the pieces he acquires for them sight unseen, artist unnamed. In March, in an online screed for New York magazine, the art critic Jerry Saltz tore into Simchowitz with unusual ferocity, dubbing him a “Sith Lord” and the Pied Piper of the “New Cynicism.” Simchowitz’s artists may enjoy a temporary surge in prices, his critics argue, but they typically see little of the upside; in any case, or so the story goes, once their bubbles pop, they’re left for dead.

Many important galleries have blacklisted Simchowitz as a buyer, forcing him to take extreme measures to secure desired work, including using consultants as undercover mules. Simchowitz told me about a recent scheme in which he had a consultant buy three pieces from Essex Street, a Lower East Side gallery. The purchase was nominally on behalf of another client, but the ultimate recipient was Simchowitz; by the time the gallery suspected the ruse, money had already changed hands, but the pieces had not been delivered. The gallery requested that Simchowitz not only cancel the purchase but also return another piece by the same artist that was already in his possession, which he did. Moreover, the gallerist, furious over what happened, called the other client to inform him that he was colluding in fraud, an accusation that heartily amused Simchowitz. (Asked for comment, the gallery responded, “Essex Street has never done business with Stefan Simchowitz.”)

To his detractors, Simchowitz is the Michael Milken of the art world — someone who has created, through his extensive network and force of personality, a market for high-risk, high-yield investments that have little to do with the fundamentals of talent and critical acclaim. By contrast, Simchowitz sees himself as something akin to the art world’s Mark Zuckerberg, a 21st-century player using technology to disrupt the institutional establishment. Despite his reputation for transaction-driven opportunism, Simchowitz insists he is playing the long game. “I’m looking for the big fish,” he told me, predicting that in 30 years his investments in the next generation of art stars could yield him a fortune worth a hundred million dollars. “The downside is that it’s worth only $50 million,” he allowed. “But I want the big kahuna.”"
art  artworld  capitalism  2014  christopherglazek  stefansimchowitz  money  power  exploitation  business  investment  finance  via:caseygollan 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Coming Showdown Over University Endowments: Enlisting the Donors [.pdf]
"This Essay focuses on the discordance between universities with particularly large endowments and what is occurring in the rest of higher education, particularly with respect to skyrocketing tuition and a growing institutional wealth gap. The Essay considers absolute endowment values, the amount of endowment per student, and expense-endowment ratios at sixty private universities. It concludes that a small number of schools have an excess endowment, and then provides a convenient proxy for determining when an endowment is so large that it should receive less preferential tax treatment. The Essay then considers the effects that large endowments have at their home institutions and throughout higher education, the arguments in defense of large endowments, and some frequently proposed modifications to the tax code. The Essay recommends that policymakers modify the charitable deduction for gifts to universities with mega-endowments, as part of a multifaceted effort to spur endowment spending and control tuition."

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:5dcd8b659f56 ]
sarahwaldeck  charities  nonprofit  2009  law  legal  finance  universities  colleges  wealth  taxation  taxes  endowments  charity  nonprofits 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Hullabaloo: Rewarding failure by design?
"For the investor class, it is a tragedy of the commons when they don't get a cut from it. That's why, for example, they are so hot to see a middle man in every middle school."



"David Dayen wrote yesterday at Salon about Sen. Elizabeth Warren's opposition to investment banker, Antonio Weiss, President Obama's nominee for Treasury Department undersecretary for domestic finance. One of Weiss' biggest clients is Brazilian private equity fund 3G. Dayen describes deals that would make Paul Singer blush. (Okay, maybe not.) They seem almost designed to reward failure:
The deals also exhibit the modern hallmark of corporate America: financial engineering. Decisions are made to satisfy shareholder clamoring for short-term profits rather than any long-term vision about building a quality business. The manager class extracts value for their own ends, and the rotted husk of the company either sinks or swims. It doesn’t matter to those who have already completed the looting.
"
capitalism  investment  investors  middlemen  privatization  2014  failure  tomsullivan  us  policy  politics  education  schools  forprofit  infrastructure  commons  bankruptcy  finance  banking  bankers  barrysummers  looting  corporatism  financialengineering  management  roads  tollroads 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Shoshanna Zuboff: Dark Google
"We witness the rise of a new absolute power. Google transfers its radical politics from cyberspace to reality. It will earn its money by knowing, manipulating, controlling the reality and cutting it into the tiniest pieces."



"If there is a single word to describe Google, it is „absolute.” The Britannica defines absolutism as a system in which „the ruling power is not subject to regularized challenge or check by any other agency.” In ordinary affairs, absolutism is a moral attitude in which values and principles are regarded as unchallengeable and universal. There is no relativism, context-dependence, or openness to change.

Six years ago I asked Eric Schmidt what corporate innovations Google was putting in place to ensure that its interests were aligned with its end users. Would it betray their trust? Back then his answer stunned me. He and Google’s founders control the super-voting class B stock. This allows them, he explained, to make decisions without regard to short-term pressure from Wall Street. Of course, it also insulates them from every other kind of influence. There was no wrestling with the creation of an inclusive, trustworthy, and transparent governance system. There was no struggle to institutionalize scrutiny and feedback. Instead Schmidt’s answer was the quintessence of absolutism: „trust me; I know best.” At that moment I knew I was in the presence of something new and dangerous whose effects reached beyond narrow economic contests and into the heart of everyday life."
ethics  google  surveillance  soshanazuboff  2014  business  politics  data  evil  bigdata  power  control  innovation  absolutism  ericschmidt  finance  capitalism  nsa  colonization  self-determination  reality  raykurzweil  europe 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Episode 587: Jubilee! (?) : Planet Money : NPR
"There's an idea that dates back at least to biblical times. There should be a moment when debts are forgiven. Its called a jubilee.

The jubilee has not gotten a lot of traction in the modern world. You may remember after the financial crisis, some of the Occupy Wall Street protesters were calling for a jubilee. But it basically ended there.

Today on the show: the story about a country that is actually trying a jubilee. Iceland."
iceland  debt  finance  policy  jubilee  debtforgiveness  2014  economics  debtslavery 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The Plashing Vole: Grimm's Tale
"Stefan was going to be fired. Not because his work was no good: it was, as the publications list shows. No, he was going to be fired because he didn't attract the 'sexy', headline funding. He quietly raised money to pay for his ongoing research as and when he needed it. His failure was the inability to grasp that his university – which isn't so different from lots of others – care far less about the discoveries made than the headlines achieved from lottery-style grants. 'X wins £50m grant' is the dream THES or New Scientist headline, not '£50,000 for Grimm'.
Your current level of funding does not constitute the appropriate level for a professor at Imperial College. Unless you submit and are awarded a Platform grant as PI in the next 12 months we will seek to initiate disciplinary action against you. This email constitutes a warning that your performance is being monitored and that action may be brought if you fail to meet the conditions herein

Grimm was told he had to bring in £200,000 p.a. – not contractually, but let's leave that aside. His letter explains that he did that through a series of small grants, but that wasn't good enough: it had to be the stuff of headlines, or 'impact' as it's officially known in the Research Assessment Framework to which we all have to submit.

This isn't about science - it's about bragging rights, or institutional willy-waving. Grimm was informed – in public – that he was to be fired, and left waiting for the axe to fall while the axe-wielder marauded around the campus boasting about it like an even more pathetic Alan Sugar.
I fell into the trap of confusing the reputation of science here with the present reality. This is not a university anymore but a business with very few up in the hierarchy, like our formidable duo, profiteering and the rest of us are milked for money, be it professors for their grant income or students who pay 100.- pounds just to extend their write-up status.

If anyone believes that I feel what my excellent coworkers and I have accomplished here over the years is inferior to other work, is wrong. With our apoptosis genes and the concept of Anticancer Genes we have developed something that is probably much more exciting than most other projects, including those that are heavily supported by grants.

This is not, I shouldn't have to say, how academia works. Einstein famously published one peer-reviewed paper. Science rarely has a Eureka moment: it's rather a series of careful, thoughtful developments of work done by one's forebears and peers. A management which demands a Eureka a day is one which doesn't just not 'get' academia, it's a management which contradicts the academic method and it's one which has forgotten that it's meant to serve the needs of science, the arts, students and researchers, not the insatiable maw of attention seeking 'Leaders' (that's the word they use now) and the PR office. It's also a management that kills."

[See also: http://musicfordeckchairs.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/wider-lessons/
http://www.dcscience.net/2014/12/01/publish-and-perish-at-imperial-college-london-the-death-of-stefan-grimm/ ]
stefangrimm  academia  education  funding  highereducation  highered  money  finance  business  corporatization  2014  science  publishorperish  bullying  capitalism  pressure  management  administration  hierarchy 
december 2014 by robertogreco
danah boyd | apophenia » What is Fairness?
"Increasingly, tech folks are participating in the instantiation of fairness in our society. Not only do they produce the algorithms that score people and unevenly distribute scarce resources, but the fetishization of “personalization” and the increasingly common practice of “curation” are, in effect, arbiters of fairness.

The most important thing that we all need to recognize is that how fairness is instantiated significantly affects the very architecture of our society. I regularly come back to a quote by Alistair Croll:
Our social safety net is woven on uncertainty. We have welfare, insurance, and other institutions precisely because we can’t tell what’s going to happen — so we amortize that risk across shared resources. The better we are at predicting the future, the less we’ll be willing to share our fates with others. And the more those predictions look like facts, the more justice looks like thoughtcrime.

The market-driven logic of fairness is fundamentally about individuals at the expense of the social fabric. Not surprisingly, the tech industry — very neoliberal in cultural ideology — embraces market-driven fairness as the most desirable form of fairness because it is the model that is most about individual empowerment. But, of course, this form of empowerment is at the expense of others. And, significantly, at the expense of those who have been historically marginalized and ostracized.

We are collectively architecting the technological infrastructure of this world. Are we OK with what we’re doing and how it will affect the society around us?"
algorithms  culture  economics  us  finance  police  policing  lawenforcement  technology  equality  equity  2014  danahboyd  alistaircroll  justice  socialjustice  crime  civilrights  socialsafetynet  welfare  markets  banks  banking  capitalism  socialism  communism  scarcity  abundance  uncertainty  risk  predictions  profiling  race  business  redlining  privilege 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Speed Kills: Fast is never fast enough - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"In the past 50 years, two economies that operate at two different speeds have emerged. In one, wealth is created by selling labor or stuff; in the other, by trading signs that are signs of other signs. The virtual assets scale at a speed much greater than the real assets. A worker can produce only so many motorcycles, a teacher can teach only so many students, and a doctor can see only so many patients a day. In high-speed markets, by contrast, billions of dollars are won or lost in billionths of a second. In this new world, wealth begets wealth at an unprecedented rate. No matter how many new jobs are created in the real economy, the wealth gap created by the speed gap will never be closed. It will continue to widen at an ever-faster rate until there is a fundamental change in values.

One of the most basic values that must be rethought is growth, which has not always been the standard by which economic success is measured. The use of the gross national product and gross domestic product to evaluate relative economic performance is largely the product of the Cold War. As the battleground between the United States and the Soviet Union expanded to include the economy, the question became whether capitalism or communism could deliver more goods faster."



"The problem is not only, as Michael Lewis argues in Flash Boys, finding a technological fix for markets that are rigged; the problem is that the entire system rests on values that have become distorted: individualism, utility, efficiency, productivity, competition, consumption, and speed. Furthermore, this regime has repressed values that now need to be cultivated: sustainability, community, cooperation, generosity, patience, subtlety, deliberation, reflection, and slowness. If psychological, social, economic, and ecological meltdowns are to be avoided, we need what Nietzsche aptly labeled a "transvaluation of values."



"The growing concern about the effectiveness of primary, secondary, and postsecondary education has led to a preoccupation with the evaluation of students and teachers. For harried administrators, the fastest and most efficient way to make these assessments is to adopt quantitative methods that have proved most effective in the business world. Measuring inputs, outputs, and throughputs has become the accepted way to calculate educational costs and benefits. While quantitative assessment is effective for some activities and subjects, many of the most important aspects of education cannot be quantified. When people believe that what cannot be measured is not real, education and, by extension society, loses its soul.

Today’s young people are not merely distracted—the Internet and video games are actually rewiring their brains. Neuroscientists have found significant differences in the brains of "addicted" adolescents and "healthy" users. The next edition of the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will very likely specify Internet addiction as an area for further research. The epidemic of ADHD provides additional evidence of the deleterious effects of the excessive use of digital media. Physicians concerned about the inability of their patients to concentrate freely prescribe Ritalin, which is speed, while students staying up all night to study take Ritalin to give them a competitive advantage.

Rather than resisting these pressures, anxious parents exacerbate them by programming their kids for what they believe will be success from the time they are in prekindergarten. But the knowledge that matters cannot be programmed, and creativity cannot be rushed but must be cultivated slowly and patiently. As leading scientists, writers, and artists have long insisted, the most imaginative ideas often emerge in moments of idleness.

Many people lament the fact that young people do not read or write as much as they once did. But that is wrong—the issue is not how much they are reading and writing; indeed they are, arguably, reading and writing more than ever before. The problem is how they are reading and what they are writing. There is a growing body of evidence that people read and write differently online. Once again the crucial variable is speed. The claim that faster is always better is nowhere more questionable than when reading, writing, and thinking.

All too often, online reading resembles rapid information processing rather than slow, careful, deliberate reflection. Researchers have discovered what they describe as an "F-shaped pattern" for reading web content, in which as people read down a page, they scan fewer and fewer words in a line. When speed is essential, the shorter, the better; complexity gives way to simplicity, and depth of meaning is dissipated in surfaces over which fickle eyes surf. Fragmentary emails, flashy websites, tweets in 140 characters or less, unedited blogs filled with mistakes. Obscurity, ambiguity, and uncertainty, which are the lifeblood of art, literature, and philosophy, become decoding problems to be resolved by the reductive either/or of digital logic.

Finally, vocationalization. With the skyrocketing cost of college, parents, students, and politicians have become understandably concerned about the utility of higher education. Will college prepare students for tomorrow’s workplace? Which major will help get a job? Administrators and admission officers defend the value of higher education in economic terms by citing the increased lifetime earning potential for college graduates. While financial matters are not unimportant, value cannot be measured in economic terms alone. The preoccupation with what seems to be practical and useful in the marketplace has led to a decline in the perceived value of the arts and humanities, which many people now regard as impractical luxuries.

That development reflects a serious misunderstanding of what is practical and impractical, as well as the confusion between the practical and the vocational. As the American Academy of Arts and Sciences report on the humanities and social sciences, "The Heart of the Matter," insists, the humanities and liberal arts have never been more important than in today’s globalized world. Education focused on STEM disciplines is not enough—to survive and perhaps even thrive in the 21st century, students need to study religion, philosophy, art, languages, literature, and history. Young people must learn that memory cannot be outsourced to machines, and short-term solutions to long-term problems are never enough. Above all, educators are responsible for teaching students how to think critically and creatively about the values that guide their lives and inform society as a whole.

That cannot be done quickly—it will take the time that too many people think they do not have.

Acceleration is unsustainable. Eventually, speed kills. The slowing down required to delay or even avoid the implosion of interrelated systems that sustain our lives does not merely involve pausing to smell the roses or taking more time with one’s family, though those are important.

Within the long arc of history, it becomes clear that the obsession with speed is a recent development that reflects values that have become destructive. Not all reality is virtual, and the quick might not inherit the earth. Complex systems are not infinitely adaptive, and when they collapse, it happens suddenly and usually unexpectedly. Time is quickly running out."
speed  health  life  trends  2014  via:anne  marktaylor  filippomarinetti  futurists  futuristmanifesto  modernism  modernity  charliechaplin  efficiency  living  slow  thorsteinveblen  wealth  inequality  values  us  growth  economics  writing  finance  education  highered  highereducation  communication  internet  web  online  complexity  systemsthinking  systems  humanities  liberalarts  stem  criticalthinking  creativity  reflection  productivity  reading  howweread  howwewrite  thinking  schools  schooling  evaluation  assessment  quantification  standardization  standardizedtesting  society  interdisciplinary  professionalization  specialization  transdisciplinary  multidisciplinary  learning  howwelearn  howwethink  neuroscience  slowness  deliberation  patience  generosity  consumption  competition  competitiveness  subtlety  sustainability  community  cooperation  nietzsche  capitalism  latecapitalism 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Hope and Ka-ching - The Baffler
"There are at least 150 million members of cooperatives in the United States, if you include retail, housing, agricultural, electrical, insurance, and most other types of co-ops. Eleven thousand American companies are owned wholly or in part by their workers through employee stock-ownership plans. Where these two groups intersect and go even further is in the four hundred worker cooperatives that exist in this country, enterprises that are owned by members and democratically run. As for cooperative factories, New Era is a rarity, among the only operations of its kind in the United States."



"Horizontalism is not simply about being fair to old friends. Nor is it about passing a political litmus test or pretending everyone has identical abilities. Instead, it is a practical matter, a way of mitigating the uncertainty and sacrifice the task requires of all involved, even if it means supporting those who are less proficient or those who are unable to work as hard as others due to unforeseen circumstances. Toward this end, the group recently affirmed their commitment to “solidarity economics,” specifically assuring that all future workers will be members. Despite the disproportionate role played by the founders, every worker, present and future, must be given a “buy-in” that will make them all legitimate owners of capital and make it harder for the business to demutualize, as some cooperatives have in the past. Essentially, they want to be blocked from someday becoming the bosses they deplore.

Starting New Era, one worker told me, was a “survival strategy” pure and simple, a way to “stop the abuse” they had suffered. Making windows for Republic, Robles said, was “a type of modern slavery,” with every minute logged and monitored through a complicated tracking system. Now they move freely, working and breaking when they need to, with a sense of purpose that Robles says gets him happily out of bed at dawn without the help of an alarm clock. Arizona Stingley, who was a nanny for white families in Mississippi in her younger days, told me there was simply no comparison between Republic and New Era. “It was divide and conquer by the boss. They were always pitting Mexicans against blacks,” she recalled. “And it worked. People wouldn’t want to teach you anything because they were afraid you’d take their job.” The groups sat at different tables at lunch and rarely mingled across race lines. Now they share skills instead of regarding each other as threats.

Experiences like these have convinced the New Era crew that cooperatives are the wave of the future. “Bosses, at any minute they can close the plant and just destroy your life. They say it’s your job, but really it’s their job to take away,” said Maclin, whose fluency in English is a resource for the predominantly Spanish-speaking crew. He likened his awakening over the last few years to the movie Star Wars: “You know how it says, the power is with you, the force is with you? Well the power is with us. The force is with us. We are the work force. We’re taking back the power we already have.”



"History abounds with examples of cooperative ambitions; unfortunately, it also contains an almost equal number of failures.

The stumbling block, nearly every time, has been lack of access to capital. Workers are more than capable of managing things on their own—work, after all, goes on whether the bosses are in their offices or out on the putting green. But the money to purchase equipment and pay for space and materials has always been hard to come by for the proletariat. After owners shut down the Youngstown Sheet and Tube steel mill in the late 1970s, a landmark event in the history of deindustrialization, workers made plans to run it themselves; they were stopped when the Carter administration failed to come up with the $100 million in financing it had promised. In 1996 the CEO of Republic Windows and Doors was able to secure nearly $10 million in financing through a public program that diverted property-tax revenue from schools and parks to expand his private company. In 2012 the workers needed just a petty sum to buy the business, but for them there was no public investment to be found.

Finance, as Martin sees it, is the key to getting significant control of wealth into workers’ hands. “There is this myth of capitalism that says that the 1 percent invest productively, but the fact is, we don’t need them,” Martin explains. “They said, ‘If you don’t bail us out, there won’t be jobs.’ But their aim isn’t to make jobs; it’s to make money for themselves. Finance, as it is currently set up, is parasitic. It’s extractive. But what if it was productive instead? What if it actually invested in the community instead of always sucking money out?” The Working World, which has lent out over $4 million in less than ten years, is Martin’s answer to that question."



"Karl Marx wrote approvingly of cooperatives, insisting that the “value of these great social experiments cannot be overrated.” Nonetheless, he probably would have scorned the “small is beautiful” attitude of those cooperators who are content to stay on the fringe, who lack the oppositional spirit necessary to take on capitalism directly. He would also have scoffed at activists who believe they can practice and prefigure democracy without building institutions, accumulating resources, or holding power.

The cooperative activists themselves often recognize the problem. Marina Sitrin, the author of several books about horizontalism, never believed that the large assemblies that characterized the early days of Occupy Wall Street would be sustainable for a prolonged period. She told me that horizontalism needs to be grounded in a specific place and have a well-defined purpose in order to function. A hundred people debating abstract principles in a public forum will likely drive each other bonkers, but the same hundred people may be able to run a school or a health center or a factory if their community and lives depend on it. In other words, for consensus decision-making to be practicable, there has to be something at stake, something to stick to and stick with. You need a school or a health center or a factory."



"What remains to be seen is whether the current crop of cooperators and activists—the New Era window builders, Occupy and its post-disaster rebuilding efforts, and the USW with its plans for union-cooperative hybrids—will actually be able to change things. They look at Mondragon and the substantial cooperative networks in other countries, as well as the factory takeovers in Argentina and Greece, and believe we may be entering a cooperative renaissance spurred on by an endless economic slump. And maybe that is so. But cooperative momentum will flag if the movement doesn’t take the problem of finance seriously. Until we create loan funds or build banks that are committed to non-extractive economic growth, cooperatives will remain marginal phenomena, nice places to shop for organic food and get your bicycle repaired, but not much more.

One thing the cooperators can count on is self-interest. People will pursue worker control because it is more appealing than being exploited and then disposed of by employers whose only allegiance is to the bottom line. They will be drawn to structures that can help them support their families and communities, and these real, urgent needs will in turn encourage them to endure the vexations of direct democracy, to stick with it even though the meetings last for hours and comrades inevitably chafe. It’s still better than having a boss."
collectives  work  chicago  finance  astrataylor  2014  labor  horizontality  hierarchy  hierarchies  horizontalism  deindustrialization  via:Taryn  capital  mondragon  marinasitrin  brendanmartin  collectivism  anarchism  cooperatives  ows  occupywallstreet 
october 2014 by robertogreco
‘Poor people don’t plan long-term. We’ll just get our hearts broken’ | Society | The Observer
"Why do so many poor people eat junk food, fail to budget properly, show no ambition? Linda Tirado knew exactly why… because she was one of them. Here, in an extract from her book, Hand to Mouth, she tells her story in her own words"
poverty  economics  finance  compassion  society  2014  cycles  lindatirado  us  traps  povertytrap 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Scotland’s Independence Vote Shows a Global Crisis of the Elites - NYTimes.com
"When you get past the details of the Scottish independence referendum Thursday, there is a broader story underway, one that is also playing out in other advanced nations.

It is a crisis of the elites. Scotland’s push for independence is driven by a conviction — one not ungrounded in reality — that the British ruling class has blundered through the last couple of decades. The same discontent applies to varying degrees in the United States and, especially, the eurozone. It is, in many ways, a defining feature of our time.

The rise of Catalan would-be secessionists in Spain, the rise of parties of the far right in European countries as diverse as Greece and Sweden, and the Tea Party in the United States are all rooted in a sense that, having been granted vast control over the levers of power, the political elite across the advanced world have made a mess of things.

The details of Scotland’s grievances are almost the diametrical opposite of those of, say, the Tea Party or Swedish right-wingers. They want more social welfare spending rather than less, and have a strongly pro-green, antinuclear environmental streak. (Scotland’s threatened secession is less the equivalent of Texas pulling out of the United States, in that sense, than of Massachusetts or Oregon doing the same.) But there are always people who have disagreements with the direction of policy in their nation; the whole point of a state is to have an apparatus that channels disparate preferences into one sound set of policy choices.

What distinguishes the current moment is that discontent with the way things have been going is so high as to test many people's tolerance for the governing institutions as they currently exist.

The details are, of course, different in each country.

In the case of Britain, a Labor government led by a Scottish prime minister (Gordon Brown) and his Scottish finance minister (Alistair Darling) supported the financialization of the British economy, with the rise of global mega-banks in an increasingly cosmopolitan London as the center of the economic strategy.

Then, in 2008, the banks nearly collapsed and were bailed out, and the British economy hasn’t been the same. Their failures ushered in a conservative government in 2010 that is even less aligned with the Scots’ preferred policies, bringing an age of austerity when the Scots would prefer to widen the social safety net.

In the United States, we watched a bipartisan push toward financial deregulation in the 1990s and 2000s lay the groundwork for the 2008 crisis. The inability of the Bush or Obama administration to contain the damage (and indeed to fight it with financial bailouts) ushered in a Tea Party in 2010 elections that is beyond the control of elder statesmen of the Republican Party.

It is in continental Europe that the consequences of bungling by mainstream elites are perhaps the most damaging. The decades-long march toward a united continent, led by the parties of the center-right and center-left, created a Western Europe in which there was a single currency and monetary authority but without the political, fiscal and banking union that would make it possible for imbalances between those countries to work themselves out without the benefit of currency fluctuations. When it all came to a head from 2008 to 2012, national leaders were sufficiently alarmed by the risks of budget deficits that they responded by cutting spending and raising taxes.

As such, the imbalances that built up over the years in Europe are now working themselves out through astronomical unemployment and falling wages in countries including Spain and Greece. Even the northern European economies, including Germany, are experiencing little or no growth. As Paul Krugman noted this week, while the Great Depression of the 1930s was a sharper contraction in economic activity initially, the European economy is performing worse six years after the 2008 crisis than it was at the comparable point in the 1930s.

"The details of the policy mistakes are different, as are the political movements that have arisen in protest. But together they are a reminder that no matter how entrenched our government institutions may seem, they rest on a bedrock assumption: that the leaders entrusted with power will deliver the goods.

Power is not a right; it is a responsibility. The choice that Scotland is making on Thursday is of whether the men and women who rule Britain messed things up so badly that they would rather go it alone. And so the results will ripple through world capitals from Athens to Washington: The way things are going currently isn’t good enough, and voters are getting angry enough to want to do something about it."
2014  scotland  power  politics  policy  governance  neilirwin  government  ey  economics  responsibility  finance 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The New Face of College | American RadioWorks |
"Just 20 percent of college-goers fit the stereotype of being young, single, full-time students who finish a degree in four years. College students today are more likely to be older, part-time, working, and low-income than they were three decades ago. Many are the first in their families to go to college.

This American RadioWorks documentary shows how universities are adapting to serve these new students. It explains changing demographics, and explores what colleges must do to remain engines of social mobility."
2014  colleges  universities  us  diversity  money  finance  highered  highereducation  admissions  socialmobility  amherst  elpas  utep  heritageuniversity  demographics 
september 2014 by robertogreco
New Left Review - Wolfgang Streeck: How Will Capitalism End?
"In summary, capitalism, as a social order held together by a promise of boundless collective progress, is in critical condition. Growth is giving way to secular stagnation; what economic progress remains is less and less shared; and confidence in the capitalist money economy is leveraged on a rising mountain of promises that are ever less likely to be kept. Since the 1970s, the capitalist centre has undergone three successive crises, of inflation, public finances and private debt. Today, in an uneasy phase of transition, its survival depends on central banks providing it with unlimited synthetic liquidity. Step by step, capitalism’s shotgun marriage with democracy since 1945 is breaking up. On the three frontiers of commodification—labour, nature and money—regulatory institutions restraining the advance of capitalism for its own good have collapsed, and after the final victory of capitalism over its enemies no political agency capable of rebuilding them is in sight. The capitalist system is at present stricken with at least five worsening disorders for which no cure is at hand: declining growth, oligarchy, starvation of the public sphere, corruption and international anarchy. What is to be expected, on the basis of capitalism’s recent historical record, is a long and painful period of cumulative decay: of intensifying frictions, of fragility and uncertainty, and of a steady succession of ‘normal accidents’—not necessarily but quite possibly on the scale of the global breakdown of the 1930s."
capitalism  disaster  economics  failure  finance  decline  labor  government  democracy  plutocracy  oligarchy  inequality  comingrevolution  wolfgangstreeck  corruption  politics  latecapitalism  commodification  growth 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Chapter 4 of An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mohandas K. Gandhi
[Wayback: https://web.archive.org/web/20171227051615/http://www.columbia.edu:80/itc/mealac/pritchett/00litlinks/gandhi/part3/304chapter.html ]

"This sad situation developed after my departure from South Africa, but my idea of having permanent funds for public institutions underwent a change long before this difference arose. And now after considerable experience with the many public institutions which I have managed, it has become my firm conviction that it is not good to run public institutions on permanent funds. A permanent fund carries in itself the seed of the moral fall of the institution. A public institution means an institution conducted with the approval, and from the funds, of the public. When such an institution ceases to have public support, it forfeits its right to exist. Institutions maintained on permanent funds are often found to ignore public opinion, and are frequently responsible for acts contrary to it. In our country we experience this at every step. Some of the so-called religious trusts have ceased to render any accounts. The trustees have become the owners, and are responsible to none. I have no doubt that the ideal is for public institutions to live, like nature, from day to day. The institution that fails to win public support has no right to exist as such. The subscriptions that an institution annually receives are a test of its popularity and the honesty of its management, and I am of opinion that every institution should submit to that test. But let no one misunderstand me. My remarks do not apply to the bodies which cannot, by their very nature, be conducted without permanent buildings. What I mean to say it that the current expenditure should be found from subscriptions voluntarily received from year to year."

[Related:
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/12/why-do-universities-have-endowments.html
http://ethicist.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/28/should-you-give-to-harvard/
http://harvardpolitics.com/hprgument-posts/investing-future/
http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/ethics_and_nonprofits ]

[More on endowments:
http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/01/07/dartmouth-controversy-reflects-quandary-for-endowments/
https://ideas.repec.org/a/ebl/ecbull/eb-11-00531.html
http://www.pgdc.com/pgdc/issues-and-opportunities-endowment-fundraising
http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2010/05/28/the-problems-with-university-endowments/
http://www.universitybusiness.com/article/endowments-new-questions-new-normal
http://www.changemag.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/January-February%202010/full-the-truth.html
http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4428&context=flr (.pdf)]
endowments  money  finance  colleges  universities  nonprofit  gandhi  institutions  power  control  democracy  management  permanent  funds  publicopinion  charitableindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  capital  wealth  organizations  permanence  impermanence  ephemeral  ephemerality  legacy  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  nonprofits  capitalism 
july 2014 by robertogreco
The Miseducation of America - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"While I was watching Ivory Tower, a documentary about the state of college in America that appears in select theaters this month (the movie also airs on CNN this fall), it occurred to me that of the many problems with higher education these days, not the least concerns the way we talk about it. "Efficiency," "art-history majors," "kids who graduate with $100,000 in debt," "the college bubble," the whole rhetoric of crisis and collapse: The public discourse is dominated by sound bites, one-liners, hearsay, horror stories, and a very great deal of misinformation.

Higher ed is not unique in this respect, of course, but it is particularly bad. College, as the movie points out, was always treated as a black box: 18-year-olds were inserted at one end, 22-year-olds came out the other, and as long as the system appeared to be working, no one bothered to inquire what happened in between. Americans, as a result, have very little understanding of what college is about—how it works, what it’s for, what larger social benefits it offers—and those employed in higher education have had very little practice in explaining it to them. The debate has been left to the politicians, the pundits, and increasingly, the hustlers and ideologues. Few who talk about college in public understand it, and few who understand it talk about it.

Ivory Tower, for the most part, is an honorable exception."



"Ivory Tower shows us why it’s so important that we get this right: that we think with facts, with respect to college costs and what they get you, not emotions. When we cherry pick the scariest stories and numbers, we do two things: We open the door to hucksters selling easy answers, and we forget what college is really for. Apocalypticism leads to messianism. Close behind the anxious parents whom we see on college tours at Wesleyan and NYU—variously blithe or glum adolescents in tow—come, like vultures to a kill, a pair of now-familiar figures: Peter Thiel and Sebastian Thrun."



"The truth is, there are powerful forces at work in our society that are actively hostile to the college ideal. That distrust critical thinking and deny the proposition that democracy necessitates an educated citizenry. That have no use for larger social purposes. That decline to recognize the worth of that which can’t be bought or sold. Above all, that reject the view that higher education is a basic human right.

The film recounts the history and recent fate of that idea: its origin among the philanthropists of the industrial age, figures like Peter Cooper, founder of his eponymous Union; its progressive unfolding through the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, the GI Bill of 1944, the postwar expansion of the University of California, and the Higher Education Act of 1965, which created the federal student-loan and grant programs; and its deliberate destruction under Ronald Reagan and his ideological heirs.

Free, high-quality higher education (just like free, high-quality school, which we continue to at least pretend to endorse): that is what we used to believe in; that’s what many other countries still believe in; that is what we must believe in once again. The filmmakers undoubtedly knew what they were doing when they chose to show us the moment, during that seminar at Deep Springs, when the students are debating Hegel’s proposition that, as their professor puts it, "you need to have a common identity as citizens, because it creates the bonds of affection." Or in Delbanco’s words, "What kind of society do we want to be?" Cooper Union’s commencement speaker, that tumultuous spring of 2013, turns out to have been none other than Michael Bloomberg. "The debate you’re having really isn’t about whether education is free," we see him tell the students. "It’s really about who can and who is willing to pay for it."

On this the billionaire and I agree. In terms of the "can" (and it’s hard to believe the word could even pass his lips), the answer is clear. Not just the plutocrats, not just the upper class, but the upper middle class, as well. Everybody knows by now that the share of national income that accrues to the famous one percent has risen to about 23 percent, higher than at almost any time since 1928. But the share that accrues to the top 10 percent as a whole, which stayed around 33 percent from the 1950s through the 1970s, has risen to its highest level ever (or at least, since record-keeping started), more than 50 percent. In a $17-trillion economy, the difference represents a premium of nearly $3-trillion a year, about five times the federal deficit and more than enough for this and many other public purposes.

The problem of costs, to be sure, is not a one-way street. Higher education must indeed increase efficiency, but how? Institutions have been willing to spend on everything in recent years except the thing that matters most: instruction. Dorms, deans, sports, but not professors. Piglike presidential salaries, paid for by hiring adjuncts. Now, with MOOCs and other forms of online instruction, the talk is more of the same. My friends, they are coming for you. The professoriate no longer has the luxury of thinking that all this is someone else’s problem. If you want to save your skins, let alone ensure the future of the enterprise, you need to wake up and organize against the people who are organizing against you. The fact is that by focusing exclusively on monetary issues, the current conversation prevents us not only from remembering the higher objectives of an undergraduate education, but also from recognizing just how bad a job our institutions have been doing at fulfilling them. Colleges and universities have a lot to answer for; if they want to regain the support of the larger society, they need to prove that they are worthy of it.

Ivory Tower ends, in the manner of such films today, by referring us to a website. Under the rubric "Take Action," the site encourages us to sign a petition that calls on Congress to pass legislation, of the kind proposed by Elizabeth Warren (and just blocked by Senate Republicans), allowing individuals to refinance their student loans. That would certainly be a good thing, but we need to set our sights a great deal higher. If service workers can demand a $15 minimum wage, more than double the federal level, then those who care about higher education can insist on the elimination of tuition and fees at state institutions and their replacement by public funding furnished by taxes on the upper 10 percent. As with the minimum wage, the campaign can be conducted state by state, and it can and should involve a large coalition of interested groups: students, parents, and instructors, to start with. Total enrollment at American colleges and universities now stands at 20 million, on top of another million-plus on the faculty. That’s a formidable voting bloc, should it learn to exercise its power. Since the Occupy movement in 2011, it’s clear that the fight to reverse the tide of growing inequality has been joined. It’s time we joined it."
2014  williamderesiewicz  highered  highereducation  education  policy  politics  finance  money  studentloands  ivorytower  reform  faculty  solidarity  ows  occupywallstreet  inequality  purpose  canon  funding  publicfunding  mooc  moocs  unions  labor  deepspringscollege  colleges  universities  liberalarts  society  learning  criticalthinking  uncollege  dalestephens  peterthiel  sebastianthrun  peterschiff  efficiency  cooperunion  communitycolleges  debt  studentdebt  employment 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Now That’s Rich - NYTimes.com
"First, modern inequality isn’t about graduates. It’s about oligarchs. Apologists for soaring inequality almost always try to disguise the gigantic incomes of the truly rich by hiding them in a crowd of the merely affluent. Instead of talking about the 1 percent or the 0.1 percent, they talk about the rising incomes of college graduates, or maybe the top 5 percent. The goal of this misdirection is to soften the picture, to make it seem as if we’re talking about ordinary white-collar professionals who get ahead through education and hard work.

But many Americans are well-educated and work hard. For example, schoolteachers. Yet they don’t get the big bucks. Last year, those 25 hedge fund managers made more than twice as much as all the kindergarten teachers in America combined. And, no, it wasn’t always thus: The vast gulf that now exists between the upper-middle-class and the truly rich didn’t emerge until the Reagan years.

Second, ignore the rhetoric about “job creators” and all that. Conservatives want you to believe that the big rewards in modern America go to innovators and entrepreneurs, people who build businesses and push technology forward. But that’s not what those hedge fund managers do for a living; they’re in the business of financial speculation, which John Maynard Keynes characterized as “anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.” Or since they make much of their income from fees, they’re actually in the business of convincing other people that they can anticipate average opinion about average opinion.

Once upon a time, you might have been able to argue with a straight face that all this wheeling and dealing was productive, that the financial elite was actually providing services to society commensurate with its rewards. But, at this point, the evidence suggests that hedge funds are a bad deal for everyone except their managers; they don’t deliver high enough returns to justify those huge fees, and they’re a major source of economic instability.

More broadly, we’re still living in the shadow of a crisis brought on by a runaway financial industry. Total catastrophe was avoided by bailing out banks at taxpayer expense, but we’re still nowhere close to making up for job losses in the millions and economic losses in the trillions. Given that history, do you really want to claim that America’s top earners — who are mainly either financial managers or executives at big corporations — are economic heroes?

Finally, a close look at the rich list supports the thesis made famous by Thomas Piketty in his book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” — namely, that we’re on our way toward a society dominated by wealth, much of it inherited, rather than work.

At first sight, this may not be obvious. The members of the rich list are, after all, self-made men. But, by and large, they did their self-making a long time ago. As Bloomberg View’s Matt Levine points out, these days a lot of top money managers’ income comes not from investing other people’s money but from returns on their own accumulated wealth — that is, the reason they make so much is the fact that they’re already very rich.

And this is, if you think about, an inevitable development. Over time, extreme inequality in income leads to extreme inequality of wealth; indeed, the wealth share of America’s top 0.1 percent is back at Gilded Age levels. This, in turn, means that high incomes increasingly come from investment income, not salaries. And it’s only a matter of time before inheritance becomes the biggest source of great wealth.

But why does all of this matter? Basically, it’s about taxes.

America has a long tradition of imposing high taxes on big incomes and large fortunes, designed to limit the concentration of economic power as well as raising revenue. These days, however, suggestions that we revive that tradition face angry claims that taxing the rich is destructive and immoral — destructive because it discourages job creators from doing their thing, immoral because people have a right to keep what they earn.

But such claims rest crucially on myths about who the rich really are and how they make their money. Next time you hear someone declaiming about how cruel it is to persecute the rich, think about the hedge fund guys, and ask yourself if it would really be a terrible thing if they paid more in taxes."
paulkrugman  income  inequality  wealth  oligarchy  2014  economics  instability  politics  policy  taxes  finance  productivity  jobs  labor  thomaspiketty  society  class 
may 2014 by robertogreco
18. Webstock 2014 Talk Notes and References - postarchitectural
[Direct link to video: https://vimeo.com/91957759 ]
[See also: http://www.webstock.org.nz/talks/the-future-happens-so-much/ ]

"I was honored to be invited to Webstock 2014 to speak, and decided to use it as an opportunity to talk about startups and growth in general.

I prepared for this talk by collecting links, notes, and references in a flat text file, like I did for Eyeo and Visualized. These references are vaguely sorted into the structure of the talk. Roughly, I tried to talk about the future happening all around us, the startup ecosystem and the pressures for growth that got us there, and the dangerous sides of it both at an individual and a corporate level. I ended by talking about ways for us as a community to intervene in these systems of growth.

The framework of finding places to intervene comes from Leverage Points by Donella Meadows, and I was trying to apply the idea of 'monstrous thoughts' from Just Asking by David Foster Wallace. And though what I was trying to get across is much better said and felt through books like Seeing like a State, Debt, or Arctic Dreams, here's what was in my head."
shahwang  2014  webstock  donellameadows  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  debt  economics  barrylopez  trevorpaglen  google  technology  prism  robotics  robots  surveillance  systemsthinking  growth  finance  venturecapital  maciejceglowski  millsbaker  mandybrown  danhon  advertising  meritocracy  democracy  snapchat  capitalism  infrastructure  internet  web  future  irrationalexuberance  github  geopffmanaugh  corproratism  shareholders  oligopoly  oligarchy  fredscharmen  kenmcleod  ianbanks  eleanorsaitta  quinnorton  adamgreenfield  marshallbrain  politics  edwardsnowden  davidsimon  georgepacker  nicolefenton  power  responsibility  davidfosterwallace  christinaxu  money  adamcurtis  dmytrikleiner  charlieloyd  wealth  risk  sarahkendxior  markjacobson  anildash  rebeccasolnit  russellbrand  louisck  caseygollan  alexpayne  judsontrue  jamesdarling  jenlowe  wilsonminer  kierkegaard  readinglist  startups  kiev  systems  control  data  resistance  obligation  care  cynicism  snark  change  changetheory  neoliberalism  intervention  leveragepoints  engagement  nonprofit  changemaki 
april 2014 by robertogreco
DROM - Strike Debt!
"Written by a network of activists, writers, and academics from Strike Debt, The Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual reveals how the predatory debt system works to increase inequality, undermine democracy, and ruin lives. It provides detailed strategies for fighting common forms of debt and lays out an expansive vision for a societal movement of debt resistance. The full text of the manual is available here for free."
strikedebt  debt  resistance  inequality  activism  howto  toread  capitalism  finance  money  economics  freedom 
march 2014 by robertogreco
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