“What the Country Needs is a New New Deal”

Compelling & accessible argument for a Jobs Guarantee program from L. Randall Wray & Stephanie Kelton:

The truth is simple and contrary to these views. Business will not hire more workers until it has more sales. Consumers will not spend more until they’ve got more jobs. A private-sector recovery requires 300,000 new jobs every month. But the private sector doesn’t need 300,000 new workers per month to meet prospective sales.

The new jobs can only come from the federal government—the only economic entity that can afford to hire. Obama’s 1 million infrastructure jobs is a nice down payment, but it is only three month’s worth. New workers will create the sales that firms need to justify new hiring. Still, we must think bigger if we are to create 20 million jobs.

There is a way to do that: The government could serve as the “employer of last resort” under a job guarantee program modeled on the WPA (the Works Progress Administration, in existence from 1935 to 1943 after being renamed the Work Projects Administration in 1939) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942). The program would offer a job to any American who was ready and willing to work at the federal minimum wage, plus legislated benefits. No time limits. No means testing. No minimum education or skill requirements.

The program would operate like a buffer stock, absorbing and releasing workers during the economy’s natural boom-and-bust cycles. In a boom, employers would recruit workers out of the program; in a slump the safety net would allow those who had lost their jobs to continue to work to preserve good habits, making them easier to re-employ when activity picked up. The program would also take those whose education, training or job experience was initially inadequate to obtain work outside the program, enhancing their employability through on-the-job training. Work records would be maintained for all program participants and would be available for potential employers. Unemployment offices could be converted to employment offices, to match workers with jobs in the program, and to help private and public employers recruit workers.

Funding for the job guarantee program must come from the federal government—and the wage should be periodically adjusted to reflect changes in the cost of living and to allow workers to share in rising national productivity so that real living standards would rise—but the administration and operation of the program should be decentralized to the state and local level. Registered not-for-profit organizations could propose projects for approval by responsible offices designated within each of the states and U.S. territories as well as the District of Columbia. Then the proposals should be submitted to the federal office for final approval and funding. To ensure transparency and accountability, the Labor Department should maintain a website providing details on all projects submitted, all projects approved and all projects started.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/with_300_billion_the_president_can_reduce_unemployment_to_zero_20110908

My friend Dan heckles Mitt Romney, Romney declares “corporations are people too.”

“We have to make sure that the promises we make in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are promises we can keep, and there are various ways of doing that,” Mr. Romney said. “One is we can raise taxes on people.”

“Corporations!” the protesters shouted, suggesting that Mr. Romney, as president, should raise taxes on large businesses. “Corporations!”

“Corporations are people, my friend,” Mr. Romney responded, as the hecklers shouted back, “No they’re not!”

“Of course they are,” Mr. Romney said, chuckling slightly. “Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?”

When someone in the front row angrily suggested that “it goes in their pockets,” Mr. Romney, becoming increasingly animated, asked: “Whose pockets? People’s pockets!”

Romney to Hecklers: ‘Corporations Are People’ (NYT)

So not only is this exchange awesome/horrifying in it’s own right, but that handsome man heckling Romney in the above video is my old friend Dan. We went to high school together, he took over the ACLU club after I graduated, and also ran a successful student council presidency campaign on the platform “MAKE SCHOOL LESS F****D UP.”

Go Dan! So happy you’re still fighting the good fight. I’m totally beaming right now & full of CHS pride. Looking forward to the revival of your student council platform on a national scale.

Anyway, Dan’s out in Iowa now working for the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement so if you enjoyed his performance consider a donation.

The full exchange:

If the news is crushing your spirit, I highly recommend some Wendell Berry

The outcry in the face of such obvious truths is always that if they were implemented they would ruin the economy. The peculiarity of our condition would appear to be that the implementation of any truth would ruin the economy. If the Golden Rule were generally observed among us, the economy would not last a week. We have made our false economy a false god, and it has made blasphemy of the truth. So I have met the economy in the road, and am expected to yield it right of way. But I will not get over. My reason is that I am a man, and have better right to the ground than the economy. The economy is not god for me, for I have had to close a look at its wheels. I have seen it at work in the strip mines and coal camps of Kentucky, and I know that it has no moral limits. It has emptied the country of the independent and the proud, and has crowded the cities with the dependent and the abject. It has always sacrificed the small to the large, the personal to the impersonal, the good to the cheap. It has ridden to its questionable triumphs over the bodies of small farmers and tradesmen and craftsmen. I see it, still, driving my neighbors off their farms into the factories. I see it teaching my students to give themselves a price before they can give themselves a value. Its principle is to waste and destroy the living substance of the world and the birthright of posterity for a monetary profit that is the most flimsy and useless of human artifacts.

Though I can see no way to defend the economy, I recognize the need to be concerned by the suffering that would be produced by its failure. But I ask if it is necessary for it to fail in order to change; I am assuming that if it does not change it must sooner or later fail, and that a great deal that is more valuable will fail with it. As a deity the economy is a sort of egotistical French monarch, for it apparently can see no alternative to itself except chaos, and perhaps that is its chief weakness. For, of course, chaos is not the only alternative to it. A better alternative is a better economy. But we will not conceive the possibility of a better economy, and therefore will not begin to change, until we quit deifying the present one.

A better economy, to my way of thinking, would be one that would place its emphasis not upon the quantity of notions and luxuries but upon the the quality of necessities. Such an economy would, for example, produce an automobile that would last at least as long, and be at least as easy to maintain, as a horse. It would encourage workmanship to be as durable as its materials; thus a piece of furniture would have the durability not of glue but of wood. It would substitute for the pleasure of frivolity a pleasure in the high quality of essential work, in the use of good tools, in a healthful and productive countryside. It would encourage a migration from the cities back to the farms, to ensure a work force that would be sufficient not only to the production of the necessary quantities of food, but to the production of food of the best quality and to the maintenance of the land at the highest fertility — work that would require a great deal more personal attention and care and hand labor than the present technological agriculture that is focused so exclusively upon production. Such a change in the economy would not involve large-scale unemployment, but rather large-scale changes and shifts in employment.

“You are tilting at the windmills,” I will be told. “It is a hard world, hostile to the values that you stand for. You will never enlist enough people to bring about such a change.” People who talk that way are eager to despair, knowing how easy despair is. The change I am talking about appeals to me precisely because it need not wait upon “other people.” Anybody who wants to do so can begin it in himself and in his household as soon as he is ready– by becoming answerable to at least some of his own needs, by refusing the glamorous and the frivolous. When a person learns to act on his best hopes he enfranchises and validates them as no government or public policy ever will. And by his action the possibility that other people will do the same is made a likelihood.

From Discipline and Hope by Wendell Berry, from his book A Continuous Harmony (1972).

ASHLEY/AMBER featured in interview with Berlinale Shorts curator Maike Mia Höhne

Ashley/Amber is about the anti-war movement in the USA…

Yes, the film is a conflict-ridden entanglement of various themes related to the character of a young woman: an excursion into the world of porn, a friend deployed in a war and the growing engagement within the student peace movement. Besides the intelligent cinematic linking of these areas, the director Rebecca Rojer captures much of the real-to-life atmosphere in Harvard, where the film plays and where she herself is a student. One doesn’t ‘just’ see a fictional film, but really gets informed about conditions in certain regions of the world. I was not previously aware that there was such a strong resistance movement in the US – including occupied buildings and political discussion groups. Through the specific quality of the 16mm material that Rojer uses, you feel like you’ve traveled back to the era of 1970s activism. And at the same time you are aware that it’s about very real occurrences in today’s world.

Full Interview
Ashley/Amber Official Site

Diaspora* is [probably not] the new facebook

Diaspora* is a noble attempt to provide an alternative to that evil CIA-backed walled garden named Facebook. It’s an open-source, distributed, community-funded social network. They just launched their feature-poor and riddled-with-bugs alpha site. Still a long way to go before it can compete with the FB, but I support the spirit of the venture…

Add me: rrrojer@joindiaspora.com

I have a few invites left, hit me up if you want one.


BBC on Diaspora

The Information Super-Sewer – Chris Hedges’ damning critique of Free Culture

The only income left for most of those who create is earned through self-promotion, but as Lanier points out this turns culture into nothing but advertising. It fosters a social ethic in which the capacity for crowd manipulation is more highly valued than truth, beauty or thought.

While the severing of intellectual property rights from their creators, whether journalists, photographers or musicians, means that those who create lose the capacity to make a living from their work, aggregators such as Google make money by collecting and distributing this work to lure advertisers. Original work on the Internet, as Lanier points out, is “copied, mashed up, anonymized, analyzed, and turned into bricks in someone else’s fortress to support an advertising scheme.” Lanier warns that if this trend is not halted it will create a “formula that leaves no way for our nation to earn a living in the long term.”

“Funding a civilization through advertising is like trying to get nutrition by connecting a tube from one’s anus to one’s mouth,” Lanier says.

Chris Hedges: The Information Super-Sewer – Chris Hedges’ Columns – Truthdig

tubemouthanus

As a founding (now lapsed) member of Harvard Free Culture and a former employee of Creative Commons, these are some pretty hard truths, thoughts I’ve been harboring for over 3 years now but reluctant to state publicly. But perhaps as a result of working on my thesis film— by far my most substantial endeavor to date— combined with getting ready to graduate— meaning next year not only will I no longer have institutional/financial support for making art, but I will have to actually earn a living— that I feel like it’s time to come out about my growing ambivalence towards “free culture.”

Continue reading

Century of the Self

“This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the angerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.” – Adam Curtis

For anyone interested in why our culture is as it is today, I strongly urge you to watch The Century of the Self, an incredible documentary/film essay by Adam Curtis. It traces the rise of consumerism through the lens of PR and psychoanalysis.

hook

Rather than just a catalog of how our society is broken, The Century of the Self documents how specific people, in particular “father of PR” Edward Bernays, made deliberate and calculated efforts to get us here. At least according to this film, consumer culture was not entirely a happy accident; our corporate forefathers were quite aware of what they were doing, with the explicit intention of “controlling people through their subconscious desires.”

I generally avoid documentaries because I hate that feeling of despair and disgust as I sit helplessly outraged in front of the screen, watching the credits roll. Century of the Self certainly invokes such emotions. But the helplessness is overshadowed by a sort of internal mental churning, as my mind picks apart its psyche. A potently interactive viewing experience, the film forces one to question their own values. It outlines the trajectory of ideas such as “individualism” and “self expression” in our society, documenting their promotion and exploring their broader implications. Afterwards, one cannot help but attempt to articulate their own fuzzy but ingrained values, and to ask who put them there, and if they belong.

Episode 1: Happiness Machines
Episode 2. The Engineering of Consent
Episode 3: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed
Episode 4: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering

[via Dad, image by me circa grade 8]

ZDay

Today is ZDay, a day of “awareness and activism” about the issues addressed in the delicious agitprop conspiracy doc Zeitgeist: The Movie.

I don’t have the patience to be a true conspiracy theorist, but I do believe the following: that the government is not to be trusted; that the elite are sketchy, secretive and often psychotic bastards; and that humanity has much to gain by ditching theistic religions, nationalism, and corporatism. But above all, I enjoy a good story. And for that reason alone I recommend taking two hours to watch Zeitgeist, preferably with a couple friends and your preferred paranoia-inducing substance.

[via alex o.]

conspiracy theorists

Rebecca R. Rojer