Category Archives: economy

Last Day to Donate to Naked Capitalism’s 2014 Fundraiser

Naked Capitalism has done more to inform my understanding of the world, and generally derail my post-college trajectory (in a good way, I think) than any other place on the internet. Loyal, near-daily reader since 2008 — which probably goes a long way to explaining where my time has gone all these years. I have no idea how Yves and Lambert pull it off day in-day out, but I am much indebted to them.

GIVE GIVE GIVE!

“As low-income populations have gone to college and food insecurity has risen up to swallow the lower rungs of the middle class, hunger has spread across America’s university campuses like never before. In some places, it’s practically a pandemic: At Western Oregon University, 59% of the student body is food insecure, according to researchers from Oregon State University (OSU). A 2011 survey [PDF] of the City University of New York (CUNY) found that 39.2% of the university system’s quarter of a million undergraduates had experienced food insecurity at some time in the past year.

But it’s not just undergraduates: the number of food insecure graduate students is also growing. Between 2007 and 2010, the number of doctorate-holding food stamp recipients tripled, according to a 2012 Chronicle of Higher Education analysis. The number of food stamp recipients with a master’s degree wasn’t found to have tripled over the same time frame, but it got remarkably close, going from 101,682 to 293,029. At one large research school, Michigan State University (MSU), the on-campus food pantry reports that more than half of its clients are graduate students.”

—Ned Resnikoff, The hunger crisis in America’s universities

Skymall Futurism

For the most part, tech punditry has yet to reckon with the coming era of hard limits, which is why it can get away with extrapolating current First World consumption habits into the indefinite future. Instead of imagining a world of iPad-toting social media consultants, the purveyors of Skymall futurism should be thinking about what happens after the planet can no longer sustain their present lifestyle.

Once we reach that point, maybe the same people currently applauding the death of the book will envy the French, who have gone out of their way to preserve the sort of textual content you can read without consuming any electricity.

Ned’s latest for The Baffler

Keeping It Real: Law, Coercion, & The Frontiers of Public Finance

“If the federal government creates money out of thin air, rather than taking it from some people to give it to others, as we have so often been told, then who owns the money? Who deserves the money? If money is not truly a commodity siphoned from the public, but a tool created and distributed by the government and its agents to the public, then who can claim ownership of the money currently wasting away in federal coffers? Deeper, still – who is entitled to the money that doesn’t even exist yet? If there is no money scarcity, only real resource scarcity, then most legal and philosophical conversations about distributive justice are anachronistic and impoverished.”

Keeping It Real: Law, Coercion, & The Frontiers of Public Finance by the Modern Money Network’s Raúl Carrillo

Ex-CIA Spy on Revolution

Unfortunately, the gap between those with money and power and those who actually know what they are talking about has grown catastrophic. The rich are surrounded by sycophants and pretenders whose continued employment demands that they not question the premises. As Larry Summers lectured Elizabeth Warren, ‘insiders do not criticise insiders.'”

But how can activists actually start moving toward the open source vision now? “For starters, there are eight ‘tribes’ that among them can bring together all relevant information: academia, civil society including labor unions and religions, commerce especially small business, government especially local, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit. At every level from local to global, across every mission area, we need to create stewardship councils integrating personalities and information from all eight tribes. We don’t need to wait around for someone else to get started. All of us who recognise the vitality of this possibility can begin creating these new grassroots structures from the bottom-up, right now.

Two things you should read

Today two stellar pieces of writing were published that speak deeply and intelligently on subjects that “the left” at times falters on: the relationship of class and capitalism to both feminism and environmentalism.

First, in Jacobin, “Rank-and-File Environmentalism” describes the fallacy of the “jobs vs. environment” debate, drawing on the history of the Miners for Democracy (MFD) caucus of Appalachian coal miners in the ’60s and ’70s:

Jobs, the MFD insisted, were not at odds with the environment. The caucus suggested that any miners displaced by a national ban on strip mining or enforcement of anti-pollution laws be given other (union) jobs working to reclaim land that had been destroyed by coal companies or building up the infrastructure in their home states which had often been bypassed by state and federal development projects.

The MFD shifted the terms of the debate. Instead of a choice between jobs and environment, they argued for different priorities: people and land before profit.

As when people disparage organic food as “classist,” they often ignore that the people most harmed by pesticides are agricultural workers (many of whom are trafficked and/or children), so too with those who use populist rhetoric to defend pipelines and fracking — or, blame energy workers for such environmentally destructive projects going through:

Many who include workers as part of the problem forget that workers tend to be among those who suffer the most from the destruction their work inflicts. The concentration of energy production in places where few other job opportunities exist means that workers often take jobs that inflict ecological destruction they oppose. Women who occupied a strip mine in 1972 to stop the destruction of their mountains reported that “miners sympathized with the demonstration. These men said they would not be strip mining if there were other jobs available.”

This is one of the key reasons I support a Job Guarantee. Not only would it give workers the ability to refuse work they feel is exploitative — of the land or the people– but it could help us more justly transition to a society where at times human labor may have to replace fossil fuels. In other words, do we enter a post-petroleum world by viciously exploiting segments of the population? Or do we figure out ways to divy up whatever work needs to be done in fair and humane ways?

The former is the obvious extension of the system we have today. Work is far less “automated” than many a blogger/columnist would like to think; nimble human fingers are still often cheaper than machines, provided you don’t have to pay a living wage. If new, sustainable, technologies soon eliminate the need for human labor, great! But rather than bet on that happening before we irrevocably destroy the environment/run out of oil, I’d like to focus on ways that agriculture, construction, sanitation, etc., can be made to operate with fewer fossil fuels and dangerous chemicals, while still providing safe working conditions and fair compensation. There is already a wide range of “appropriate tech” and sustainable agriculture techniques that substitute human labor for fossil fuels. The key is to make sure there are enough workers, enough worker protections, and ample compensation to ensure such labor is safe, dignified and not miserable. “Many hands make light work,” as they say. There is a massive difference between 10 farmers working 5 hour days and 5 farmers working 10 hour days. Of course, if it turns out there just isn’t that much work to be done, we could all just work less.

Second, in The Nation, is this roundtable “Does Feminism Have a Class Problem?”, which similarly emphasizes the importance of understanding labor and class, this time in the context of feminism:

It is no accident that the societies ranked as having the most gender equality are the European social democracies, which tend to have the most economic equality, as well. It is also hardly coincidental that in America over the past twenty years, feminism has stalled while economic inequality has skyrocketed. Both feminism’s halt and inequality’s surge are connected to the rise of the neoliberal capitalist state, with its deregulated workplaces, its deep cuts in social services and its reliance on the unpaid labor of women to provide care.

Nearly everything I said about the job guarantee & green jobs above could similarly be said for the job guarantee and care work. Instead of three elder care workers doing back-breaking eight hour shifts, why not twelve care workers doing four hour shifts? And paid well, like the skilled professionals they are!

Bad Science

“The overwhelming number of retractions due to flawed methodology, flawed approach, and general misconduct over the last decade is staggering. Stories in almost every field have seen a rash of inaccuracies. The percentage of scientific articles retracted because of fraud has increased tenfold since 1975.”

Lefties, time to adopt a hard-line precautionary principle, at least until we free science from neoliberalism.