Friday, September 17, 2010

Jobs AND Justice

Hitting the nail on the head as usual, Jobs with Justice and allies are demanding -- whaaat? -- jobs?? publicly funded? in the middle of a recession? a "Great Recession"?!?

But aren't we all lucky hold on to what we have without some Big Brother World Government Belgian Queen Elizabeth-Osama bin Laden Jr. Great Satan stepping in and taking away all our tea and freedoms, especially our filthy rich brothers and sisters, who are sitting on a mountain of cash and won't give us a job at the moment, but if we just give them a few more tax breaks they might?

In other words, you my innocent friend may ask, don't taxes take money out of the economy?

The only rational response when you hear this (all over the fracking place) is: WRONG!
(Actually it should be "Wrong, YOU DIPSTICK!") In fact what is taking money out of the economy is giving it to the rich! They aren't investing it. They're hoarding it! (See above.)

OK, carefully, now, carefully: Taxes on the rich, especially on money they are stashing away or blowing on the markets, and using that money to create jobs for working class folks who will certainly spend it, probably locally, is ... what? Taking money out of the economy? Or putting it back in? Hmmm... tough one, eh?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More Uses for Poverty

"The number of people in the US who are in poverty is on track for a record increase on President Barack Obama's watch, with ranks of working poor approaching 1960's levels that led to the national war on poverty," says an AP story on recent census figures. And considering all the low-income paranoids I know (and maybe you know) who dodge the census while their coworkers land stopgap gigs walking for the Census Bureau, not to mention how hard it always is to count the very people who need counting the most, we can safely assume that like most dire government statistics, these are optimistic.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ending the Great Recession

Robert Reich is usually on the right track, and he is again: wage or wealth inequality is clearly the festering sore at ground zero of the current Great Recession. And taking costs off the other end of the see-saw, through earned income tax credit or health insurance reform or free education, clearly help workers. (... when the health reform is fixed.) Splitting the difference when workers are forced to shift down a pay grade would help, too.

Not sure why Reich omits the speculation tax (see also this), but on another point maybe he's joining the trigger happy crowd ready to declare the Employee Free Choice Act* dead and that's too bad. Long term, as Reich knows, there will be no economic recovery without strengthening workers' rights -- and the most important right is the right to organize, which we no longer fully have. The Employee Free Choice Act is going to have to come back, and keep coming back.

Of course that's true of worker control, and sindicalism, social revolution, and so on, but there are also specific short-term reforms that need to stay in the sunshine. Of course we always have to remember to say out loud that single-payer healthcare is a necessary but not sufficient condition for social & economic justice, and so on.

The bottom line is, the rich have to be relieved of some of the spoils they've managed to accrue by hook and by crook over generations. Wealth taxes. Speculation taxes. Progressive income taxes. Industrial nationalization. We can debate and argue over which is best -- and we should -- but without one or more of these taking a big bite out of the mountain of loot the rich are sitting on, the working class will never solve any of our deep-seated economic problems.

They've been robbing us of land, wages, taxes, and on and on, and it's time they made some restitution.

But we have to remember that that's not the end. The "Peace Dividend" if nothing else proved that freeing up the money does not guarantee that we get it, by any stretch of the imagination. Part of the package has to always be spending the money on our priorities: health, education, welfare, rights at work. Their priorities get plenty of play.

[*This article gives Emanuel and the White House too much credit. In fact, just after Obama became "President-Elect" Emanuel was already signaling deep doubts in answer reporters' questions about the incoming Administration's presumed support for EFCA - despite what other aides said later. In fact, Emanuel laughed off EFCA questions, implying that the question was loaded, as if support were already thin ice. My reading of the tea leaves is this Administration never intended to help EFCA in any way, shape or form. Shame on them.]

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Every indicator

More bad news: foreclosures, unemployment, you name it.

It's starting to stack up on us. Earlier layers include the big news - recession since 2008 - and the barely made the news - real income spiral-down over the last few decades.

Back to that recession thing, and Rasmus, he points out: this recession is impressively worse by every economic indicator than every preceding recession this century - but not at depression -- yet.

Until now, recession meant GDP declined 2-4 percent for a couple quarters. This time it's 5-15%. Depressions have been much worse, but we could get there.

Until now, recession meant 10 percent unemployment or less. This time we hit 17%, including a million job losses per month from Nov. 08 to May 09. It's complicated by the fact that the government keeps changing how it calculates unemployment, but controlling for that, it seems clear that we are looking at much worse unemployment now than previous recessions. Depressions have been over 20%. And as public employers continue slashing deep, we could move that way.

Industrial production, exports, and stock markets, all worse than previous recessions. But not hitting levels we had in depressions -- yet. If you want a jolt, read this book.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Epic Recession

Reading Jack Rasmus is one of those 300 Club effects. Worse, reading him over time, it now appears that he was an optimist in 2008.

Anybody who reads about the economy who also may happen to work for a living (or try to) ought to notice that Rasmus combines two types of observation that don't often coexist in the same paragraph, like matter and antimatter.

El primero is a critical and intelligent look at what other economists are saying, what they skip over, and how we can fill in the blanks. This includes people like Krugman, who's pretty smart, so pegging his blindspot lands Rasmus a sweet starting gate. Also sends up a red flag about Obama's half-uh-way fixes: color them doomed.

Maybe they'd work if we were in a regular recession, but "epic recession" isn't just a word for a "really bad" one. It's different in some fundamental ways. It's in fact more like the early stages of the d-word.

The recent economy is a house of cards (we noticed) and the Obama gang is just blu-tacking some of the cards together. Maybe it's some of the lower ones, but not even the bottom.

Then, the sin, the thoughtcrime - el secundo - Rasmus pays attention to the man behind the curtain. He must be kicked out of any economists' clubs he's in, because this is bound to designate him Skunk - at - Picnic. He says, the ultimate cause of the antisocial over-zeal for speculation over real investment, over-reliance on debt (and lots of it), und so weiter, is massive accumulation of, well, money among the Richie Riches and the (not unrelated) lack of money on the other side of town.

Funny that it comes back to that, isn't it? And particularly funny when we listen to what the rightwing is still saying about the fix for this mess: lower taxes and regulations and so on, so the rich can make more money and (hocus pocus) create jobs. Only, when they do get a lot of money (meaning a lot more), as in the last 40 years or so, they don't invest it - they play the ponies - er - market. They ... BLOW IT! And when the party's over, the debt unwinds, however you want to say it, they take the whole precarious economy down, not with them, but with their dividends, stock prices, etc. They are still fine. In fact, some of them are sitting even prettier than before - while longterm unemployment continues climbing, unemployment benefits run dry, political sympathy with it, and foreclosures hit ten times the normal rate with only more fun in sight.

Hm, what did Rasmus say this could turn into, again?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pop Quiz!

What's an 11 letter word that begins with "chicken" and ends with "it"? Obama Administration. OK, there's another one - Democrat.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Green pork?

In the news Pres. Obama is spending zillions of subsidies to manufacturers - nothing new, except for the more "progressive" focus: he targets "green businesses" for aid. (Perhaps not surprisingly, as the young, better educated, middle-income supporters of these things were a major Obama constituency in the election -- chicken and egg, you know.) So far, so good.

The stated hope is to create about as many jobs, maybe, as half of those cut in December 2009 alone.

But if we scratch the surface, what color is under all that green? Thus far, white workers are being hit pretty damn hard by the economic crisis, but workers of color are being hit a helluva lot harder. Preference will still be given to "shovel ready" jobs, i.e. they will favor folks who already have jobs -- who are of course in need of work, too -- but what about the poorest workers, some of whom have been out of work for years and have no networks currently operational for connecting with this futuristic aid package?

I'm all for green jobs, clean energy, sustainable growth ... but for whom?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Equity thing not happening

Do I recall some racists whining about how, now that there's a black president, white people won't get a fair shake? Sure, that's why none of the $150 million-plus "stimulus" dough for those infamous "shovel-ready" roads-and-bridges projects has gone to black contractors, according to a new study by the Transportation Equity Network (TEN). Very little of the overall package has gone to any businesses that are not white owned.

I suppose we don't know how much of it went non-union, or to employees of color, or to poor communities in any way, shape or form.

Jobs bill not enough

Is the jobs bill the Dems are so proud of (well, not the Blue Dogs) truly a good, albeit insufficient, start? Es posible. Certainly it makes more sense than the POP (Party of Palin) ever-twisting nonsense: so it's too hard for struggling small business owners/managers to figure out some "fancy" tax credit, eh?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year

Good bye, 2009, don't let the door knob hit you in the ass on your way out.

Over 20 million of us Amerischmucks got unemployment in '09, which of course doesn't count millions more who didn't qualify for various reasons, were forced to work only part-time, or dropped off the U-3 rolls when their clocks ran out.

We didn't get out of Iraq, dug in deeper in 'AfPak', didn't let those poor slobs go home from Gitmo - held for years without charge ("land of the free," ya know!), didn't get national health care, single-payer insurance, OR a good solid public option. AND we didn't get a right to unionize. But, hey, at least there was a "jobs summit," right?

I don't know. Looks like in 2010 we might have to raise a little hell.