Nov 15, 2019

How to become a billionaire

Robert Reich writes:

Billionaires are wailing that Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’s wealth tax proposals are attacks on free market capitalism.

Rubbish. There are basically only five ways to accumulate a billion dollars, and none of them has to do with being successful in free market capitalism.    

Read how, here.

Nov 5, 2019

Human costs of dirty air

Highland Park Optimist Club members wearing smog gas masks at a banquet, Los Angeles, circa 1954

From a terrific piece in the New York Review of Books:

Using the Huai River as a dividing line between colder and warmer parts of the country, from the 1950s to 1980 the Chinese government provided free coal for household heating north of the river and no subsidy to those living south of it. Researchers at the University of Chicago looked at mortality data in ninety Chinese cities and found a shocking result: those living in the north had their lives cut short by 5.5 years on average due to “cardiorespiratory mortality” from exposure to levels of particulate pollution that were 55 percent higher than in the air of the south. They estimated that the well-intentioned policy destroyed 2.5 billion life-years…. And, in the US, there’s a new problem: the guardians who craft and enforce air pollution policy are busy dismantling the protections created by decades of careful science and study.

Read more here.

Oct 9, 2019

Tax injustice

The rich really are different from you and me: they pay a lower tax rate. The cheerleaders on behalf of tax breaks for the rich claimed that benefits would trickle down throughout the economy. Guess what? The joke’s on us.

Read about it here. And here.

Sep 26, 2019

Say hello to ecofascism

An important piece in The Baffler exposes some strange bedfellows:

On March 15, a white supremacist in Christchurch, New Zealand, murdered fifty-one worshippers at a mosque. In a sprawling manifesto, the killer identified as an “ecofascist” and aimed to “show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands.” Less than six months later, another man who combined resentments about environmental degradation and immigrant populations in his manifesto walked into a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, with a rifle and killed twenty-two people, many of whom were Latinx. “Invaders” the killer wrote, “have close to the highest birthrate of all ethnicities in America.”

Climate denialism remains deeply entrenched on the American right, but the glaciers are beginning to recede; recent polls show increasing alarm about the climate crisis across the political spectrum, especially among the young. As the crisis worsens, denialism itself might very well go extinct, opening up the possibility of new political configurations in response to the question of what to do about it. This is already underway in many European countries, where younger activists within far-right parties—those who will have to live with the worsening effects of climate change—are agitating to cut into green parties’ monopoly of the issue by tying it to their anti-migrant appeals.

Read more here.

Sep 15, 2019

Scaling environmentalism

From a review of Tatiana Schlossberg’s Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impacts You Don’t Know You Have:

For 10 or 15 years beginning in the 1990s consumer-driven environmentalism was a constant refrain, leading to endless disputations about paper towels and disposable diapers versus sponges and cotton nappies. When I picked up this book, I feared it might go down the same cul-de-sacs, but it doesn’t, and for the obvious reason: That earlier campaign was essentially useless. Some fairly small percentage of people read those books, and an even smaller percentage took regular and clear action. Those people are morally consistent heroes whom we should all salute, but it turns out there are not enough of them to make a difference….

The changes we make in our transportation lives will matter mostly if we make them “as a collective.” That is to say, instead of trying to figure out every single aspect of our lives, a carbon tax would have the effect of informing every one of those decisions, automatically and invisibly. The fuel efficiency standards that the Obama administration put forward and Trump is now gutting would result in stunningly different outcomes. And so on….

We aren’t going to solve our problems one consumer at a time. We’re going to need to do it as societies and civilizations, or not at all.

Read more here.

Sep 12, 2019

Inequality’s human price

For many, inequality is a matter of life and death:

The expanding gap between rich and poor is not only widening the gulf in incomes and wealth in America. It is helping the rich lead longer lives, while cutting short the lives of those who are struggling, according to a study released this week by the Government Accountability Office.


Almost three-quarters of rich Americans who were in their 50s and 60s in 1992 were still alive in 2014. Just over half of poor Americans in their 50s and 60s in 1992 made it to 2014.

Read more here. See the GAO report here.

Sep 11, 2019

An alternative to “shareholder capitalism”

The U.K. Labour Party has a plan:

The Corbyn project dates to September 2018, when John McDonnell, Labour’s leading economic policymaker, proposed that British corporations be required to establish “Inclusive Ownership Funds” (IOFs). These would grant employees of large companies 10 percent of their employer’s shares, the right to a share of economic profits, and a voice in corporate governance. The plan would create employee trusts, where employees are granted equity shares collectively as a right of employment, which they do not have to pay for and cannot sell. The funds would give employees a collective voice in electing the board of directors and would ensure that employees participate in the wealth created as a corporation’s shares appreciate.

Read more about it here.

Aug 16, 2019

America’s “low road capitalism”

From (of all places) the New York Times:

Those searching for reasons the American economy is uniquely severe and unbridled have found answers in many places (religion, politics, culture). But recently, historians have pointed persuasively to the gnatty fields of Georgia and Alabama, to the cotton houses and slave auction blocks, as the birthplace of America’s low-road approach to capitalism.

Read more here.

Aug 13, 2019

Nice non-work, if you can get it

From Bloomberg’s survey of the ultra-rich:

The numbers are mind-boggling: $70,000 per minute, $4 million per hour, $100 million per day.
That’s how quickly the fortune of the Waltons, the clan behind Walmart Inc., has been growing since last year’s Bloomberg ranking of the world’s richest families.
At that rate, their wealth would’ve expanded about $23,000 since you began reading this. A new Walmart associate in the U.S. would’ve made about 6 cents in that time, on the way to an $11 hourly minimum.

Read more here.

Aug 5, 2019

Education alone isn’t enough

Nick Hanauer writes in The Atlantic:

Income inequality has exploded not because of our country’s educational failings but despite its educational progress. Make no mistake: Education is an unalloyed good. We should advocate for more of it, so long as it’s of high quality. But the longer we pretend that education is the answer to economic inequality, the harder it will be to escape our new Gilded Age.

Read more here.

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