Bill Moyers on the need for a level playing field and real democracy:
In May, President Obama and I both spoke at the Rutgers University commencement ceremony. He was at his inspirational best as 50,000 people leaned into every word. He lifted the hearts of those young men and women heading out into our troubled world, but I cringed when he said, “Contrary to what we hear sometimes from both the left as well as the right, the system isn’t as rigged as you think…”
Wrong, Mr. President, just plain wrong. The people are way ahead of you on this. In a recent poll, 71% of Americans across lines of ethnicity, class, age, and gender said they believe the U.S. economy is rigged. People reported that they are working harder for financial security. One quarter of the respondents had not taken a vacation in more than five years. Seventy-one percent said that they are afraid of unexpected medical bills; 53% feared not being able to make a mortgage payment; and, among renters, 60% worried that they might not make the monthly rent.
Millions of Americans, in other words, are living on the edge. Yet the country has not confronted the question of how we will continue to prosper without a workforce that can pay for its goods and services….
The religion of inequality — of money and power — has failed us; its gods are false gods. There is something more essential — more profound — in the American experience than the hyena’s appetite. Once we recognize and nurture this, once we honor it, we can reboot democracy and get on with the work of liberating the country we carry in our hearts.
Read his powerful essay, “We, the Plutocrats vs. We, the People,” here.
A “Grassroots Leadership Academy” bankrolled by the Koch brothers seeks to spread the free-market gospel:
One of the sessions, called the “Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” teaches attendees to argue that “a turn away from fossil fuel use would ultimately be disastrous to humanity — especially the poorest of the poor.”
Read more here.
What has the flawed financial system cost the U.S. economy? Here’s your receipt:
Read the accounting by Econ4’s Jerry Epstein together with Juan Montecino here. Excerpt follows:
A healthy financial system is one that channels finance to productive investment, helps families save for and finance big expenses such as higher education and retirement, provides products such as insurance to help reduce risk, creates sufficient amounts of useful liquidity, runs an efficient payments mechanism, and generates financial innovations to do all these useful things more cheaply and effectively. All of these functions are crucial to a stable and productive market economy. But after decades of deregulation, the current U.S. financial system has evolved into a highly speculative system that has failed rather spectacularly at performing these critical tasks.
What has this flawed financial system cost the U.S. economy? How much have American families, taxpayers, and businesses been “overcharged” as a result of these questionable financial activities? In this report, we estimate these costs by analyzing three components: (1) rents, or excess profits; (2) misallocation costs, or the price of diverting resources away from non-financial activities; and (3) crisis costs, meaning the cost of the 2008 financial crisis.
For years lamestream economics has touted “labor market flexibility” – a euphemism for making it easier for employers to dismiss workers – as the best recipe for job creation. Guess what? It turns out that countries whose policies make labor markets more supportive for workers – including better wages, better benefits and better job security – are doing better at job creation. The evidence prompts a New York Times reporter to ask:
What if the very thing that is often viewed as one of the United States’ sources of dynamism — flexible labor markets — is the driving force behind the economy’s greatest weakness: millions of people who are neither working nor looking for a job?
Read more here.
Econ4’s Gerald Friedman laments the blindness of orthodox economics:
When I conducted an assessment of Senator Bernie Sanders’ economic proposals and found that they could produce robust growth, the negative reaction among powerful liberal economists was swift and vehement. How much, I wondered, did this reflect personal disappointment being rationalized into a political economy of despair? Professional economists tend to embrace an economic theory that government can do little more than fuss around the edges. From that stance, what do they have to offer ordinary people for whom the economy is not working? Not a whole lot.
Read Friedman’s full piece here.
A long history of elite disconnection from the economic realities faced by most Americans helped to set the stage for the nation’s current political turmoil:
For some time now most of the people in this country have been under economic pressure. Pay is not going up very much or at all, while living costs keep rising. One recent statistic stands out – 63 percent of Americans would have difficulty raising $500 to cover an emergency, like a sudden need for car repair so they can get to work. Around them the community’s roads and schools and services are in decline.
Most of the public can see this clearly, yet so many elites can’t see at all, and see it or not, they do little or nothing to make things better. This arrogance of our blind, well-fixed elites is helping drive the Donald Trump phenomenon.
Read more here.
Peter Barnes explains how protecting the environment and sharing the fruits of our economy more broadly can – and should – go hand-in-hand:
The failure to charge for common wealth — for example, letting polluters dump freely into our atmosphere — leads to what economists call “negative externalities.” The costs of pollution aren’t paid by polluters; they are shifted to pollutees, nature and future generations. And this market failure persists because no living individuals or companies would financially benefit from fixing it.But imagine a system in which everyone benefits from fixing this tragic flaw. In this system, polluters would pay and all living citizens, as joint beneficiaries and trustees of nature’s gifts, would get dividends. The higher the price for using the commons, the larger the dividends and the lower the externalities. The health of nature’s gifts would be directly linked to greater income for everyone.
Read more here.
And now, something hopeful:
The French government plans to pave 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of its roads with solar panels in the next five years, which will supply power to millions of people.
“The maximum effect of the program, if successful, could be to furnish 5 million people with electricity, or about 8 percent of the French population,” Ségolène Royal, France’s minister of ecology and energy, said….
France’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management said that 4 meters (14 feet) of solarized road would be enough to supply the electrical needs of one household, excluding heat. One kilometer (0.62 miles) will supply enough electricity for 5,000 residents.
Read more and see a video about it here.
The drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is a wake-up call, writes Econ4’s James Boyce:
The tragic crisis in Flint, Michigan, where residents have been poisoned by lead contamination, is not just about drinking water. And it’s not just about Flint. It’s about race and class, and the stark contradiction between the American dream of equal rights and opportunity for all and the American nightmare of metastasizing inequality of wealth and power.
Read his post for the Institute for New Economic Thinking here.