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You know it's getting bad when …

Apr 12, 2014   //   by boyce   //   Articles  //  No Comments

… inequality makes the IMF sing a new tune:

[T]he newfound attention to income inequality isn’t just another facet of a more liberal, Keynesian economic worldview. The fund’s economists have been producing research that suggests that inequality could make the world economy less stable.

Read more here.

Who needs a boss?

Apr 1, 2014   //   by boyce   //   Articles  //  No Comments

From a Times report on the rise of worker-owned cooperatives:

If you happen to be looking for your morning coffee near Golden Gate Park and the bright red storefront of the Arizmendi Bakery attracts your attention, congratulations. You have found what the readers of The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a local alt-weekly, deem the city’s best bakery. But it has another, less obvious, distinction. Of the $3.50 you hand over for a latte (plus $2.75 for the signature sourdough croissant), not one penny ends up in the hands of a faraway investor. Nothing goes to anyone who might be tempted to sell out to a larger bakery chain or shutter the business if its quarterly sales lag.

Instead, your money will go more or less directly to its 20-odd bakers, who each make $24 an hour — more than double the national median wage for bakers. On top of that, they get health insurance, paid vacation and a share of the profits. “It’s not luxury, but I can sort of afford living in San Francisco,” says Edhi Rotandi, a baker at Arizmendi. He works four days a week and spends the other days with his 2-year-old son.

Read more here.

Right on the money: concentrated wealth versus democracy

Mar 29, 2014   //   by boyce   //   Articles  //  No Comments

Quiz for today: who said this?

The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power.

Answer: Teddy Roosevelt in a 1910 speech in Osawatomie, Kansas. Paul Krugman quotes Roosevelt to make the case that taxing the rich to safeguard democracy is as American as apple pie. Krugman also quotes Irving Fisher’s 1919 presidential address to the American Economics Association, warning of the dangers of “an undemocratic concentration of wealth.”

“How,” Krugman asks,” did such views not only get pushed out of the mainstream, but come to be considered illegitimate?”

Good question. Krugman’s conclusion is right on the money:

[T]he demonization of anyone who talks about the dangers of concentrated wealth is based on a misreading of both the past and the present. Such talk isn’t un-American; it’s very much in the American tradition.

Read his column here.

Rent in a warming world

Mar 21, 2014   //   by econ4org   //   Articles  //  No Comments

Econ4′s James Boyce explains what rent’s got to do with climate change:

Read his piece here.

Energy efficiency takes off

Mar 21, 2014   //   by boyce   //   Articles  //  No Comments

Some good news from the energy efficiency frontlines:

[I]nvestment in energy efficiency is large and growing: $300 billion in 2011 by companies and governments in 11 countries. That is the same as total investment in electricity generation from oil, gas and coal, though less than investment in renewable electricity plus renewable-energy subsidies. But it saves more in emissions of carbon dioxide than all the spending on renewables, and pays for itself.

Read more here.

Sharing revolution?

Mar 21, 2014   //   by boyce   //   Articles  //  No Comments

Writing in the Times, Jeremy Rifkin strikes an optimistic note:

The unresolved question is, how will this economy of the future function when millions of people can make and share goods and services nearly free? The answer lies in the civil society, which consists of nonprofit organizations that attend to the things in life we make and share as a community. In dollar terms, the world of nonprofits is a powerful force. Nonprofit revenues grew at a robust rate of 41 percent — after adjusting for inflation — from 2000 to 2010, more than doubling the growth of gross domestic product.

Read more here.

“Do we invest in students, or millionaires?”

Mar 9, 2014   //   by boyce   //   Articles  //  No Comments

That’s the question posed by Senator Elizabeth Warren. She will introduce a bill to levy a minimum tax on incomes above $1 million (known as the “Buffet rule”), and devote the revenue to lowering interest payments on student debt:

Warren’s plan would allow students with outstanding student loans to refinance at lower rates. The cost of the change would be covered by a “dollar for dollar” effort where for “every dollar the Buffet rule brings in, we use that dollar to refinance student loan debt.”

Learn more here.

New Economies Conference in Jackson, Mississippi: May 2-4, 2014

Mar 1, 2014   //   by boyce   //   Articles  //  No Comments

From a description of the upcoming New Economies Conference in Jackson:

Jackson, Mississippi like most of the metropolitan centers throughout the country needs to broaden its economy to confront the challenge of globalization, address its social ills, and revitalize itself. To address the growing crises of economic collapse, social inequality and environmental degradation, the broadened economy must diversify itself to include various forms of ownership and wealth creation models that fully include the vast majority of the population. The broadened economy must include economic democracy, worker ownership, food sovereignty, new models of home ownership, and sustainable production and distribution.

The New Economies Conference will focus on how the City of Jackson can and will start building the city of the future today through the inclusion of cooperatives and other forms of wealth creation based on the principles of solidarity, participatory democracy, and economic and social equity.

Read more here.

For a profile of Jackson mayor Chokwe Lumumaba, who passed away this week, see here.

Read about the connections Lumumba drew between civil rights and immigrant rights here.

See Democracy Now!’s portrait of Lumamba here.

Whose recovery?

Feb 19, 2014   //   by boyce   //   Articles  //  No Comments

Econ4′s Jerry Friedman looks at the changing composition of demand in America:

While Sears and J.C. Penney drift towards bankruptcy, Nordstrom and other luxury brands flourish.  Rather than depending on sales to working-class and middle-class consumers American corporations are doing very well selling to rich consumers, here and abroad.  Rather than promising workers high wages to ensure productivity, they maintain labor discipline through fear.

Read his piece here.

We're #1!

Feb 16, 2014   //   by boyce   //   Articles  //  No Comments

Sam Bowles and Arjun Jayadev reveal a dubious distinction of the American economy:

Another dubious first for America: We now employ as many private security guards as high school teachers — over one million of them, or nearly double their number in 1980.

And that’s just a small fraction of what we call “guard labor.” In addition to private security guards, that means police officers, members of the armed forces, prison and court officials, civilian employees of the military, and those producing weapons: a total of 5.2 million workers in 2011. That is a far larger number than we have of teachers at all levels.

Read more here.