Browsing articles in "Articles"
Jan 8, 2019

Passing the buck

A side benefit of moving to decentralized, renewable electricity would be getting out from under these guys:

As California’s deadliest wildfire was consuming the town of Paradise in November, some of the state’s top power company officials and a dozen legislators were at an annual retreat at the Fairmont Kea Lani resort on Maui. In the course of four days, they discussed wildfires — and how much responsibility the utilities deserve for the devastation, if any.

It is an issue of increasing urgency as more fires are traced to equipment owned by California’s investor-owned utilities. The largest, Pacific Gas and Electric, could ultimately have to pay homeowners and others an estimated $30 billion for causing fires over the last two years. The most devastating of those, the Camp Fire, destroyed thousands of homes in Paradise and killed at least 86 people.

Realizing that their potential fire liability is large enough to bankrupt them, the utility companies are spending tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions. Their goal: a California law that would allow them to pass on the cost of wildfires to their customers in the form of higher electricity rates.

Read more here and here.

Plus update on the saga here.

Jan 7, 2019

Workers on boards?

Sue Holmberg of the Roosevelt Institute makes the case for a big change in corporate governance:

American workers are in a crisis that stems, in part, from having no voice in their economic lives. For decades, American corporations have been run exclusively for the benefit of shareholders, and that model has enabled rising inequality, stagnant wages, runaway executive compensation and underinvestment in research and innovation.

Read more here.

Dec 26, 2018

Unions & inequality

A picture worth 1,000 words, from the Economic Policy Institute’s top charts of 2018:

See more here.

Dec 19, 2018

The hangover from imbibing Homo economicus

More subtle understandings of human behavior have bounced off the teflon coating of Econ 101 with baleful consequences:

What students are taught in their economics classes can perversely turn models and charts that are meant to approximate reality into aspirational ideals for it. Most economics majors are first introduced to Homo economicus as impressionable college freshmen and internalize its values: Studies show, for instance, that taking economics courses can make people actively more selfish.

Read more here.

Dec 17, 2018

Economics: a diversity deficit

The economics profession lags behind the country:

Half a century ago, the American Economic Association, a prestigious 133-year-old society dedicated to encouraging the careers and research of economists, set up the Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession in response to concerns that minorities were underrepresented. These concerns are just as relevant today.

Read more here.

Nov 2, 2018

Merkel’s Eurausterity

Outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel’s record as a champion of Europe has a nasty stain:

Like many national leaders, Ms. Merkel, time and again, catered to domestic political interests at the expense of broader European concerns, dismissing calls that Germany’s prodigious savings be put on the line to rescue debt-saturated members of the bloc….  She adamantly opposed debt forgiveness to Greece, even as it teetered toward insolvency, and even as joblessness exceeded 27 percent — a special source of outrage given that German banks were primary lenders in Greece’s catastrophic explosion of borrowing.

“She was at the heart of the design of the flawed Greek program, which not only imposed austerity, but most importantly resisted restructuring the debt in order to save the German and French banks,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate economist at Columbia University in New York. “The rhetoric that she used suggested that the crisis was caused by irresponsible behavior by Greece, rather than irresponsibility on the part of the lender.”

Read more here.

May 2, 2018

Economics and morality

Economists cannot avoid grappling with moral questions, says … The Economist:

To be useful, economists need to learn to understand and evaluate moral arguments rather than dismiss them.

Many economists will find that a dismal prospect. Calculations of social utility are tidier, and the profession has fallen out of the habit of moral reasoning. But those who wish to say what society should be doing cannot dodge questions of values.

Read more here.

See also The Economist’s Oath by Econ4’s George DeMartino.

Mar 17, 2018

An economic Bill of Rights

It’s time to revive an idea floated by Franklin D. Roosevelt, write Mark Paul, Sandy Darity and Darrick Hamilton in the American Prospect:

Many may question in this time of “resistance,” if this is the right time to fight for an expansion of economics rights, but no one wins anything of consequence by simply playing defense.

Read more here.

Jan 29, 2018

The fossil-free future

The clean energy transition has turned a corner, writes Bill McKibben:

The fossil-fuel industry is no longer minting money. It’s been underperforming the rest of the economy—and no wonder. Sun and wind are ultimately free, and that puts remarkable price pressure on the stuff you have to dig up and burn. Every single day, the electric car moves further along the path from novelty to normal… The question now is not whether big oil is going down; the question is how fast—and how we make sure the transition is a just one.

Read more here.

Jan 13, 2018

Why equity-minded foundations are losing the war

In a thought-provoking analysis of the failure of equity-oriented foundations to reverse widening inequality, David Callahan of Inside Philanthropy writes:

Over the past few years, many foundations have put equity front and center in their work….

But guess what? Here in early 2018, economic stratification only seems to be getting worse in America. A new tax law just went into effect that economists say will increase inequality and likely lead to cuts in government safety net programs down the line. And around the U.S., governors and state legislatures are engaged in their own efforts to shift wealth upwards and cut social programs. Meanwhile, even as unemployment drops to near-record lows, millions of working Americans still can’t make ends meet, while the top 1 percent—which owns half of all stocks and mutual funds—grow ever richer from a historic bull market. In many gentrifying cities, boom times have made it harder for low-income households to get by, not easier, by driving up housing prices. And the only thing rising faster than housing prices, it seems, are healthcare premiums and college tuition.

In short, those funders working for equity and against inequality are getting their butts kicked. Why is that?

… here, in a nutshell, is why grantmaker efforts tend to yield so little success: Because equity-minded foundations keep failing to zero in on the all-important sphere of political economy. Inequality mainly stems from how the U.S. economy works and, critically, the range of public policies and power arrangements that govern economic life. Yet, instead of focusing laser-like on this fundamental reality, funders embrace overly diffuse, often localized strategies that yield few larger systemic gains. They win battles here and there, while losing the war.

Read more here.

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