Browsing articles in "Articles"
Feb 16, 2014

We’re #1!

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.

Feb 14, 2014

Coming soon to a market near you

Matt Taibbi on another improvised explosive device buried in bank deregulation – one that could lead to the biggest bang yet:

Banks aren’t just buying stuff, they’re buying whole industrial processes. They’re buying oil that’s still in the ground, the tankers that move it across the sea, the refineries that turn it into fuel, and the pipelines that bring it to your home. Then, just for kicks, they’re also betting on the timing and efficiency of these same industrial processes in the financial markets – buying and selling oil stocks on the stock exchange, oil futures on the futures market, swaps on the swaps market, etc.

Allowing one company to control the supply of crucial physical commodities, and also trade in the financial products that might be related to those markets, is an open invitation to commit mass manipulation. It’s something akin to letting casino owners who take book on NFL games during the week also coach all the teams on Sundays….

The irony was incredible. After fucking up so badly that the government had to give them federal bank charters and bottomless wells of free cash to save their necks, the feds gave Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley hall passes to become cross-species monopolistic powers with almost limitless reach into any sectors of the economy.

Read more here.

Feb 13, 2014

Who’s afraid of the T-word?

Jeffrey Sachs writes that investing in our future will require new tax revenues, along with reined-in war spending and real health care reform:

Much as conservatives hate to admit it, the landslide election of Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City may prefigure the start of a new swing of the national political pendulum as well. He won a resounding victory, in part by calling for a small rise in taxes to fund preschool education, a major reform that would help relieve the disadvantages faced by poorer children. The recent meeting of mayors at the White House may give a hint of possible local pressures for increased public investments and public services. We’ve been on a thirty-year course of diminished public investments in our future. The dismal results are plain to see.

Read his piece here.

Feb 6, 2014

Rethinking economics

Demand from students for reality-based, ethically grounded economics is growing around the world:

When the financial crisis hit in 2007, economics students at respected institutions around the world found that theories handed down in classrooms failed to explain the reality outside, and an international movement began to demand a change in the way economics is taught.

Read more here.

Feb 3, 2014

Maximum wage?

Econ4’s Doug Smith writes in the New York Times:

The national discourse continues to sleepwalk past this out-of-the-box question: How about setting a maximum wage for government officials and top-paid government contractors?

 

Read his op-ed piece here.

Jan 20, 2014

Confessions of a wealth addict

In an insightful, introspective piece in yesterday’s New York Times, a recovering derivatives trader writes:

Like alcoholics driving drunk, wealth addiction imperils everyone. Wealth addicts are, more than anybody, specifically responsible for the ever widening rift that is tearing apart our once great country. Wealth addicts are responsible for the vast and toxic disparity between the rich and the poor and the annihilation of the middle class. Only a wealth addict would feel justified in receiving $14 million in compensation — including an $8.5 million bonus — as the McDonald’s C.E.O., Don Thompson, did in 2012, while his company then published a brochure for its work force on how to survive on their low wages. Only a wealth addict would earn hundreds of millions as a hedge-fund manager, and then lobby to maintain a tax loophole that gave him a lower tax rate than his secretary….

Dozens of different types of 12-step support groups — including Clutterers Anonymous and On-Line Gamers Anonymous — exist to help addicts of various types, yet there is no Wealth Addicts Anonymous. Why not? Because our culture supports and even lauds the addiction.

Read his piece here.

Dec 27, 2013

The trust deficit

Joe Stiglitz points out another casualty of widening inequality:

Trust is what makes contracts, plans and everyday transactions possible; it facilitates the democratic process, from voting to law creation, and is necessary for social stability. It is essential for our lives. It is trust, more than money, that makes the world go round….

Inequality in America is degrading our trust. For our own sake, and for the sake of future generations, it’s time to start rebuilding it.

Read more here.

Dec 27, 2013

Carbon bubble

Sean McElwee and Lew Daly write about the disconnect between valuing oil and gas reserves and valuing the future of our planet:

 A whopping two-thirds of reserves listed on markets are potentially worthless.

Steve Waygood, head of Sustainability Research at Aviva Investors, a global asset management company, sums up the conundrum: “Valuations of the oil and gas sector still assume that they will be able to take all proven and probable reserves out of the ground and burn them. Based on credible data we cannot be allowed to do that…” So in much the same way that pre-Great Recession housing prices were based on the assumption that their values would continue to rise and homeowners would pay off their mortgages, the valuation of oil and gas companies is based on the assumption that they will be able to extract resources that must remain in the ground.

Read their piece here.

Dec 8, 2013

The minimum wage debate

Jeannette Wicks-Lim does the math:

Each time a minimum wage hike is put on the table, the political debate spins on the question of whether such a move would cause business costs to increase so much that jobs are lost. To progress past this perennial debate, one key fact has to be pounded into the American psyche: Average minimum wage hikes impose small cost increases on businesses—so small that businesses can typically adjust by means other than closing their doors or laying off workers. Recent proposals to raise the $7.25 federal minimum present a welcome opportunity to take another whack at this.

Read her piece here.

Dec 8, 2013

The economics of the minimum wage

Arin Dube reviews recent research to answer some basic questions:

While we can set a wage floor using policy, should we? Or should we leave it to the market and deal with any adverse consequences, like poverty and inequality, using other policies, like tax credits and transfers? These longstanding questions take on a particular urgency as wage inequality continues to grow, and as we consider specific proposals to raise the federal minimum wage — currently near a record low — and to index future increases to the cost of living.

Read his piece in the New York Times here.

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