Browsing articles in "Articles"
Sep 28, 2013
boyce
Comments Off on Guess who’s looting the pension funds of public workers

Guess who’s looting the pension funds of public workers

Matt Taibbi writes in Rolling Stone:

The bottom line is that the “unfunded liability” crisis is, if not exactly fictional, certainly exaggerated to an outrageous degree. Yes, we live in a new economy and, yes, it may be time to have a discussion about whether certain kinds of public employees should be receiving sizable benefit checks until death. But the idea that these benefit packages are causing the fiscal crises in our states is almost entirely a fabrication crafted by the very people who actually caused the problem. It’s like Voltaire’s maxim about noses having evolved to fit spectacles, so therefore we wear spectacles. In this case, we have an unfunded-pension-liability problem because we’ve been ripping retirees off for decades – but the solution being offered is to rip them off even more.

Everybody following this story should remember what went on in the immediate aftermath of the crash of 2008, when the federal government was so worried about the sanctity of private contracts that it doled out $182 billion in public money to AIG. That bailout guaranteed that firms like Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank could be paid off on their bets against a subprime market they themselves helped overheat, and that AIG executives could be paid the huge bonuses they naturally deserved for having run one of the world’s largest corporations into the ground. When asked why the state was paying those bonuses, Obama economic adviser Larry Summers said, “We are a country of law. . . . The government cannot just abrogate contracts.”

Now, though, states all over the country are claiming they not only need to abrogate legally binding contracts with state workers but also should seize retirement money from widows to finance years of illegal loans, giant fees to billionaires like Dan Loeb and billions in tax breaks to the Curt Schillings of the world. It ain’t right. If someone has to tighten a belt or two, let’s start there. If we’ve still got a problem after squaring those assholes away, that’s something that can be discussed. But asking cops, firefighters and teachers to take the first hit for a crisis caused by reckless pols and thieves on Wall Street is low, even by American standards.

Read the piece here.

See Taibbi interviewed by Democracy Now! on the Great Pension Fund Rip-off here.

Sep 17, 2013
boyce
Comments Off on The free market myth

The free market myth

Robert Reich peels away the layers of an ideological onion:

One of the most deceptive ideas continuously sounded by the Right (and its fathomless think tanks and media outlets) is that the “free market” is natural and inevitable, existing outside and beyond government. So whatever inequality or insecurity it generates is beyond our control. And whatever ways we might seek to reduce inequality or insecurity — to make the economy work for us — are unwarranted constraints on the market’s freedom, and will inevitably go wrong. 

By this view, if some people aren’t paid enough to live on, the market has determined they aren’t worth enough. If others rake in billions, they must be worth it. 

Read more here.

Sep 13, 2013
boyce

Economy malfunction

Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz doesn’t mince words:

Let us be clear: our economy is not working the way a well working economy should. We have vast unmet needs, but idle workers and machines. We have bridges that need repair, roads and schools that need to be built. We have students that need a twenty-first century education, but we are laying off teachers. We have empty homes and homeless people. We have rich banks that are not lending to our small businesses, but are instead using their wealth and ingenuity to manipulate markets, and exploit working people with predatory lending.

Read excerpts from his speech at the AFL-CIO here.

Jul 28, 2013
boyce
Comments Off on Time for new code

Time for new code

Peter Buffett, co-chair of the NoVo Foundation, writing in the Times on the limits of philanthropy:

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity…

It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.

Read more here.

Jul 28, 2013
boyce
Comments Off on Who’s afraid of rooftop solar?

Who’s afraid of rooftop solar?

Wanting to preserve the centralized electric power system and guaranteed returns of 10%, the nation’s electric utilities are ramping up to quash the threat posed by rooftop solar panels, writes Diane Caldwell in the New York Times:

For years, power companies have watched warily as solar panels have sprouted across the nation’s rooftops. Now, in almost panicked tones, they are fighting hard to slow the spread.

 

Read more here.

Jul 25, 2013
boyce
Comments Off on Greed today, gone tomorrow

Greed today, gone tomorrow

Lynn Parramore, writing for Alternet, explains why investment in innovation has declined in America:

There’s a motto on Wall Street: “I.B.G.-Y.B.G.” or “I’ll Be Gone, You’ll Be Gone.” As long as you’re making money right now, what happens tomorrow is not your problem.

It’s everyone else’s problem. Witness the decline in the number and quality of jobs, the middle class evaporating, and the financial instability that brought about the Great Recession.

Read more here.

Jul 23, 2013
econ4org
Comments Off on Student loan profiteering

Student loan profiteering

Senator Elizabeth Warren stands up for students:

Making billions and billions in profits off the backs of students is obscene.

 

Read more here. Senator Bernie Sanders weighs in here.

Jul 22, 2013
boyce
Comments Off on Bankrupt politics hits Detroit

Bankrupt politics hits Detroit

Robert Reich breaks down the local politics behind the Detroit bankruptcy:

Much in modern America depends on where you draw boundaries, and who’s inside and who’s outside. Who is included in the social contract? If “Detroit” is defined as the larger metropolitan area that includes its suburbs, “Detroit” has enough money to provide all its residents with adequate if not good public services, without falling into bankruptcy. Politically, it would come down to a question of whether the more affluent areas of this “Detroit” were willing to subsidize the poor inner-city through their tax dollars, and help it rebound. That’s an awkward question that the more affluent areas would probably rather not have to face.

In drawing the relevant boundary to include just the poor inner city, and requiring those within that boundary to take care of their compounded problems by themselves, the whiter and more affluent suburbs are off the hook. “Their” city isn’t in trouble. It’s that other one – called “Detroit.”

Read his blogpost here.

Jul 20, 2013
boyce
Comments Off on Big farm tribute

Big farm tribute

James Stewart writes in The Times about the latest economic travesty to come out of the U.S. House of Representatives:

It’s hard to imagine a more widely reviled piece of legislation than the nearly $1 trillion farm bill. Its widely ridiculed handouts to wealthy farmers and perverse incentives have long united liberals concerned about the environment, conservatives upset about the deficit and market-distorting subsidies, and just about everyone concerned about basic fairness.

Just about everyone, that is, except the powerful farm lobby and its allies in Congress, which every five years or so since the Depression has managed to fight off any meaningful reforms and actually increase farm subsidies.

And now they’re doing it again…. many of the same legislators up in arms about government spending and welfare abuse nonetheless voted for an increase in federal subsidies to wealthy farm interests.

Read more here.

Jul 14, 2013
boyce
Comments Off on Bankers resist stronger capital requirements

Bankers resist stronger capital requirements

Gretchen Morgenson writes in today’s Times:

OUR nation’s largest banks have grown accustomed to regulators who are respectful, deferential and mindful of these institutions’ needs and desires. So, last week, when federal financial overseers unveiled a potent new weapon against too-big-to-fail banks, it seemed as if — just maybe — the winds in Washington were shifting.

Read more here.