Feb 23, 2023

Mega-disastrous mega-farms

In American agriculture, as elsewhere, the plunder of man goes hand-in-hand with the plunder of nature. Two new books make the link between environmentally ruinous mega-farms and the ruination of small and medium farmers. To set the scene:

We are eating a big hole in the middle of the Midwest and sucking up California’s ancient aquifers until the land collapses like an empty juice box. The awe that new arrivals from other countries feel when they see the bounty in a US supermarket is an illusion—more like what one might experience when stepping from a cold night into a nice, warm house where they’re burning the furniture. In short, we are plundering the natural sources of our food production and can’t go on this way.

Read more here.

Feb 21, 2023

Naming the problem: Global oligarchy

Bernie nails it:

“One of the points that I wanted to make is yeah, of course the oligarchs run Russia. But guess what? Oligarchs run the United States as well. And it’s not just the United States, it’s not just Russia; Europe, the UK, all over the world, we’re seeing a small number of incredibly wealthy people running things in their favour. A global oligarchy. This is an issue that needs to be talked about.”

Read his Guardian interview here.

Feb 19, 2023

Fossils

A 2021 memorandum by staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform investigated lobbying activities by the fossil fuel industry. Here’s what it reported:

In recent years, four major oil companies operating in the United States—ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP—have claimed that action on climate change is a top public policy and investment priority. All four companies have publicly asserted that they support the Paris Agreement and carbon pricing—two key policies to address climate change. However, an analysis of lobbying data indicates this public support has not been matched by meaningful action to advance these policy results. Instead, the companies appear to be using their praise of the Paris Agreement and carbon pricing to bolster their own public image while they continue to produce billions of barrels of fossil fuel and invest in new oil and gas extraction—actions that are making the climate crisis worse.

Read it here or below.

Jan 24, 2023

Inequality surges

The latest inequality numbers are out, and they’re obscene:

According to Oxfam’s annual inequality report, released to coincide with the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, the richest 1% of people have captured nearly twice as much new wealth as the rest of the world combined since the pandemic. Their fortune soared by $26tn, increasing their share of new wealth from 50% to two-thirds.

The breakdown of these figures exposes how on a global basis, extreme wealth is accumulated not by innovating or increasing production, but by taking advantage of rising prices and exploiting labour. In this effort, wealthy people are enabled by lack of regulation and taxation. The result is a bonanza of plunder with no sheriff in town.

This has been happening for a while, but the pandemic accelerated the trend. Rich people benefited from everything – every positive intervention from the state and negative impact of the crisis somehow still ended up increasing their wealth. They benefited from rising costs by using them as an alibi to charge higher-than-inflation prices, then distributing the rewards as dividends instead of higher wages. Food and energy corporations made a killing, making $306bn in windfall profits in 2022, then distributing 84% to shareholders.

Read more here.

Jan 19, 2023

Renewables gaining ground…

… inch-by-inch:

For more, see here.

Jan 10, 2023

Thinking – that’s right – about inflation

In The American Prospect‘s Great Inflation Myths series, Josh Bivens writes:

The inflation of 2021-2022 has sparked furious debate over the proper policy response. It also exposed how little innovative thinking has been done on inflation by either macroeconomists or policy analysts since the 1980s price acceleration was ended by the “Volcker shock”—when the Federal Reserve (led by chair Paul Volcker) raised short-term interest rates to 20 percent and threw the economy into its worst recession since the end of World War II.

Check out the series here.

Dec 17, 2022

Profit-led inflation?

From the Economic Policy Institute:

Oct 29, 2022

Inflation: a look at the numbers

US consumer price index, quarterly change, October 2021 through September 2022:

Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Calculated from monthly data; see here and here and here.

Oct 24, 2022

How to Unf*ck America, Episode 1: Intellectual Property

Check out this new series featuring economist Dean Baker, brought to you by the Institute for New Economic Thinking:

See more about the “Unf*ck America” series here.

Sep 23, 2022

Roots of addiction

In a remarkable and impassioned speech to the UN General Assembly, Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro had this to say:

Behind the bonfires that burn it, behind its poisoning, there is an integral, civilizational failure of humanity. Behind the addiction to cocaine and drugs, behind the addiction to oil and coal, there is the real addiction of this phase of human history: the addiction to irrational power, to profit and money. This is the enormous deadly machinery that can extinguish humanity.

Watch his entire 20-minute speech: in Spanish here and in English translation here.

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