Nov 27, 2020

Some make money while they sleep… while others risk their lives

From a new report called “Billionaire Wealth vs. Community Health”:

As of November 17, 2020, the wealth of 647 U.S.billionaires has increased almost $960 billion since mid-March, the beginning of the pandemic, approaching $1 trillion in wealth increases.

Read more here.

Nov 1, 2020

America’s inequality crisis

Underlying the political crisis is a deeper one:

American inequality has reached a crisis moment. The 60 richest billionaires in America control as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of Americans, according to the latest Fed data. To Collins, the editor, America is reaching an “oligarchic moment,” where the economy is increasingly hardwired to concentrate wealth and power at the very top. It is urgent to increase taxes on the wealthiest not only to generate revenue, he says, “but to put a brake on accretions of power. It isn’t is a class warfare,” he insists. “This is really, ‘How do you protect against such a levels of extreme inequality that it threatens basic democratic functioning?’”

Source: Tim Dickinson, “How Trump Took the Middle Class to the Cleaners,” Rolling Stone, October 26, 2020.

Oct 30, 2020

Productivity versus wages

A chart shows what’s happened in the USA – and it’s not a pretty picture:

Source: Economic Policy Institute.

Sep 25, 2020

Inequality: Bad for your health

Worried about Covid-19? Check this out:

Source: Institute for Policy Studies.

Sep 19, 2020

A risky trade

Outsourcing crucial industries in pursuit of lower wages and lower taxes puts corporate profits ahead of public health. Today the U.S. is paying the price:

Source: Global Development Policy Center, Boston University.

Sep 17, 2020

Globalization cover-up

Joe Stiglitz looks at how “globalization” concealed an agenda for fattening corporate profits at the expense of workers:

Source: INET.

Sep 11, 2020

Over to you

A remarkable – in its provenance, not its conclusions – new report from the US government’s Commodity Futures Trading Corporation concludes that “climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system and to its ability to sustain the U.S. economy.” It’s top recommendation:

This report begins with a fundamental finding—financial markets will only be able to channel resources efficiently to activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions if an economy-wide price on carbon is in place at a level that reflects the true social cost of those emissions. Addressing climate change will require policy frameworks that incentivize the fair and effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In the absence of such a price, financial markets will operate suboptimally, and capital will continue to flow in the wrong direction, rather than toward accelerating the transition to a net-zero emissions economy. At the same time, policymakers must be sensitive to the distributional impacts of carbon pricing and other policies and ensure that the burden does not fall on low-to-moderate income households and on historically marginalized communities. This report recognizes that pricing carbon is beyond the remit of financial regulators; it is the job of Congress.

Read the report here.

Aug 3, 2020

The eco-fascist virus

When the well-being of people and the planet are viewed as being incompatible, things can get creepy pretty fast:

“We’re the virus.” So read a popular tweet from mid-March praising reports of diminished air and water pollution in countries under lockdown due to the novel coronavirus COVID-19. By mid-April, the tweet, which also suggested that “Coronavirus is Earth’s vaccine,” was liked nearly 300,000 times.

Viewed one way, the sentiment that the earth is “healing” itself in the absence of human activity, now endlessly lampooned, points to hopes that the world will change for the better in the wake of the worst worldwide pandemic since the HIV/AIDS crisis. Viewed another, celebrating improvements to the natural environment at the expense of mass human death takes us down a much darker path.

The devaluing of human life—particularly of populations seen as inferior—in order to protect the environment viewed as essential to White identity is at the core of Far Right environmentalism and ecofascist thought. The ecofascist dream is a not just a White ethnostate but a “green” one too….

[E]nvironmental activism doesn’t always align with liberatory politics, as conventional wisdom would have it. In fact, environmental advocacy has deep roots on the Right as well, which many contemporary White nationalist thinkers have sought to reclaim. Importantly, mainstream environmentalism has shown itself to be vulnerable to “fascist creep,” where far-right concepts and approaches to ecological crisis have been adopted by otherwise left-leaning environmentalists.

Read more here.

Aug 1, 2020

Follow the money

From Jill Lepore’s account of the invention of the police:

In 1968, Johnson’s new crime bill established the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, within the Department of Justice, which, in the next decade and a half, disbursed federal funds to more than eighty thousand crime-control projects. Even funds intended for social projects—youth employment, for instance, along with other health, education, housing, and welfare programs—were distributed to police operations. With Richard Nixon, any elements of the Great Society that had survived the disastrous end of Johnson’s Presidency were drastically cut, with an increased emphasis on policing, and prison-building. More Americans went to prison between 1965 and 1982 than between 1865 and 1964… Under Ronald Reagan, still more social services were closed, or starved of funding until they died: mental hospitals, health centers, jobs programs, early-childhood education. By 2016, eighteen states were spending more on prisons than on colleges and universities. Activists who today call for defunding the police argue that, for decades, Americans have been defunding not only social services but, in many states, public education itself. The more frayed the social fabric, the more police have been deployed to trim the dangling threads.

Read more here.

Jul 26, 2020

Heads, looters win; tails, the planet loses

As fracking firms go bankrupt, the bosses bank their winnings and leave taxpayers on the hook for cleaning up their mess:

The day the debt-ridden Texas oil producer MDC Energy filed for bankruptcy eight months ago, a tank at one of its wells was furiously leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. As of last week, dangerous, invisible gases were still spewing into the air.

By one estimate, the company would need more than $40 million to clean up its wells if they were permanently closed. But the debts of MDC’s parent company now exceed the value of its assets by more than $180 million.

In the months before its bankruptcy filing, though, the company managed to pay its chief executive $8.5 million in consulting fees…

Read more here.