Archive for the ‘economy’ Category
In the comic books, I guess we’d call him a supervillain. In 2001, I would guess we’d call him a terrorist. These days we just call them Republican members of Congress.
BOEHNER: Well, first they want more. And my goodness, I want more too. And secondly, a lot of them believe that if we get past August the second and we have enough chaos, we could force the Senate and the White House to accept a balanced budget amendment. I’m not sure that that — I don’t think that that strategy works. Because I think the closer we get to August the second, frankly, the less leverage we have vis a vis our colleagues in the Senate and the White House.
Fortunately, as he points out, by pushing things out as far as they have, they’re losing leverage. I do not have a serious expectation that Teapublicans are going to successfully play chicken and force economic chaos, but what they’re willing to do to get as far as they have is fairly disturbing.
As far as it goes, however, I expect most have already committed political suicide with their attempts to gut Medicare. Hopefully things won’t be in even more horrific shape when they’re voted out for their bullshit.
Since we’ve talked about employment a lot lately, I wanted to post about two jobs at a workplace which a friend of mine says is pretty trans friendly.
There’s one at the Nation for publicity director and one at their tv offshoot Grit TV for a producer/editor/videographer. Grit TV is generally pretty ace and progressive, they had an interview with Julia Serano awhile back.
For those of you who are looking for work, Jillian Weiss has a website with more listings – albeit LGBT – and general workplace resources but I wanted to specifically give you all the head’s up about these two since we all know how often “LGBT” friendly can be mean “really bloody transphobic”.
Jam, “School Competition” skit, Channel 4, UK, 2000.
[Warning]: This skit is not safe and is extremely disturbing.
What I’m also keenly aware of as we discuss the austerity measures is the keen sense of resentment that is allowed to drive public discussion and policy. But it’s resentment only of a certain licensed kind.
What I mean is, whether you’re talking about “dole bludgers” in Australia or “welfare cheats” or immigrants in the US or “lazy postal workers” or whatever in the UK, the resentment is levied at public programs. What are universal forms of human rights are instead refigured as selective drains on the public good in ways that the subsidised finanical sector is not.
The grotesque Jam segment I’ve posted above (recently posted on Nina Power’s blog) shows the ways in which Baby Boomers who benefited from free education programs have a false sense of scarcity and an overwhelming sense of resentment that fuels their behaviour and their politics. Only I deserve what I have earned, and in order to safeguard it I will do whatever I can to destroy the lives of those others I resent. In contrast to me, they have not earned it and thus I must exert my efforts not in making more opportunities for everyone but in preventing the illegitimate from accessing the ever-diminishing options.
The quite obvious example of this is the response of the Tea Party in the US, who as this recent Rolling Stone article showed, ignore those forms of government support they receive whilst whole-heartedly resenting those they do not. Needless to say, this is hypocritical, base politics at its worst.
But there’s other forms of resentment that we should make politically viable. I resent that the people who had free educations now expect me to have a debt, and that this is ever-increasing, I resent that financial markets fail and receive golden parachutes while poor people get squeezed even harder, I resent that corporations are not held accountable for wrecking the earth and that governments are more afraid of regulating them than hurting the people they are supposed to serve. I resent how trans people are almost always not protected by law, society or business. The invisible hand of the market will not protect us, it allows more discrimination and legitimates our oppression. I resent the politics of resentment, the people who will leave systemic institutional inequity aside in order to get their own small slice of the pie, no matter the cost to others.
Those are legitimate resentments in my opinion, and they can and should fuel political solidarity and social change. As the amazing Sarah Jaffe said recently at Global Comment:
The U.S. right now, of course, talks about socialism a lot. But most of the people talking about it know very little of what it really means. Socialism is a catch-all term for “big government,” which lately seems to mean any government program that helps people of color–even if that program also helps white people. Tim Wise notes that when social services began to be seen as programs that helped nonwhite people, rather than, as the New Deal had, explicitly privileging white folks, they began to be much less popular.
Socialism now, then, is used as an epithet by people who hate one another–or perhaps fear one another would be more accurate. The Tea Parties are full of hateful language, from Sarah Palin’s “reload” to the chants of “Take our country back.”
Sarah articulates a hopeful alternative to the politics of resentment. Resentment can be useful in channeling political anger, but it must be supplemented with more, with alternatives to the world-as-it-is – a world that can and should be better. Defeating pessimism is its own self-fulfilling prophecy, and leads us into the ever-diminishing returns of the neo-liberal state. Sarah says that:
I want a world in which people are doing things they love because they love them. Imagine what people could accomplish if instead of bosses who make us feel like shit in order to get away with paying us less, we could spend that time truly doing what we love and getting good at it. Rather than wondering what happens if we don’t have money as an incentive, why don’t we think about the things we could do if we didn’t have to worry about money?
I don’t want Stalinism or Castroism. But I do take inspiration from the democratic shifts in Latin America, from countries moving without violence toward a better society for all. Despite the anger and the attempts to reinstitute a hierarchy–through violence, of course–Latin America perseveres with its experiment.
Global capitalism is crumbling and people are angry. They’re taking to the streets around the world, and they’re looking for a solution. Isn’t it the time now to think about real, long-term changes? About not “taking the country back,” but taking the country–the world–forward?
I know humanism was discarded for some good reasons and some extremely bad, but perhaps it is time to more strongly use a language of human rights, which are universal. Because it seems to me that the problem is articulating things as compelling outside of a capitalist framework wholly determined by current or future moneymaking capability (something I slipped into even in the post). We must have spaces that are not wholly commodified, that are not wholly determined by exchange, power and violence.
We have an inherent, universal right to not only survive but flourish, a universal right to learning (education), to be in as little pain as possible (health), to safe roads and jobs and fulfilling vocations, a universal right to imagination and creativity, to literature and thought and art and life and love.
These things are not always measurable by money, but sometimes that means they are more valuable for that very reason.
Just wanted to note this post by Adam Kotsko about the climate of austerity cuts and the dubious justifications employed by governments and bureaucrats, especially in the light of the devastating budget cuts on education in the UK (I mean, surely the judgment of the former head of BP can be trusted to understand education? Surely *snerk). Adam points out that:
- If we can afford to spend billions of dollars on weapons systems we will almost certainly never use, we can afford to have a system where a dedicated tax stream pays for some bare-bones retirement and disability benefits, with no more overhead than it costs to print and mail the checks.
- If we can afford to endlessly occupy two countries for no apparent reason, surely we can afford to help people get health insurance.
- If we can summon up $700 billion out of thin air to bail out banks, surely we can afford to fill in the state and local budget gaps that would lead to firing people who provide essential services.
- If we can afford high-tech laboratories to do scientific research the results of which we will basically give away to corporate interests for nothing, then we can afford humanities instruction, which requires a teacher, a chalkboard, and enough chairs for all the students.
- Again, if universities can afford to run money-losing athletic programs, then they can afford to provide the minimal research support funds humanities people require — basically time off to focus on research and maybe the occasional plane ticket, since the other resources they need consist of little more than the pre-existing infrastructure of a good library that you’d need for the university anyway.
The pattern is the same again and again and again: the thing that actually costs not too much money is denounced as unaffordable, while the insanely expensive thing is never even questioned. It’s like if I overdrew my checking account and decided I needed to start buying store-brand cereal while never questioning if I can afford that Lexus.
It is amazing indeed as the comments point out that the governments of the world could instantly summon capital and action for the “crisis” of finance but not for any kind of human needs – which is somehow implausibly “idealistic” next to the raw “need” of capitalist realism. Indeed, in the United States what was clear in the way the bailout was handed out was the way in which finance is not remotely subject to the same degree of disciplining that those in the public sectors or on welfare are – even when finance is requiring the most substantial bailout of any industry just about ever.
Imagine the education sector, which is also “too big too fail” given the number of students, teachers and office staff employed, being handed 700 billion with barely any conditions. No fucking way. And then imagine that higher education the very next year responded by giving its executives the highest number of bonuses ever (or any for that matter) – as Wall Street just has. There’d be riots in the streets, and justly so.
There is no human right to finance, no human need which requires the bulk of the population to subsidise the immoral and often illegal speculations of the ruling class. No, it is time as Digby said recently, to start the prosecutions, to treat the financial elites as the criminals they undoubtedly are, and to stop disciplining the wrong industries and begin putting money into the vital areas which are not merely useful but fulfill universal needs – health, education, public works.
Anything else is simply idealism of the worst kind – the idealism of a capitalism which is failing on every possible score, even its own ability to make money (the only legitimating quality it is suggested to need). It is realism to treat human rights first and capital second. Austerity cuts are simply doing the short-term work of the financial/political ruling class themselves, and it will profit no-one – not even they themselves – in the long run, because as the 2008 crash and the Louisiana oil spill have both proven, capitalism can not be trusted to do even basic care to prevent a disaster if there is the shortest of short term profits involved. And the rest of us will pay the price, again.
So Natasha wrote a guest post at Feministe about the economy, and showing that things are perhaps a lot worse than we expected. Her post itself is nice in that she talks about a way out of this mess by reworking our economy, even though I doubt this will happen without a lot of pressure from the population. And I think that pressure is unlikely to come in the near future.
You probably also noticed that the economy isn’t doing so well, and it isn’t producing jobs. Instead of caring about the wage collapsing effects that are draining public funds, the people who were wrong about everything in the first place and missed the crisis coming, have busied themselves withslashing the social safety net for ordinary people.
This is the political climate in which we have to work to close the gender pay gap. There are uncanny similarities to when the New Deal coalition fell apart in the 1970s, as eerily highlighted by Jefferson Cowie; the early racial integration of the labor force had the bad fortune to coincide with a contraction that decreased opportunities for (almost) everyone.
And at this point, I tend to assume that since there are whole other countries that have done things differently for years and had it work out fine, that decreasing opportunities for (almost) everyone is sort of the point. It isn’t as though the way overwhelming concentrations of power follow overwhelming concentrations of money is some kind of secret to people with power.
There’s a lot more at the link, and this post collects multiple links that paint a rather grim picture for how things are now and have been in the time leading up to this point. I think it illustrates how class needs to be emphasized more in social justice given the role it plays in supporting every other part of kyriarchy. I think Robert Anton Wilson wrote in some book or other that being poor was like being ostracized. Without money you are unable to effectively participate in your own culture at the very minimum. At worst, you cannot afford to pay for food or shelter or clothing and often must survive off others’ charity, to whatever extent you can access such resources.
I don’t have a complete picture to offer here, but I think we should be talking about this a lot more than has happened so far.
“a teenager in love with Christ and heroin”
I have decided to step in to help Lisa out with today’s open post. I haven’t really posted much at the new site yet, hey how’s it going? Me? Oh, you know. Things that I have been reading lately that are tremendously interesting…
The Washington Post had an article about how corporations are moving towards a new business model that can–already has–create profits without resuming hiring after the economic crisis. To whit:
In the mildly halcyon days before the 2008 crash, the one economic outlier was wages. Profit, revenue and GDP all increased; only ordinary Americans’ incomes lagged behind. Today, wages are still down, employment remains low and sales revenue isn’t up much, either. But profits are the outlier. They’re positively soaring.
Among the 175 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index that have released their second-quarter reports, the New York Times reported Sunday, revenue rose by a tidy 6.9 percent, but profits soared by a stunning 42.3 percent. Profits, that is, are increasing seven times faster than revenue. The mind, as it should, boggles.
It turns out Target’s executives are quite significantly less gay friendly than the 100% HRC rating might have suggested. I, for one, am shocked (ie I am not shocked).
I wrote some music criticism at Global Comment about millennial rnb.
Peter Laarman at Religion Dispatches writes about why taxing the rich is the godly thing to do. Couldn’t agree more about the alliance of distorted Protestantism and supply-side economics that dominates American political discourse.
The Australian election is depressing me, but this debate between the Australian Sex Party and far-right fundamentalists Family First was quite entertaining. Seriously though, if Tony Abbott gets in, I am taking away the entire country’s dessert for a whole month.
And lastly, Lisa wanted you to read this post about cats and Science.
I don’t have a lot of commentary for this, but it goes back to my unending (although usually not blogged) refrain that the US seriously needs to reconsider our approach to taxation, as well as the overdefensiveness of white Americans at all social strata toward the idea of taxing the wealthy enough to fund everything.
My last post about this listed statistics that the vast majority of wealth in the US is concentrated in very few hands, and that this money is not benefiting the economy in ways that would impact the rest of us. It may as well be sitting in the bank doing nothing at all, and probably is. At the same time:
The lights are going out all over America — literally. Colorado Springs has made headlines with its desperate attempt to save money by turning off a third of its streetlights, but similar things are either happening or being contemplated across the nation, from Philadelphia to Fresno.
Meanwhile, a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.
And a nation that once prized education — that was among the first to provide basic schooling to all its children — is now cutting back. Teachers are being laid off; programs are being canceled; in Hawaii, the school year itself is being drastically shortened. And all signs point to even more cuts ahead.
We’re told that we have no choice, that basic government functions — essential services that have been provided for generations — are no longer affordable. And it’s true that state and local governments, hit hard by the recession, are cash-strapped. But they wouldn’t be quite as cash-strapped if their politicians were willing to consider at least some tax increases.
And the federal government, which can sell inflation-protected long-term bonds at an interest rate of only 1.04 percent, isn’t cash-strapped at all. It could and should be offering aid to local governments, to protect the future of our infrastructure and our children.
I’m not going to quote the whole thing, and you can read Paul Krugman’s piece at the link above. It only serves to underscore yet again just how bad things are at the moment. The economy is contracting, the government is not providing any real stimulus, social safety nets are being cut everywhere, education, roads, parks, everything’s being cut everywhere, while politicians and the general population oppose tax increases that probably could have a significant impact on our economy. If only the US could get over the myth that “free market” is possible, that taxes are somehow bad, and that social benefits only exist to be exploited by cheating layabouts.