Archive for the Economics Category

What One Can Find on Al-Jazeera

Posted in Economics, Morty's Question of the Week, WTF? on March 20, 2011 by Mort the Sport

I found this great tidbit on the English version of Al-Jazeera under the title “US: Waking Up to Class Politics“:

“A CEO, a union worker and a Tea Partier (a member of the emerging right-wing political movement) are at a table with 12 cookies. The CEO takes 11 and says to the Tea Partier: “Keep an eye on that union guy, he wants your cookie.”

I think it’s great.

And the lesson: Revolution is the response to inequity. Now the question is what is the response to an anesthetized society that is more or less comfortable with the one cookie it gets?

I know. What the hell am I doing reading Al-Jazeera?

Capitalism Hits the Fan

Posted in Economics with tags , , on February 11, 2010 by Black Pumpkin

Whatever you have to do, I implore you to watch this video.  Unfortunately, I could only find a really crappy version of the whole video here.  But this is definitely one video that everyone should see.  It is a lecture by Professor Richard Wolff about the economic crisis.  He explains in very clear, plain language why we are in this mess and why the policy prescriptions that are being offered will not fix the problem.  I caught it on Link TV.  I am not sure if they are going to show it again because according to the website it does not have any more air dates.  Perhaps we can all write to Link TV and tell them to show it more often.  It really should be seen far and wide.  And Link TV is an awesome resource anyway.

So support Link TV in whatever way you can and get your hands on this video however you can.  It is called “Capitalism Hits the Fan” and it was created by Media Education Foundation.

And if all else fails, here is a transcript of the lecture (in PDF).

Hunger

Posted in Economics with tags , , , , on December 11, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

Hunger is a problem the world over.  And while it shouldn’t happen anywhere, when I read about it here in the US it just makes me sick.  We have so much money in this country and so many fucking rich people, that to see the other side is just sad.  And the worst part is that it doesn’t just affect those that are homeless.  People that have homes and jobs are still struggling to get enough to eat.

Three articles (two of which are online) have highlighted this recently.  The first was in the NY Times.  It was a piece about how food stamp usage is way up especially because so many people are out of work.  But even those that are still working are having a hard time making ends meet.

A more recent piece was in the Washington Post.  This one is specifically addressing the problem of hunger among children here in the US.  And again, the Obama administration has said that it wants to tackle this problem but it really hasn’t done anything to make the situation better.  We need less talk and more action.  Unfortunately, it seems that Obama is all about just talking.

And finally, in another excellent piece by Chris Williams in the International Socialist Review, he asks broader questions about hunger, population and the environment.  Unfortunately, this piece isn’t online yet, but it is in the Nov-Dec 2009 issue of ISR and should be online in a month or so.

Of course, as I have said before, I think the problem of hunger is one of the biggest black marks against capitalism.  People are not hungry because we don’t have enough food (in the US or in the world).  Especially in the US where we have an epidemic of obesity, it is impossible to argue that we don’t have enough food.  The real problem is distribution.  People are hungry because they can’t afford food.  This is really a travesty.  No one should be allowed to go hungry simply because they are poor.  Unfortunately, like everything else, food is for sale.  Food is sold for a profit.  Without a profit to be made, then there would be no food sales at all.  Food is not provided to those that are hungry, it is sold to those that can afford it.

Just as with healthcare, it is amazing to me how we can turn everything into a commodity.  If you are sick but can’t afford insurance, too bad for you.  If you are hungry, but can’t afford food, well, it sucks to be you.  There is something perversely wrong with this system.  Until we realize that not everything is or should be a commodity, we will continue down this path to perdition.

Socialism-what it is and what it isn’t

Posted in Economics with tags on November 20, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

Since my brother asked (in a comment) for an explanation of socialism, here goes:

As the global economy was coming apart at the seams and countries all over the world (not the least of which was the United States) began pumping billions and billions of dollars into their economies, cries of “Socialism!” could be heard the world over.  But what exactly is socialism?

The common definition of socialism has to do with control over the economy by the state.  If a particular state controls all the means of production or all the economic enterprises, then it is called a socialist or communist state (socialist and communist are often used interchangeably).  And if there is some combination of privately-owned companies and state-controlled entities, then it is often called a mixed economy.  And those with the most private enterprises are called free-market economies.

Of course, this sounds very cut and dry.  And the real world is anything but cut and dry.  So economies like the United States and Britain are really mixed economies and so are those of China and Cuba.  There are no states that are entirely state-controlled or entirely free-market.

But what do honest-to-goodness socialists think about all this?

The interventions that the US and other countries implemented are common (even if the amounts were not) in capitalist economies.  The state often intervenes in the economy.  The real question that should be asked when trying to determine if a country or economy is socialist or not is not whether the state is intervening or how much they are intervening but on who’s behalf they are intervening.

For instance, the US government gave billions of dollars to shore up the world’s largest banks.  And now some of them are back to making record profits.  But thousands of people are losing their homes or their jobs, and the government is doing very little to help them.  If the country were really socialist or if we were even moving in a truly socialist direction, then the state would be intervening not for the profits of the banks but for the lives of the people.

When thinking about socialism, remember this simple phrase: Socialism is people before profits.

And when the government intervenes in the economy, they are often only thinking about profits.  When the intervention doesn’t help those on the bottom of the income scale it is not socialist.  And when the help is going to those at the very top, it is definitely not socialist.

State capitalism is not socialism.  And socialism is not interested in profits.  If it benefits people over profits, it is socialist.  If not, then no matter what label you put on it, it is not socialism.

There is also a great article from the International Socialism Review entitled, What is Socialism?

More bad news

Posted in Economics with tags , , on November 7, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

Just what we need: more bad news.

People are still losing their jobs and it may be a long time until we see employment numbers going back up.  According to the Labor Department it seems that employers are simply forcing their employees to work harder instead of hiring more workers.  Unfortunately, I have seen this time and time again at different companies that I worked for.  I can only imagine what it is  like in today’s economy.

Just remember, the recession is over.  GDP has gone up in the third quarter.  You should be happy.  In no time at all, you will get a raise or even a better job.  I’m sure financial freedom is right around the corner.

Or maybe not.

Too little, too late

Posted in Domestic, Economics with tags , , , on November 7, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

John Reed who helped to create Citigroup (by merging Citicorp and Travelers Group) said he is sorry and that it should be broken up.  Of course, I think he’s right that it should be broken up and I guess I’m glad that he has seen the error of his ways but it is a little late.  Hindsight, is indeed 20/20, now isn’t it?

Not only should Citigroup be broken up, but so should lots of other banks and institutions.  And I don’t care if these companies got government money or not, the government should put checks on how much the CEOs and other top managers can make.  No one needs to make tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  Especially when we have people who have no jobs, they are losing their homes and others are struggling to find enough to eat.  It makes me sick to think of the disparity that exists in this country, not to mention, the world.

And these guys are praised for being good entrepreneurs and innovators for making millions of dollars.  If there was any justice in this world, then people like John Reed would choke to death on their fucking caviar.

Capitalism, Climate Change, and the Fate of Humanity

Posted in Economics, Environment with tags , , on July 26, 2009 by Black Pumpkin
Capitalism is an economic system profoundly and irrevocably at odds with a sustainable planet, as it requires ever-greater material and energy throughput to keep expanding.  Capitalism simultaneously and of necessity exploits the land and the people and sacrifices the interests of both on the altar of profit. (Williams, 57)

Every so often, I read something that I feel should be read by everyone.  Whether it is a book or an article, it is something that I think needs to have much more attention paid to it.  I just finished reading the second half of a pretty long article that appeared in two issues of Internationl Socialist Review.  It appeared in issues 62 and 64 under the title, ” Hothouse Earth: Capitalism, climate change, and the fate of humanity.”  The title sounds pretty heavy but considering how important climate change is, I think it is appropriate.  While it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen because of global warming, all the estimates point to a world that will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to live in.  More important than what the world will look like is what we need to do now to fix things.

In Hothouse Earth, Chris Williams lays out exactly what is to blame for climate change and why individual action will not be enough to save us.  In other words, we can put in compact florescent bulbs, recycle our cans and bottles, and even carpool to work, but if systemic changes are not made to our entire economy and society we will like end up destroying ourselves and most species on the planet.

In addition, Williams explains how the global economic system of capitalism is to blame for the situation we find ourselves in and how it will not be able to get us out of it.

There are many who believe that if we incentivise pollution controls, such as cap-and-trade schemes or show how profitable “green” technology can be, we can allow the free market to usher in the new carbon-free utopia.  But Williams argues that even if companies were to decide that this were the way to go in search of profits, it would be too little, too late.  We cannot wait for the markets to decide that green is the new gold.  Instead, he argues that massive government action is the only way that we can go from here to where we need to be.

Allowing the markets to do their magic or telling people that they need to weatherstrip their homes will only get us so far and it will not be far at all.  We are heading towards a cliff.  We may not know we have crossed the edge and are in free fall until it’s way too late, but if we don’t apply the brakes now, instead of letting off the gas a little, it will most certainly be too late.

The first part of the article is now online, and I think the second half will be available in the near future.  Please read the first half of the article or get your hands on the hard copies of ISR 62 and 64.

Only with massive effort from below can we push those in power to do what needs to be done.  If it’s not too late already, we certainly don’t have much time.

  • Williams, C. (2009) “Hothouse Earth: Capitalism, climate change and the fate of humanity.”  International Socialist Review, no 64, 57.