POLITICAL ECONOMIC CRISES LURK BEHIND OTHER PREDICAMENTS
A quartet of articulations to begin, with Michael Hudson and a powerful disquisition on the perfidy and putridity of neoliberalism on Naked Capitalism via the Real News Network, with an International Labor Organization monograph that details the ‘race to the bottom’ of globalization next, a raw and bitingly sarcastic screed about work and jobs from Counterpunch to follow, and a powerful briefing from Dmitri Orlov at Information Clearinghouse to end, with simple advice to pay attention to scrappy scribes and stalwart citizens who want either to understand or have a chance to take meaningful action about crisis—all of which fits into a list of materials from the past few weeks, perhaps a tenth of a percent of what might deserve close attention in the realm of political economy, such as
#1–From Evonomics, a humorous warning against destroying economies by turning them over to MBA’s;
#2–From TruthOut, a call to ponder the power that lies on the other side of merely insisting on decent work;
#4–From Common Dreams, a lament that despite anxiety and critique, inequality continues to worsen;
#5–In another item of Naked Capitalism’s provenance, an analytical look(http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/06/artificial-intelligence-and-employment.html) at the relationship between developing artificial intelligence and options for employment;
#6–From Media REDEF, original content that assesses what in the ‘marketing of the marketplace’ could salvage monopoly media’s collapse and salve the many wounds that have resulted from the woes of advertising in the digital sphere;
#7–From Social Europe, a deconstruction of Universal Basic Income as nothing more than a ‘fad,’ if interesting for all that;
#8–From Portside Labor, a delineation of some of the issues that honest accountants must confront in thinking about Puerto Rico’s debt;
#9–From New Geography, a ‘sunny side’ tak on the evolution of urbanity that is unfolding in Detroit;
#10–From the offices of the International Trade Representative of the U.S., a lengthy but still hopelessly partial piece about the Trans Pacific Partnership;
#12–From Pew’s Charitable Trusts, a research brief about the shrinking work forces in much of ‘blue-state’ Americ;
#13–From New Geography, a forecast that, partly as a result of the demographics under observation, that job growth may be largely a thing of the past;
#14–Again from Evonomics, a hypothesis that reimagining the corporate form must take place if our fortunes are to advance;
#15–From Wall Street on Parade, an investigative short that reveals a Ben Bernanke e-mail that in turn shows skulduggery, or at least gross negligence, in the mayhem of 2008;
#16–From the New York Times, an in depth report about the hideous repression of laid off workers, for whom speaking out is a ‘breach of contract’ or worse, and how these abandoned workers are piping up anyway;
#17–From the Economic Policy Institute, a research profferal that argues not only that we should redistribute guiltlessly, but also that it will grow our fortunes;
#18–An additional item from Social Europe that lampoons the idea that anything vaguely resembling capital’s idea of a ‘sharing economy’ is execrable;
#19–From the reviewers at New Rambler, an essay about carbon and geopolitics and more;
#20–From Information Clearinghouse again, a pleasing, if quite limited, chart of the corporate monsters that run the world;
#21–From the scholars at Imperial & Global Forum a delving into the complex history of free trade and currency wars and empire,
the sum of which barely scratches the surface but which those in the populace who would follow things intelligently must at least attempt to examine and digest: “After decades of sustained attacks on social programs and consistently high unemployment rates, it is no surprise that mortality rates in the country have increased. A research team from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York has estimated that 875,000 deaths in the United States in the year 2000 could be attributed to clusters of social factors bound up with poverty and income inequality. According to U.S. government statistics, some 2.45 million Americans died in the year 2000, thus the researchers’ estimate means that social deprivation was responsible for some 36 percent of the total deaths that year. A staggering total.
What (this) tells is almost identical to what has already been narrated for Russia and Greece. And what is responsible for the increasing death rates is neoliberal economic policy, neoliberal trade policy, and the polarization and impoverishment of a large part of society. After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, death rates soared, lifespans shortened, health standards decreased all throughout the Yeltsin administration, until finally President Putin came in and stabilized matters. Putin said that the destruction caused by neoliberal economic policies had killed more Russians than all of whom died in World War II, the 22 million people. That’s the devastation that polarization caused there. Same thing in Greece. In the last five years, Greek lifespans have shortened. They’’re getting sicker, they are dying faster, they’’re not healthy. Almost all of the British economists of the late 18th century said when you have poverty, when you have a transfer of wealth to the rich, you’’re going to have shorter lifespans, and you’re also going to have immigration.
(The problem is, with Americans basically incapable in any language other than English, that there’s nowhere for them to go, and) And the amazing thing, what’’s going to make this worse, is the trade, the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, and the counterpart with the Atlantic states. In today’’s news there’s news that President Obama plans to make a big push for the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, essentially the giveaway to corporations preventing governments from environmental protection, preventing them from imposing health standards, preventing them from having cigarette warnings or warning about bad food. Obama says he wants to push this in after the election. And the plan is the Republicans also are sort of working with them and saying okay, we’’re going to wait and see. Maybe Donald Trump will come in and he’’ll really do things. Or maybe we can get Hillary, who will move way further to the right than any Republican could, and bring the Congress.
(In this hideous morass), (y)ou’’re having people talk about extending the Social Security age because people are living longer. Who’’s living longer in America? The rich are living longer. The wealthy are living longer. But if you make under $30,000 a year, or even under $50,000 a year, you’’re not living longer. So the idea is how to avoid having to pay Social Security for the lower-income people, — the middle class and the working class that die quicker, and only pay social security for the wealthier classes that live longer? Nobody ’has plugged this discussion of lifespans and longevity into the Social Security debate that Obama and Hillary are trying to raise the retirement age, to ostensibly save Social Security. By save Social Security she means to avoid taxing the higher brackets and paying for Social Security out of the general budget, which of course would entail taxing the higher-income people as well as the lower-income people.”—Naked Capitalism
“Jobs, those ‘think-outside-the-box’ dipshits will tell you, are ‘soooo last century’ when you consider the unwieldy and oppressive administrative aspects that are crippling enterprise and stifling creativity. ‘Work’ is precise and unencumbered by the bureaucracy necessary to maintain pensions, heath insurance, paid leave and compensation for missing limbs and brain cells. ‘Work’ frees you up to take on the burden of paperwork your former employer once took care of, leaving you plenty of time to pull out your hair and scream obscenities at a computer screen. ‘Work’ is authentic and life-affirming, while jobs are why Preparation-H was invented.
Naturally, they fail to mention that not all ‘work’ pays, whereas jobs generally guarantee an income. The problem with jobs is that they sound a lot less glamorous than the more aspirational model of ‘work’, which supposedly makes you frei, and not just in the nazi sense of the word. Thus you’ll be hard pressed to meet anyone who isn’t a filmmaker, IT consultant, or ‘poet.’ Tell people what you actually do for money and they’ll react as if you said ‘I kill surplus baby animals at a petting zoo with my own bare hands’ or ‘I shoot ping pong balls out of my hoohoo in exchange for tequila shots’ – as if that’s somehow worse than ‘leading a global team of market analysts for a European bank.’ People who have jobs can fight for improved working conditions. People who ‘work’ at non-jobs as freelancers, interns, or just aspirants in the field are unlikely to challenge the status quo. Thus ‘work’ is heralded as value producing, worthwhile and fulfilling, whereas jobs are for shmucks who can’t compete in the ‘real world.’
‘Work’ is making a shitload of money and giving a percentage of it to a boutique girl empowerment school in a famine-ravaged African country that has a functioning runway to land your private jet twice a year for a photo op. Never mind that the famine in question is directly related to the water privatization scheme your financial instrument helped create under a Ponzi ‘start up’ scheme or a Global Initiative spearheaded by a flaming cock and his leggy, polyglot arm candy.
Never mind that millions of people world wide, having fled from their war torn nations need jobs to survive in their new homelands, and their host countries need willing and capable hands to strengthen and expand the infrastructure necessary to support all life, and not just the soulless, oxygen-wasting, single-cell invertebrate bottom dwellers who somehow oozed their way up to the top of the food chain. Watch how fast self-employed, enterprising brown-hued individuals become ‘terrorists’ when they compete with the government in illegal trades involving drugs and weapons. And watch just how quickly investor enthusiasm dwindles when you mention your idea for a 3-D printed guillotine despite the kind of demand worldwide that would guarantee a billion dollar return on their investment in the first week.
‘Work’ is a white guy showing up at an indoor playground on a little scooter and ‘brain scanning’ his team for their input on a worthless idea. But mostly, it’s harnessing a temporary force of itinerant laborers with a wide range of collar colors, and releasing them as soon as they are no longer needed. It sometimes involves pep talks about the ‘beauty and necessity of change,’ but should ‘Zen’ fail to move redundant ‘associates’ and ‘team members,’ having tear gas canisters lobbed at them as they are forcefully ejected from the premises will help them on their journey towards ‘transitioning into a new sphere of excellence”’– in other words, dumpster diving alongside abandoned, feral cats until the next time a ‘visionary’ needs help wiping his ass.”—Counterpunch
“Globalisation is not new; it is a process that started in the ‘80s and that has affected the way goods and services are produced globally. This process of globalizing production was made possible through the fragmentation of the production cycle and its dispersion through systems of production organised globally and in relation to the interest of enterprises to maximise profits. Since then, production systems are primarily set up in places where cheap and non-unionised labour is available. Labour conditions are heavily affected and are far from the high standards that were achieved in industrialised countries.
The global production chains and networks that were developed in this context completely redefined the composition of the workforce and the employment relationship worldwide. This process led to the ‘race-to-the-bottom’ rush, where national/local governments create artificially unsustainable comparative advantages by lowering labour standards, slashing welfare provisions and granting tax exemption.
According to recent ILO estimates, approximately one in five workers work in global supply chains (GSCs). While it is difficult to estimate the exact number of workers engaged in global supply chains considering the overwhelming number of workers in the informal economy who may be linked to GSC, there is consensus that the number of jobs linked to GSC is growing. UNCTAD estimates that around 80% of global trade is linked to the international production networks of MNEs and the OECD/WTO have estimated that approximately 60-80 per cent of world trade passes through GSCs.
The growing importance of global supply chains (GSCs), affects the global and regional structure of the world of work. There is a great interest of constituents in this discussion and there is for the ILO a unique opportunity for leading this discussion and build(ing) a strong linkage with the DW agenda and with the implementation of the SDGs.
GSC is not a north/south issue nor an issue related only to developing or developed countries. It is a global issue that calls for universally agreed policy solutions which need to be developed at different levels and within a framework of policy coherence.
The loss of 1,136 lives, when Rana Plaza collapsed on 24 April 2013 in Bangladesh, brought to the attention of the global community the appalling working conditions experienced by workers in Global Supply Chains (GSCs).”—International Labor Office
“Interest rates went to zero because economic growth went to zero. If you are just now wondering why that happened, just google ‘Limits to Growth’…. (A public notice about the scheduled end of growth has been on display at your global planning office for four decades now. It is not anyone else’s fault if people of this planet don’t take an interest in their global affairs. I mean, seriously…) Interest rates and rates of growth are related: a positive interest rate is little more than a bet that the future is going to be bigger and more prosperous, enabling people to pay off the debts with interest. This is an obvious point: if your income increases, it becomes easier to repay your debts; if it stagnates, it becomes harder; if it shrinks, it eventually becomes impossible.
In fact, wages in the US, which was once the world’s largest economy, have been stagnant for generations. In response, the Federal Reserve has been continuously reducing interest rates, until they hit zero in 2008. And there they have stayed ever since. But now, it turns out, that’s not good enough. If the Federal Reserve wants to keep the party going, they have to do more, because
Once you are faced with a continuously shrinking economy, just holding interest rates at zero is not sufficient to forestall financial collapse. The interest rates must go negative. Here (is) just a … particularly striking example. Australia has amassed a huge pile of debt—over 120% of GDP—and most of it is mortgage debt on overvalued real estate. Now that Australia’s economy, which was driven by commodity exports to China, has tanked, a lot of this debt is being turned into interest-only loans, because Australians no longer have the money to repay any of the principal. But what if they can’t make the interest payments either? The obvious solution is to refinance their mortgages as interest-only at zero percent; problem solved! Of course, as conditions deteriorate further, the Australians will become unable to afford taxes and utilities. Negative interest rates to the rescue!
Are you starting to see how this works? Whereas before you had to be careful about taking on debt, and had to have a plan for how you will repay it, with negative interest rates that is simply not a consideration. If your debt pays you, then more debt is always better than less debt. It no longer matters that the economy continuously shrinks because now you can get paid just for twiddling your thumbs!
But are there any unintended consequences of negative interest rates? Unintended consequences are hard to think about, and most people get a headache even trying. How can it be that clean, plentiful nuclear energy will eventually pollute the whole planet with long-lived radionuclides, resulting sky-high cancer rates? How can it be that wonderful genetically modified seeds will render us sickly and infertile in just a few generations? And how can it be that ingenious mobile computing technology has turned our children into zombies who are constantly twiddling their smartphones as they sleepwalk through life? It’s hard to think about any of this without taking some happy pills; and how can it be that taking those happy pills has… you get the idea.
The unintended consequence of negative interest rates is that they destroy money. This is true in an entirely trivial sense: if you deposit x dollars at -ρ% annual, then a year later you will only have x(1-ρ) dollars because xρ dollars has been destroyed. (In case you prefer to count on your fingers and toes, if you deposit $10 at -10% annual, then a year later you will only have $9 because $1 has been destroyed.) But what I mean is something slightly more profound: negative interest rates erode the very concept of money.”—Information Clearinghouse