economic rule

'Saving the Planet' vs Saving the Working-Class

See, the liberal discourse about taking action to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the name of ‘saving the planet’ isn’t much more than a moralistic argument without basis in reality. The planet’s going to be just fine. Carbon dioxide levels have fluctuated wildly over the last 4-and-a-half billion years, with various forms of life flourishing for nearly all of its known history. Anthropogenic climate change is actually all about class.

Transitioning to a sustainable society is really about averting a 2 degree global increase in average temperatures above pre-industrial levels - which would result in the desertification of much of the middle latitudes of the planet, the infertility of much of the world’s agricultural land, and the catastrophic mass migration or starvation of a great proportion of much of Earth’s poorest inhabitants. This is unavoidably a class issue - the wealthiest inhabitants of even the most disastrously effected underdeveloped nations in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia have the means to insulate themselves from the effects of climate change through migration or the creation of enclaves, whilst the toiling masses of subsistence farmers, poor labourers and industrial workers have no such luxury.

When viewed from this point of view, those who deny climate change are not, as liberal political discourse would have it, ‘stupid’ or ‘badly informed’. They are making a deliberate choice conditioned by class allegiance. Those with a vested interest in preserving the carbon-based economy make a cold economic calculation, rooted in the direct logic of capital accumulation: costs sunk into the behemoth industry of the oil economy - from trillions-worth of plant material to the incalculable political infrastructure buttressing dictatorial oil-rich regimes across the globe - must be recouped, locked in place as they are by a labyrinthine network of debt obligations and banking compacts within and between Third World nations and the developed West. It is therefore utterly unsurprising that climate deniers place the profits of a tiny group of oil barons, shadowy shareholders and political stooges above the interests of the vast majority of the working-class people of the world.

All the objectively correct science and liberal moral arguments in the world will not convince climate change deniers to change their positions - since their wealth depends on the contrary. It cannot be overstated: climate change is an economic problem. Climate change is a class problem. It demands economic and political solutions based on the interests of workers across the world.

like god i get so fucking heated thinking abt japanese imperialism. there are still many people living today who saw the horrors the japanese committed. and japan committed atrocities that affected the generations following their rule and some atrocities that korea will never recover from. we were massacred and oppressed and enslaved and our economy was left in ruins and we had so many artifacts of our culture burned and completely destroyed. it only took us a generation to pull ourselves out of literal starvation and that is a feat i am forever proud of. the only consolation the korean people have ever had is that we are economically successful, enough to measure up to japan. japan’s never apologized or paid reparations and parts of our culture is forever lost and the only thing we have is our economic success and whatever we could salvage of our cultural identity after decades of imperial rule and a brutal war. and by those standards we have it good—other countries that were colonized by japan are still struggling economically after imperial rule. basically um fuck japan

At Stake in 2016: Ending the Vicious Cycle of Wealth and Power

What’s at stake this election year? Let me put as directly as I can.

America has succumbed to a vicious cycle in which great wealth translates into political power, which generates even more wealth, and even more power.

This spiral is most apparent is declining tax rates on corporations and on top personal incomes (much in the form of wider tax loopholes), along with a profusion of government bailouts and subsidies (to Wall Street bankers, hedge-fund partners, oil companies, casino tycoons, and giant agribusiness owners, among others).

The vicious cycle of wealth and power is less apparent, but even more significant, in economic rules that now favor the wealthy.

Billionaires like Donald Trump can use bankruptcy to escape debts but average people can’t get relief from burdensome mortgage or student debt payments.

Giant corporations can amass market power without facing antitrust lawsuits (think Internet cable companies, Monsanto, Big Pharma, consolidations of health insurers and of health care corporations, Dow and DuPont, and the growing dominance of Amazon, Apple, and Google, for example). 

But average workers have lost the market power that came from joining together in unions.

It’s now easier for Wall Street insiders to profit from confidential information unavailable to small investors.

It’s also easier for giant firms to extend the length of patents and copyrights, thereby pushing up prices on everything from pharmaceuticals to Walt Disney merchandise.  

And easier for big corporations to wangle trade treaties that protect their foreign assets but not the jobs or incomes of American workers.  

It’s easier for giant military contractors to secure huge appropriations for unnecessary weapons, and to keep the war machine going.

The result of this vicious cycle is a disenfranchisement of most Americans, and a giant upward distribution of income from the middle class and poor to the wealthy and powerful.

Another consequence is growing anger and frustration felt by people who are working harder than ever but getting nowhere, accompanied by deepening cynicism about our democracy.

The way to end this vicious cycle is to reduce the huge accumulations of wealth that fuel it, and get big money out of politics. 

But it’s chicken-and-egg problem. How can this be accomplished when wealth and power are compounding at the top? 

Only through a political movement such as America had a century ago when progressives reclaimed our economy and democracy from the robber barons of the first Gilded Age.

That was when Wisconsin’s “fighting Bob” La Follette instituted the nation’s first minimum wage law; presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan attacked the big railroads, giant banks, and insurance companies; and President Teddy Roosevelt busted up the giant trusts.

When suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony secured women the right to vote, reformers like Jane Addams got laws protecting children and the public’s health, and organizers like Mary Harris “Mother” Jones spearheaded labor unions.

America enacted a progressive income tax, limited corporate campaign contributions, ensured the safety and purity of food and drugs, and even invented the public high school.

The progressive era welled up in the last decade of the nineteenth century because millions of Americans saw that wealth and power at the top were undermining American democracy and stacking the economic deck. Millions of Americans overcame their cynicism and began to mobilize.

We may have reached that tipping point again.

Both the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party grew out of revulsion at the Wall Street bailout. Consider, more recently, the fight for a higher minimum wage (“Fight for 15”). 

Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign is part of this mobilization. (Donald Trump bastardized version draws on the same anger and frustration but has descended into bigotry and xenophobia.)

Surely 2016 is a critical year. But, as the reformers of the Progressive Era understood more than a century ago, no single president or any other politician can accomplish what’s needed because a system caught in the spiral of wealth and power cannot be reformed from within. It can be changed only by a mass movement of citizens pushing from the outside.

So regardless of who wins the presidency in November and which party dominates the next Congress, it is up to the rest of us to continue to organize and mobilize. Real reform will require many years of hard work from millions of us.

As we learned in the last progressive era, this is the only way the vicious cycle of wealth and power can be reversed.

In case y’all were wondering

While female infanticide in Punjab was present before the British came, it wasn’t as bad as it is today. The British introduced invasive and archaic social/economic policy into Punjab- the result was the complete removal of women from almost all economic affairs (under Sikh rule, Punjabi women had rights that far exceeded their Victorian British counterparts ex: ability to inherit property, control of dowry, etc) Because women were removed from the Punjabi economy, more sons were needed to financially support Punjabi families. This also resulted in a higher demand for dowry because Punjabi women had nothing economic to offer in the new superimposed, Western, capitalist economic policies the British introduced. Higher demand of dowry, no opportunity for women resulted in a higher value placed on male infants, causing the rates of infanticide to actually increase under British rule. So the problem of infanticide today in Punjabi is the aggregate effect of cultural sexism as well as a vestige of colonialsm (in my opinion, as a (not advanced) history student/enthusiast, if the British hadn’t colonized South Asia, Punjabi women would probably have a lot more access and a lot less stigma attached to them today)

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#4. BUST UP WALL STREET

When Americans think of how the economic rules are stacked against them, they naturally think of Wall Street. 

When the Wall Street bubble burst in 2008 because of excessive risk-taking, millions of working Americans lost their jobs, health insurance, savings, and homes.

But The Street is back to many of its old tricks. And its lobbyists are busily rolling back the Dodd-Frank Act, intended to prevent another crash.

The biggest Wall Street banks are also much larger. In 1990, the five biggest banks had 10 percent of all of the nation’s banking assets. Now, they have 44 percent – more than they had at the time of the 2008 crash.

They have a virtual lock on taking companies public, play key roles pricing commodities, are involved in all major U.S. mergers and acquisitions and many overseas, and responsible for most of the trading in derivatives and other complex financial instruments.  

And as they’ve gained dominance over the financial sector, they’ve become more politically potent. They’re major sources of campaign funds for both Republicans and Democrats.

Wall Street banks supply personnel for key economic posts in Republican and Democratic administrations, and lucrative employment to economic officials when they leave Washington.

It’s a vicious cycle. The bigger they get, the more likely it is that government will bail them out if they get into trouble again. This, in turn, confers on them an ever-larger competitive advantage over smaller, community-minded banks that don’t have the implied guarantee – which gives the biggest banks even more economic and political power.

What should be done?

First, resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act that used to separate investment from commercial banking.

Second, put a small sales tax on every financial transaction. This would discourage speculation and slow down the casino. Not incidentally, such a tax could generate billions of dollars a year for, say, better schools.

But the most important thing we should do is bust up the big banks. Any bank that’s too big to fail is too big, period.

Antitrust law should be used the way it was against the big oil trusts and the telephone monopoly. The idea was to prevent too much economic and political power from concentrating in too few hands. And that’s precisely the problem with Wall Street.

The only sure way to stop excessive risk-taking on Wall Street so you don’t risk losing your job or your savings or your home, is to put an end to the excessive economic and political power of Wall Street.

It’s time to bust up the big banks.

So some people think the world is in constant progress. Well, us hippies didn’t think so, we thought already then that it was in constant decay and destruction. Any natural type of life-style got coined as something wierd and outdated. Technological and economical progress was the rule of the day. The only problem is that in those days we were millions who turned against it, so there was a feeling of community. So what happened: The hippie-idea got commercialised and that was the end of it.
—  Sereno Sky, author of “Lonely Traveller”

“[Harvard economics professor Dani] Rodrik has diagnosed the central mistake that contemporary libertarians have made: They have conflated ideas that often make sense with those that always make sense.

Some of this confusion is deliberate. By pushing for less government, regardless of the situation, contemporary libertarians act as a kind of lobbyist working on behalf of the affluent. Less government tends to mean lower taxes for the people with the most money to lose to taxes. Less government also means cuts to schools, and health-insurance and retirement programs on which the affluent do not depend.” 

- David Leonhardt, NYT Book Review of “Economic Rules” by Dani Rodrik