new-economics

If This NYCHA Deal Smells Like Gentrification, Here’s Why

These kinds of ideas have the potential to set our housing market on fire, if that isn’t already the case. Imagine if NYCHA scaled up this concept and offered more opportunities with other properties. If low interest rates weren’t enough, developers would have an entirely new reason to pour cash into the market: earning tax free resources behind the guise of protecting affordable housing. Just don’t reveal how your investments in luxury Brooklyn condos or how your high end condos just blocks away from one of your newly inherited NYCHA properties is contributing to a Citywide wave of poverty displacement. And certainly never whisper about what that could mean for the future demand on public housing….

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Cuban cooperatives present a new economic model

Over the last few years, President Raúl Castro has been slowly liberalizing Cuba’s socialist economy. The government has begun allowing small, private businesses to operate on the island. And now it’s been experimenting with turning state enterprises into cooperatives and letting the workers own and run them.

The cooperatives are seen by some as a way of opening the country up to capitalism and privatization while maintaining some of the revolution’s collectivist ideals. And so far, Cubans seem to like them. For the first time in decades, these enterprises give workers a stake in their success, and allow their members to take home the money they earn.

One such company is the Bella ll Health and Beauty Institute, a beauty salon in Havana. It used to belong to the Cuban government, but was recently converted into a cooperative. Tania Lourdez Ortiz Fernández gives facials there. She made about $14 a month when Bella was run by the government. Now she makes about $42. Plus she has a say in running the business.

“The other system we had was a little imposing, because before we had to work with the products we had here, and everything was secret,” she says. “For example, the inspector would come and the products that weren’t from here, products that I had to give good service, I had to hide them. I think a lot of people feel the same way as me, that we’re happier now than the system we had before.”

Cooperative farms have existed in Cuba since the beginning of the revolution. But this is the first time the Castro government is allowing non-agricultural co-ops to operate. That is, Cuban corporations that are not controlled by the state.

In Bella’s lobby, company president Adriana Cervantes says she’s anxious, but welcomes the change.

“The parent company told us what we had to do and we were obliged to do everything they imposed on us. Today, now that we’re a cooperative, we have the freedom to make our own rules. We can design everything ourselves,” she says.

Nearly 300 co-ops have opened in Cuba over the past year. They’re democratically run; the workers vote on a budget and elect a president. Cuba is divesting these state businesses because, basically, it can’t afford not to.

“The state cannot be responsible for unplugging your toilet, or fixing your car, or running the restaurants and cafeterias all over town. And that’s what they did until a year ago,” says Rafael Betancourt, an independent consultant who works with international enterprises and co-ops in Cuba. He explains that Cuba faced two choices when it decided to stop running these businesses: sell them or give them to the workers to maintain some modicum of collectivism.

One of the more popular co-ops in town is Taxi Rutero. It runs a small fleet of buses that it rents from the government on fixed routes around Havana. The co-op’s members are responsible for everything from training to repairs.

A ride on Taxi Rutero costs 23 cents, compared to the 2 cents on a government bus, which tend to be unreliable. Clients believe the higher price is worth it, citing Taxi Rutero as more comfortable than the government buses.

Its employees agree. “I make what I earn. I’m paid for the effort I put in. Because sometimes, I don’t know, there are other jobs out there where you work and work and work, and you never see the fruit of your labor,” says Taxi Rutero driver Luis León.

There are issues, he admits. It’s hard to find spare parts for the buses. The government doesn’t provide them. But even Cuba’s famous shortages aren’t likely to slow down the private sector.

It’s a sea change, according to Eric Leenson of SOL Economics, a US enterprise that promotes socially conscious business in Cuba. He predicts that soon half of Cuba’s economy will be in the private sector.

“On one hand, what has been very secure in the past is no longer so secure. On the other hand, on the upside, I would say for many people there is much more possibility of creatively engaging in building their own future. So it’s a very brusque and a very fundamental change in the mindset of how Cubans operate as economic beings,” he says.

Evidence of this change can be seen in many of Cuba’s new cooperatives. Today is the first day of Café Nautico-Bienmesabe’s grand reopening; the first day it’s operating as a cooperative. And as it happens in Cuba, there’s a blackout. Normally, in an average government-run restaurant, employees wouldn’t be thrilled about serving customers in the dark, but here they’re cooking by candlelight.

“We’re giving the best service we can under these circumstances — drinks and some dishes that haven’t been affected by the lack of electricity,” says Café Nautico-Bienmesabe’s head waitress Luidmila Hernández.

If it succeeds, this experiment could salvage some of the character of the socialist revolution as Cuba moves forward.

“Rather than accepting the fact that we all now have to be cutthroat capitalists because that’s the only option, we’re really seeking a third route, a third path,” says Betancourt, the co-op consultant.

This social experiment is very different from the one he was living through 20 or 30 years ago. He says this time it’s about building a more democratic society, where Cubans have a greater say in their daily lives, without forgetting their past.

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October 24th 1929: ‘Black Thursday’

On this day in 1929 the ‘Black Thursday’ stock market crash took place on the New York Stock Exchange, thus beginning the ‘Wall Street Crash’. This was the worst stock market crash in American history and heralded the beginning of the Great Depression. The 1920s had been seeing a period of prosperity and optimism but the markets had been unstable for a few days before the crash. On October 24th the market lost 11% of its value. Stocks continued to fall and in the ensuing Depression 25% of Americans were out of work.

The November Edition of the Monkerai Review looks at Degrowth.

"Is degrowth essential for just transition?"

Degrowth (décroissance, decrecimiento, decrescita) is a critical interrogation of growth-based economics.

Degrowth thinkers and activists advocate for the sustainable contraction of economies as the core means of addressing long term environmental issues and social inequalities.

While degrowth can frame discussions on the failures of and alternatives to the status quo, its advocates recognise there is no theory of contraction equivalent to the growth theories of economics. Whether or not a theoretical foundation is necessary is an ongoing point of creative tension within its social-grassroots movement, at least within minority, wealthy countries. Its key advocates, such as Professor Serge Latouche and Peter Victor promote it as a wide-ranging economic solution,  others are more sceptical of its co-existence with continuing capitalism and its tendency towards personal-community scale change as opposed to systemic transformation.

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Young poets at Brave New Voices give real talk on economic inequalities of gentrification and education in their communities: 

"So basically they’re saying, alright, so you got to go to school, right? You got to make money somehow. And the only way to make money in this economy is to get a college degree, right, ‘cause that’s what we’re taught. So we’re raised up until senior year…and we realize that yo, you’re going to be more in debt from your college loans than from house loans and credit card loans combined…for the rest of your career, basically.  So then they say, alright, alright, you got that. So here are your two options: You can go to college, be in debt. Or, you might as well go to the military. You’re already in the streets. You’re already fighting. You’re already playing Call of Duty. This is your option, right here.  So that’s what I think the violence stems from: that the only way to live is to be violent. The only way to survive in this economy for poor folk is to be gritty…to be dirty to steal whatever you need to steal. And that’s the problem.” 

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Lobster, The Poor Man’s Meal

Today lobster is perhaps the ultimate symbol of high class cuisine. Typically, common people don’t go into a restaurant and order a lobster like one would order a burger and fries, but back in the day lobster used to be a staple food for the lowest of the low.  In colonial New England during the 17th and 18th centuries lobster was so common the English colonists could easily go down to the shore and bring back basketfulls of lobster.  For many lobster mean’t survival as early New England colonists lived a poor existence that teetered on the edge of disaster.  The Native Americans typically used lobster as fertilizer for their crops, a practice which the Massachusetts Bay Colonists picked up as well.

By the 18th century, lobster had gained a reputation as a food for the lowest of the low.  The only people who ate lobster where those who had no choice in the matter; soldiers, criminals, slaves, indentured servants, and those who could afford to eat nothing better.  It was even quite common for New Englanders to feed their livestock and pets lobster because it was so cheap. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, lobster was very popular as a cat food. In the early 18th century indentured servants in Massachusetts rebelled against their masters and took them to court over maltreatment; they were being fed too much lobster.  As a result a law was passed which stipulated that a master could only feed his indentured servants lobster at most 3 times a month.

The lobster’s reputation as a disgusting bottom feeder and poor mans meal began to change after the American Civil War.  It was then that railroad companies began to serve lobster on their passenger trains.  Since only New Englanders knew what lobster was, most Americans traveling the rails had little idea of lobster’s reputation.  To them, it was a yummy and delicious food.  Soon its popularity spread across the country, then all over the world.  Eventually, gourmet chefs were finding new ways to cook and serve the delectable crustacean.  As demand rose, so too did supply, until eventually lobster became scarce compared to earlier times.  In the 19th century, a five or six pound lobster was considered small. Today lobster is often priced 8 or 9 dollars a pound.  

The rise in popularity of lobster caused a scarcity in lobster, which eventually transformed lobster from a poor mans dinner into gourmet cuisine.  In New England, the stigma still stuck as lobster was still cheap, and a survival food throughout the Great Depression and World War II. During World War II, lobster was one of the few foods that was not rationed, so New Englanders of all classes enjoyed it, thus dealing the last blow to lobsters negative reputation.  

Smart Growth in Transition: Sustainable Communities in the Rust-Belt

Environmental studies professor David Orr has set out to turn the aging rust belt town of Oberlin, Ohio, into a laboratory for sustainability. In the process, he has drawn interest from unlikely places: Experts from the military and in national security see the Oberlin Project as a compelling plan to focus on vulnerabilities in the nation’s food, energy, and socioeconomic systems. They and others, including leaders of the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan Washington research group, see it as a model that communities across the country could follow.

Grist

The American economy no longer exists to support a thriving middle class, or to help the weakest among us attain a livable wage for an honest day’s work. It is solely in existence to add to the pile of wealth for the unchecked at the top.

3 Interactives: How The Racial Income Gap Could Be Closed By CUNY

Why are earnings so disproportionately skewed away from Blacks, even in the Big Apple?

Too many Black students could be settling for schools below their qualifications, for a few reasons. But that doesn’t focus on what’s happening at community colleges, to students who may be correctly matched. Should we give up on them as doomed to a highly probable lower-income fate? For public colleges it may be more appropriate to make schools better fit the social mobility needs of their students rather than rerouting them to “better” institutions. If so, these charts could be saying that, at least for CUNY, more resources need to be devoted to improving outcomes from the lower tier colleges Black students rely upon the most….

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