How Debate Is Changing On The Nature Of Capitalism

The Article: Is Capitalism Losing the Debate? by Carl Finamore in Common Dreams.

The Text: A remarkable shift in mass public opinion is occurring right before our eyes. It does not happen often. Normally, only when there is a severe breakdown in public confidence about the future.

Now is such a time.

Millions are demanding clear explanations for the economic turmoil surrounding their lives and rejecting en masse standard platitudes from an increasingly discredited political establishment.

Fox-News pundits, Heritage Foundation business scholars, glib right-wing loud mouths and two-faced politicians from both major parties have been exposed as stand-in ventriloquists for the wealthy – shockingly, all in a few short weeks.

It all began with only a few hundred protestors camped out on Wall Street challenging conceited notions of the one percent.

Through it all, the Occupy Movement is discovering what my generation learned during the civil rights, antiwar, feminist and gay rights struggles begun some 65 years ago – the ideas of the rich and powerful just don’t stand up.

They don’t hold water. That is, they do not accurately explain what is happening around us, the measure most rational people use to determine if something is true or false.

There was bitter political conflict with the status quo during the conformist “American Dream” decade of the 1950s.

Fundamental rights of equality were denied and numerous US military interventions into Central America and Asia were excused by a conservative, misinformed and compliant American population.

Eventually, it all turned around.

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Analyzing Poverty & Inequality In America

The Article: Why inequality in America is even worse than you thought by Justin Elliott in Salon.

The Text: There has been no shortage of headlines this week about the growing income and wealth inequality in the United States. A new study from the Congressional Budget Office, for example, found that income of the top 1 percent of households increased by 275 percent in the 30-year period ending in 2007. American households at the bottom and in the middle, meanwhile, saw income growth of just 18 to 40 percent over the same period

But less attention has been paid to the fact that not only are the numbers bad in America, they’re particularly bad when compared to other developed nations.

A new report (.pdf) by the Bertelsmann Foundation drives this point home. The German think tank used a set of policy analyses to create a Social Justice Index of 31 developed nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The United States came in a dismal 27th in the rankings. Here, for example, is a graph of one of the metrics, child poverty, in which the U.S. ranked fourth-to-last (click for larger size):

Child Poverty By Country Graph

Daniel Schraad-Tischler, who authored the study for Bertelsmann, explained to me how the Social Justice Index works and why the U.S. ranks so low.

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Rethinking Dominant Economic Doctrines

The Article: The Path Not Taken by Paul Krugman of the New York Times.

The Text: Financial markets are cheering the deal that emerged from Brussels early Thursday morning. Indeed, relative to what could have happened — an acrimonious failure to agree on anything — the fact that European leaders agreed on something, however vague the details and however inadequate it may prove, is a positive development.

But it’s worth stepping back to look at the larger picture, namely the abject failure of an economic doctrine — a doctrine that has inflicted huge damage both in Europe and in the United States.

The doctrine in question amounts to the assertion that, in the aftermath of a financial crisis, banks must be bailed out but the general public must pay the price. So a crisis brought on by deregulation becomes a reason to move even further to the right; a time of mass unemployment, instead of spurring public efforts to create jobs, becomes an era of austerity, in which government spending and social programs are slashed.

This doctrine was sold both with claims that there was no alternative — that both bailouts and spending cuts were necessary to satisfy financial markets — and with claims that fiscal austerity would actually create jobs. The idea was that spending cuts would make consumers and businesses more confident. And this confidence would supposedly stimulate private spending, more than offsetting the depressing effects of government cutbacks.

Some economists weren’t convinced. One caustic critic referred to claims about the expansionary effects of austerity as amounting to belief in the “confidence fairy.” O.K., that was me.

But the doctrine has, nonetheless, been extremely influential. Expansionary austerity, in particular, has been championed both by Republicans in Congress and by the European Central Bank, which last year urged all European governments — not just those in fiscal distress — to engage in “fiscal consolidation.”

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A Tale Of Two Industries

A Tale Of Two Industries Banking and Technology

In July, they came for the candy.

The Fun Size Snickers bars. The mini peanut M&M packets. Those seductive, single-serving afternoon pick-me-ups in glass jars on every secretary’s desk. The bane of employee waist-lines everywhere and now, evidently, corporate’s bottom line as well.

In August, they came for the free checking.

The Fed was cracking down. The nettlesome Dodd-Frank regulations yet another nuisance. Banks couldn’t charge retailers 44 cents every time you swiped a debit card anymore. They had to make do with 21 cents.

And it’s not as though the bank could drill for more oil or code a sparkling new app. So the bank took it out on customers. Down came the glossy “free checking” posters. Up went the monthly service charges. The nickel and dime defense of a $100 billion dollar bank under siege. Across the street, Bank of America raked in $6.2 billion last quarter, but it would still like your $5 for the right—the privilege—to access your own money.

Bank of America Protests

In September, they came for the Wall Street Journal.

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Selling Off America To The Highest Bidder

The Article: Rick Perry: The Best Little Whore In Texas by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone.

The Text: Early morning in a nearly filled corporate ballroom at the Cobb Energy Centre, a second-tier event stadium on the outskirts of Atlanta. It’s late September, and a local conservative think tank is hosting a get-together with Rick Perry, whose front-runner comet at the time is still just slightly visible in the bottom of the sky. I’ve put away five cups of coffee trying to stay awake through a series of monotonous speeches about Georgia highway and port reform, waiting for my chance to lay eyes on the Next Big Thing in person.

By the time Perry shows up, I’m jazzed and ready for history. You always want to remember the first time you see the possible next president in person. But as every young person knows, the first time is not always a pleasant experience. Perry lumbers onstage looking exceedingly well-groomed, but also ashen and exhausted, like a funeral director with a hangover.

In a voice so subdued and halting that I think he must be sick, he launches into his speech, which consists of the following elements: a halfhearted football joke about Texas A&M that would have embarrassed a true fan like George W. Bush, worn bromides about liberals creating a nanny state, a few lines about jobs in Texas, and a promise to repeal “as much of Obamacare as I can” on his first day in the White House.

“I will try,” he says, “to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your life as I can.”

Then he waves and walks offstage. The whole thing has taken barely 10 minutes.

I can’t believe it, and neither can the assembled crowd of Georgia conservatives, who hesitate before breaking into polite applause. I feel like a high school cheerleader who just had her leg jizzed on in the back of a convertible. That’s it? It’s over? That was Rick Perry’s stump speech?

“Low energy, low substance,” sighs Justin Ryan, one of the conference attendees. “That’s sort of the candidate in general.”

But this is America, remember, where one should never underestimate shallow. And Rick Perry brings shallow to a new level. He is very gifted in that regard. He could be the Adolf Hitler of shallow.

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