This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in an effort to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. we believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

FAIR USE NOTICE FAIR USE NOTICE: This page may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for scientific, research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107.

Read more at: http://www.etupdates.com/fair-use-notice/#.UpzWQRL3l5M | ET. Updates
FAIR USE NOTICE FAIR USE NOTICE: This page may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for scientific, research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107.

Read more at: http://www.etupdates.com/fair-use-notice/#.UpzWQRL3l5M | ET. Updates

All Blogs licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Fiscal Myth That’s Killing The Economy, In 7 Steps

Today's Ideas and Actions | OurFuture.org

The Fiscal Myth That’s Killing The Economy, In 7 Steps

AUGUST 12, 2016

Richard Eskow

A new economic working paper reinforces an important reality: We need more government spending to repair the economy for millions of working Americans. Unfortunately, our political debate is being held back by an economic myth – one that has yet to be challenged in political debate, despite an ever-growing body of evidence against it.
The paper, by L. John Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute, is called “Why is recovery taking so long – and who’s to blame?
The myth is called “austerity,” and it can be roughly defined as “the persistent but false belief that government spending cuts are always a good idea.”
Here are seven things about austerity worth knowing:

1. Our current recovery is too slow, and isn’t reaching everybody it should.

As Bivens points out, employment took longer to reach its pre-recession levels this time around than it did in the previous three recovery periods. Perhaps even more significantly, the rate of job creation remained slower after the recession officially ended.
What’s more, the jobs created after the 2009 crisis were weighted heavily toward lower-income professions. Labor force participation for people of working age remains low, even though it has improved somewhat.
And, as the Center for Economic and Policy Research recently reported, the percentage of people who are involuntarily working part-time rather than full-time is 25 percent higher now than it was before the recession.
As CEPR’s Nick Buffie notes, “Over 6 million people are working part-time involuntarily, and on average they work 23 hours per week. Because full-time workers are typically employed 42–43 hours per week, this is effectively a wage cut of almost 50 percent for the affected workers.”

2. The weak recovery affects a lot of full-time workers.

It is not just the unemployed and underemployed who are affected by the weak recovery. Many full-time workers are earning less than they would be if the economy had rebounded at a faster pace, creating more and better jobs than it has.
The American middle class needs a raise. But millions of people won’t get their raises until the economy is stronger and the demand for workers goes up. And demand will remain low until there are more jobs to fill.

3. We know what to do about it.

Government has two tools at its disposal in situations like this: monetary policy and fiscal policy. Monetary policy was promptly deployed after the latest crisis, both to bail out Wall Street and to improve the overall economy. The Federal Reserve should have been more attentive to the Main Street economy, using some of the creativity it used to rescue the financial sector, but it did cut interest rates and that helped.
Unfortunately, fiscal policy, in the form of job-creating government spending initiatives, was used only sparingly at the federal level. Over the past seven years there have been spending cuts at the federal, state and local levels. That’s the opposite of what’s needed, especially in an economy like this one.
As Bivens points out, it’s necessary to increase demand under conditions like those we see today. A simplistic overview of the process: The government creates jobs, the people who get those jobs spend more, the economy’s “pump” is primed and growth follows.
We aren’t talking about radical, far-left ideas here. This approach has been mainstream economic thinking for many decades, and was successfully applied under Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

4. We relied on the myth of austerity instead.

But recent years have seen the rise of different ideas – ideas that were tended and nurtured by right-wing institutions like the Peterson Foundation, and by conservative economic thinkers too numerous to mention. “Austerity economics” – the belief that governments can cut their way to growth – became conventional thinking in the halls of academe and the halls of power. It is obsessed with deficit spending, to the exclusion of other concerns that are often more pressing.
Austerity-driven cuts have hurt the U.S. economy. Austerity’s done even more damage in Europe. When the global financial crisis of 2008 struck, multilateral decision-makers (including the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, or IMF) imposed a harsh austerity regimen on Greece and other struggling European economies. The result, as we now know, was disastrous.
To its credit, the IMF conducted an internal review of its actions during this period. The report found that IMF officials ignored a number of warning signs and had a “strongly optimistic bias” about the effects of austerity. The report also agreed with an earlier investigation that found “a high degree of groupthink, intellectual capture … and incomplete analytical approaches.”
That’s pretty much what happened here, too.
The crisis of 2008, and the events that followed, disproved austerity economics and other hallmarks of conservative economic thought. But it remains popular in powerful circles – perhaps because, as Upton Sinclair said (in the gendered language of his time): “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

5. It’s mostly a Republican problem …

Despite ample evidence to the contrary, Republicans remain steadfast in their opposition to government spending – even for government jobs like teaching, firefighting, and emergency management.
As Bivens explains:
“We are enduring one of the slowest economic recoveries in recent history, and the pace can be entirely explained by the fiscal austerity, particularly with regard to spending, imposed by Republican policymakers, members of Congress primarily but also legislators and governors at the state level.”
The Republican Congress can even take much of the blame for state-level spending cuts, since transfers from the federal government account for more than 20 percent of state and local spending.
Bad economies aren’t an act of God. They are a result of human action – or inaction.

6. … but a lot of Democrats have bought into the myth, too.

A number of top Democrats echoed the rhetoric of austerity, too. That led to weaker political support for the spending we needed, and probably clouded the judgment of Democratic leaders when it came time to make the case for needed spending increases.
President Obama spent far too much time fighting for a “grand bargain” on spending with congressional Republicans that was rooted in austerity thinking, and too little time challenging that thinking. He also had the habit, especially in his first term, of echoing the false economic tropes of the austerity crowd by saying things like “just like every family in America … the Federal government has to live within its means …”
National budgets don’t work like family budgets at all – that is, unless the family in question issues its own sovereign currency.
There are strong hints of austerity-oriented thinking in Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric, too. That puts her at odds with enthusiastic backer Paul Krugman, who wielded a poison pen on her behalf during the Democratic primaries but is currently making the case for borrowing and spending.
Austerity thinking was highlighted at last month’s Democratic National Convention when Gene Sperling, a senior economic advisor to former presidents Clinton and Obama, was featured in a humor-oriented anti-Trump video produced by “Funny or Die.” Whether or not hilarity ensues must remain a matter of personal opinion, but the video clearly relies on austerity economics – specifically, an exaggerated fear of deficits – to scare viewers.
There has never been a better time for the federal government to borrow money and invest in the economy. It can obtain very low interest rates, the economy would respond very well to job creation, and we urgently need to spend money on repairing and expanding our national infrastructure. (The American Society of Civil Engineers says we need to spend $3.6 trillion by 2020.)

7. We need a national debate about austerity economics.

Hillary Clinton has proposed modest levels of infrastructure investment and other government spending – modest, but better than nothing. President Obama put forward similar spending proposals. But these proposals suffer from a fatal flaw that renders them useless in today’s climate: They’re too large to get past the Republicans in Congress and too small to change the political debate.
Democrats have not directly challenged Republicans on government’s proper role in the economy. Too often, they have tried to co-opt the rhetoric (and sometimes the policies) of austerity instead.
Republicans, on the other hand, offer a clearly articulated and internally coherent (if utterly fallacious) economic perspective. Democrats can also offer a coherent perspective, too – one with the added advantage of having been proven by experience. That perspective can make life better for millions of people.
This is the economic debate this country needs. But we won’t get it until someone challenges austerity economics and the conservative philosophy behind it – directly, unambiguously and fearlessly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

37 Facts About How Cruel This Economy Has Been To Millions Of Desperate American Families

Global Research

First published in October 2012
Have you ever laid in bed awake at night with a knot in your stomach because you didn’t know how your family was possibly going to make it through the next month financially?  Have you ever felt the desperation of not being able to provide the basic necessities for your family even though you tried as hard as you could?  All over America tonight, there are millions of desperate families that are being ripped apart by this economy.  There aren’t nearly enough jobs, and millions of Americans that actually do have jobs aren’t making enough to even provide the basics for their families. 
When you have tried everything that you can think of and nothing works, it can be absolutely soul crushing.  Today, one of my regular readers explained that he was not going to be online for a while because his power had been turned off.  He has been out of work for quite a while, and eventually the money runs out.  Have you ever been there?  If you have ever experienced that moment, you know that it stays with you for the rest of your life.  If you are single that is bad enough, but when you have to look into the eyes of your children and explain to them why there won’t be any dinner tonight or why they have to move into a homeless shelter it can feel like someone has driven a stake into your heart.  In this article you will find a lot of very shocking economic statistics.  But please remember that behind each statistic are the tragic stories of millions of desperately hurting American families.
Over the past decade, things have steadily gotten worse for American families no matter what our politicians have tried.  Poverty and government dependence continue to rise.  The cost of living continues to go up and incomes continue to go down.  It is truly frightening to think about what this country is going to look like if current trends continue.
The following are 37 facts that show how cruel this economy has been to millions of desperate American families…
1. One recent survey discovered that 40 percent of all Americans have $500 or less in savings.
2. A different recent survey found that 28 percent of all Americans do not have a single penny saved for emergencies.
3. In the United States today, there are close to 10 million households that do not have a single bank account.  That number has increased by about a million since 2009.
4. Family homelessness in the Washington D.C. region (one of the wealthiest regions in the entire country) has risen 23 percent since the last recession began.
5. The number of Americans living in poverty has increased by about 6 million over the past four years.
6. Median household income has fallen for four years in a row.  Overall, it has declined by more than $4000 over the past four years.
7. 62 percent of middle class Americans say that they have had to reduce household spending over the past year.
8. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 85 percent of middle class Americans say that it is more difficult to maintain a middle class standard of living today than it was 10 years ago.
9. In the United States today, 77 percent of all Americans are living to paycheck to paycheck at least some of the time.
10. In the United States today, more than 41 percent of all working age Americans are not working.
11. Since January 2009, the “labor force” in the United States has increased by 827,000, but “those not in the labor force” has increased by 8,208,000.  This is how they have gotten the unemployment numbers to “come down”.
12. Sadly, 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.
13. Today, about one out of every four workers in the United States brings home wages that are at or below the federal poverty level.
14. Right now, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.
15. At this point, less than 25 percent of all jobs in the United States are “good jobs”, and that number continues to shrink.
16. There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.
17. According to USA Today, many Americans have actually seen their water bills triple over the past 12 years.
18. Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.
19. In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.
20. Health insurance premiums rose faster than the overall rate of inflation in 2011 and that is happening once again in 2012.  In fact, it has been happening for a very long time.
21. According to one recent survey, approximately 10 percent of all employers in the United States plan to drop health coverage when key provisions of the new health care law kick in less than two years from now.
22. Back in 1983, the bottom 95 percent of all income earners had 62 cents of debt for every dollar that they earned.  By 2007, that figure had soared to $1.48.
23. Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.
24. Total consumer debt in the United States has risen by 1700 percent since 1971.
25. Recently it was announced that total student loan debt in the United States has passed the one trillion dollar mark.
26. According to one recent survey, approximately one-third of all Americans are not paying their bills on time at this point.
27. Right now, approximately 25 million American adults are living at home with their parents.
28. The percentage of Americans that find that they are able to retire when they reach retirement age continues to decline.  According to one new survey, 70 percent of middle class Americans plan to work during retirement and 30 percent plan to work until they are at least 80 years old.
29. The U.S. economy lost more than 220,000 small businesses during the recent recession.
30. In 2010, the number of jobs created at new businesses in the United States was less than half of what it was back in the year 2000.
31. Back in 2007, 19.2 percent of all American families had a net worth of zero or less than zero.  By 2010, that figure had soared to 32.5 percent.
32. Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be either “low income” or impoverished.
33. In the United States today, somewhere around 100 million Americans are considered to be either “poor” or “near poor”.
34. In October 2008, 30.8 million Americans were on food stamps.  Today, 46.7 million Americans are on food stamps.
35. Approximately one-fourth of all children in the United States are enrolled in the food stamp program.
36. Right now, more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government.  And that does not even count Social Security or Medicare.
37. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an all-time record 49 percent of all Americans live in a home where at least one person receives financial assistance from the federal government.  Back in 1983, that number was less than 30 percent.
What makes all of this even more frightening is that many homeless shelters and food banks around the nation are so overloaded at this point that they are already over capacity.  Just consider this example
When Janice Coe, a homeless advocate in Loudoun County, learned through her prayer group that a young woman was sleeping in the New Carrollton Metro station with a toddler and a 2-month-old, she sprang into action.
Coe contacted the young woman and arranged for her to take the train to Virginia, where she put the little family up in a Comfort Suites hotel. Then Coe began calling shelters to see who could take them.
Despite several phone calls, she came up empty. Coe was shocked to learn that many of the local shelters that cater to families were full, including Good Shepherd Alliance, where Coe was once director of social services.
“I don’t know why nobody will take this girl in,” Coe said. “The baby still had a hospital bracelet on her wrist.”
Keep in mind that Loudoun Country is smack dab in the middle of one of the wealthiest areas of Virginia.
So if things are that bad in the wealthy areas, exactly how bad are things getting in many of the poorer areas?
Unfortunately, things continue to get worse for this economy.  DuPont has just announced plans to eliminate 1,500 jobs.  There are more major layoff announcements almost every single day.  So how bad will things get when our crumbling economic system finally collapses?  When kind of chaos will be unleashed all over the nation when millions upon millions of Americans finally lose all hope?
In the introduction to this article, I mentioned that one of my regular readers has had his lights turned off.  The following is how he described his situation
No gas, no water, no electricity at my house. Couldn’t pay the bills. I’m broke. Desperately searching for any means of income, or at least enough cash to get the juice (electricity) restored.
Typing this missive in a dark house using the battery on my laptop. Feels like I’m camping out at home. Hope to get this situation fixed tomorrow… somehow. Needless to say, I *…. hate this.
I was ready for this, but it is still a major league inconvenience. For those of you who DO have power, etc. – and are not ready… oh brother. You need to get ready. Seriously, you do. Because what I’m going through is just an inconvenience. It may someday be a normal occurence. Ugh. (expletives deleted)
Hopefully a way can be found to get his situation turned around, but the truth is that there are tens of millions of other similar stories out there in America today.
What about you?  What are things like in your neck of the woods?  Please feel free to share your thoughts below…

The Long Shadow of the Hegemon

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

The Long Shadow of the Hegemon

There is no place in the world anymore that is immune to the presence of hegemonic forces. Money and technology are the main ingredients that influence our beliefs, our tastes and our perceptions of what social values should mean. In becoming consumers, we are co-opted into cultural norms that validate the dominant ideology. Since being force-fed that praxis of knowledge, better known as neoconservative-ideological-gruel to justify ideological expropriation of wealth, a rancid deceit wrapped in dubious economics has plagued us for decades. We have been sold an economic status quo as something natural and inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as an artificial social construct that benefits only the ruling class. Worst of all, the system that now owns us also owns our imagination. Too many of us feel that we are not part of the system anymore… and it’s the issue most central in this election year in America.
In a void, no one could say why a thing once set in motion should stop anywhere; or why ‘here’ or ‘there’ could be of matter, if filling-the-void is the purpose of the game. A thing will either be at rest or move ad infinitum, unless something more powerful gets in its way. What might that more powerful thing be, that could free us from the banality of our mechanical culture? The mechanics of the Punch & Judy show, or the Hillary & Donald show, have been set in motion and have become American ‘slapstick’ writ large, with the puppeteers firmly in control of both candidates. Cue to understanding the Punch & Judy show and how it works is to recognise that it’s the ‘slapstick’ Punch carries, a stick as large as himself, which he freely uses upon most of the other characters in the show to achieve supremacy over them. Sound familiar, does it? It’s American Foreign Policy to a tee and it’s ‘exceptionality’, without a doubt…but how ignoble! Given that it is bullying that best identifies American Foreign Policy, the Punch & Judy fiasco or the Hillary & Donald debacle, show a close affinity with Pennsylvania Avenue & Wall Street designs.
The Punch & Judy Show replicates American Foreign Policy in many ways. The party inflicting violence and punishment on the smaller country with impunity possesses the biggest ‘slapstick’. In order to achieve its place in the world as the dominant hegemon, the bully resorts to extremes of violence and punishment, justifying its actions in classic American crusader shtick as it goes. Rightly speaking, there is really no American Foreign Policy other than the one that uses the ‘slapstick’…or air power and WMD’s as is the case here… enabling American interests to spread like a suffocatingly cancerous sludge across the globe.
What is not addressed by either candidate in this year’s Presidential election is the horror of American Foreign Policy and how it has wrought havoc in the Muslim world. Policies co-authored in Tel Aviv, where ‘slapstick’ sees to it that Israelis can have a state and Palestinians cannot. America, the land of Milk & Money is in the hands of those who know how to…invisibly…manage the puppets that serve the cause of Perpetual War & Zion. For the rest of us, there is alternative media to explain what is happening under OUR watch.
Domiciled in regional Ballarat, Australia, the hegemonic force, in micro terms, happens to be a mega Warehouse where consumers are given every opportunity to fulfill their shopping needs. There is nothing that gets in the way of functionality. While making their purchases, customers are regaled with frills and frippery; a stopover at Fuelers Underground Car Club Show offers full-spectrum cooking-oil aromas to amplify the BBQ experience; you can also attend a ‘How to Install & Replace-A-Lock’ demo if you so choose; Art Class Workshops for kids are a must (for some), or you can simply attend a Project-Advise-Group to avoid a vacuum creeping into your life. But above all, the most prized items marching out the doors of ‘Aladdin’s cave’ are the large-size flat TVs that can monitor the vagaries of the status quo for the average Jane or Joe.
Given the mechanics of the consumerist society, there is little likelihood of anything getting in the way of the status quo as we know it. This conclusion was reached when waiting in a veterinary clinic to have my Silky Terrier ‘Girlie’ examined for a sexually transmitted disease. The eight other people in the waiting room were all women, tending toward vintage, mutely gazing at a very large flat tele-screen projecting the image of Hillary Clinton in white pantsuit at the Democratic Convention. Sounding like an elocution teacher about to accept a trophy on behalf of the entire Western World, Hill was there to thrill the faithful. It was a perfect illustration of television’s global hegemonic reach: television to saturate the entire global population in vanities that eschew substance so as to keep us moving on to nowhere — the American narrative ad infinitum?
Were these women a random sample of how worldwide audiences uncritically consume news bulletins where American accents fill the void with expert opinions on what is wrong with the world we live in and how it should be interpreted by Americans…only? They seemed to respond to the messages coming from the ubiquitous tele-screen as bored accomplices might, exhibiting respectful deference to the hegemon that helps fill the erstwhile time vacuum. What to do with time being the real challenge. As vassals of the American Empire, we Australians need to keep in touch with what is happening under every President’s watch. We have to keep watching because we could have a repeat of the Cuban missile crisis in our own very backyard, if American gung-ho militarism chose to come our way.
The stocky dog next to me had been licking its private-parts in an animated and unpleasantly loud fashion for some considerable time, causing the customers in the waiting room to give exaggerated attention to what was happening on the TV — we were seeing without looking — when without warning 30 kilos of lascivious canine flesh flopped over onto my shoes. The strangely ecstatic sounds emanating from its wet snout caused me to grab Girlie so as to deliver her to the safety of the bench I was sitting on. The woman next to me, noticing my reaction, smilingly offered me some gratuitous information, “He’s my rock; he’s 15” conveyed with an expression of love laced with gratitude for her 15 year old drooling Pit Bull, now obviously suffering some kind of swallowing malfunction. “Don’t know what I’d do without Bill” she said before returning to the big screen once again. Shifting my attention back to Hillary, it became apparent that she had no problem in expressing her gratitude either in accepting the nomination…her throat, lungs and speech-writers obviously up to the task. Verbally she was in full matronly flight now and it appeared that all the women in the waiting room, in spite of the cacophony of doggy sounds in the background, were bonding with the image of the woman in the white pantsuit on the big screen.
Then it struck me, they were locked into the idea of woman as the incarnation of hegemonic power. The woman in the pantsuit symbolised gender politics; she appeared to represent the righting of some long standing grievance they imagined had to do with laundry duties, floor scrubbing and glass ceilings. She was as pure as the driven snow in her white pantsuit. This empowered woman was all things to all women, freed from knitting-needle, potato-peeler and being perceived merely as a sexual object… the woman in the white pantsuit had finally made it to Barbie Heaven. The rude details of her personality had been sanitized, and her rise to hegemonic status was as vivid as the Southern Cross on a clear night in my part of the world. Just before my name was called to pick up my pooch, I observed how Hillary turned to the man sedately dressed in a dark blue suit next to her, to say “Don’t know what I would have done without Bill”.
Driving home with Girlie, relieved that she was free from doggy-aids or something worse, I thought of Donald Trump in the context of his ambition to be God’s hegemonic representative on earth. Somewhere out there, in some parallel veterinary clinic, eight men might be sitting on benches waiting their turn to have their Mastiff, Great Dane, Irish Wolf-hound, Cane Corso, Dogue de Bordeaux etc., checked for colic or bad gas. They might be looking at Donald receiving the Republican Nomination on a very large and flat TV screen. Donald’s message being unambiguously ambiguous would be the way they liked it… He wants America to be Great Again. He is saying that only he can make this happen. He doesn’t say if this entails more or less bombing of other people’s countries and it doesn’t seem to count for much with his audience. The eight men in the waiting room want greatness to happen regardless the means. No one can say why a thing once set in motion should stop anywhere. A thing will either be at rest or move ad infinitum…and they don’t want a bar of inertia…this is about identity politics. These eight men would probably vote for whoever promised more of the same, so long as America remained the top Mastiff, Great Dane, Alsatian or whatever.
So where’s the choice in this election year in America? There’s none, even blind Freddie can see that, as we say down under. American style capitalism — which is really the age-old quest for the secret of perpetual motion and growth — is likely to fall on its own sword. The motion of a hypothetical machine which, once activated, would run forever unless subject to an external force, or to wear, evolved into the machine for constant war that America is now experiencing. The Queen of Chaos in Pantsuit is no stranger to war, wear and wastage, and her taste for more of the same is born of a passion for bloodletting, explicated as Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine. The white Pantsuit doesn’t quite hide the take-all-and-concede-nothing jackal posturing behind the matronly rhetoric.
So do Americans, ordinary Americans need to take to the streets to protest the shenanigans of the corrupt elites? The answer would have to be yes! Everyone can see that the owners of everything have put a price tag on everything except human dignity… and are only there for the take. The fight for human dignity and the health of the planet is only beginning. The hegemon we need is the hegemon that can think socially. The machinery of state doesn’t need fixing; it needs replacing.
Denis is a retired businessman and journalist, and a voracious follower of matters political outside of the mainstream arena. Read other articles by Denis A..