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Archive for the ‘The Economy–Wealth & Poverty’ Category



Keystone XL has a Job for You! (video satire)

Feb5

by: on February 5th, 2014 | Comments Off

When Keystone XL’s top job recruiter comes to town, he reveals just what types of jobs the controversial oil pipeline would really create.

Oil executives like to claim that the Keystone XL would create thousands of jobs. But in a project fueling so many environmental and health risks, only one man is honest enough to say exactly what those jobs would be. Hint: they’re not in construction.

It’s true, Keystone XL has a job for you! But the question is: do you really want it?

[Note to readers: This is a satirical video. Please do not call Keystone XL about these job openings. Do not send in any applications or letters of recommendation. Instead, we recommend asking the good folks at Keystone XL one question. How's the wig business going?]

Snapping to the SNAP Challenge

Jan30

by: Sharon Goldman on January 30th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons/Paul Sableman

Jacob is being groomed for empathy. So said Rabbi David Ingber of Congregation Romemu in New York City during a Friday night D’var Torah last November. It was the week of Parsha Vayetzei, the Parsha in which Jacob, with only a rock as a pillow, dreams of angels ascending the ladder. So begins Jacob’s solo journey, one marked by a series of perfidies, betrayals, and disappointments. By the end of Genesis, having experienced both ends of these dynamics multiple times, he has sown the seeds of humility and compassion. Empathy for the patriarch Israel, is a painstaking development. Empathy was also the theme of that particular Shabbas, not only with the focus of the Rabbi’s D’var, but also with the community potluck dinner after evening services, acknowledging the participants of the SNAP Challenge.

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Glory, Fame, and Ambition: the Custer Model

Jan29

by: on January 29th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

George Armstrong Custer. "The last thing we need in our homes, workplaces, and national leadership is a Custer," Kurth writes. Credit: Creative Commons/National Archives and Records Administration.

When I was a girl, my father called me a “glory-hound,” and I was embarrassed and indignant, probably because it was so true. Most writers, it seems, long for glory, fame, acknowledgement. Some of that is a human need to be seen and valued, an experience we all deserve. But lately, I’ve been seeing a very real danger in the obsessive pursuit of fame and even the pursuit of achievement.

What could be wrong with “following your dream” or “being all you can be?”

In a radio interview, a spiritual author writing a book about a religious icon, mentioned a key moment when she was allowed to see the icon. At that moment, her companion and guide, an elderly man, was so affected, he collapsed to the floor. Her reaction was something very close to, Oh, that’s all I need: a dead guide on my hands.

Wow, I thought. Doesn’t a spiritual quest draw us closer to others, make us sympathetic to their suffering and possible death? That moment is undoubtedly not typical of the writer’s attitude overall, but it made me certainly made me ponder ambition, my own and others’, and where it stands in the way of humanity. Where do we find ourselves seeing others and even their suffering as mere obstacles to our goals?

Custer: A Far Scarier Example

Soon after hearing the radio program, I watched a PBS feature on Custer, a horrible and disturbing story. My mind kept flipping back and forth between two visions. One was a popular picture of Custer in his time, glamorous Custer, a “gallant” triumphant competitor, a rule-breaker and risk-taker, adventurous, courageous, confident, dashing, a man who dressed with flare and had a passionate romance with an equally high-voltage woman, his wife, Libby. This, I thought, is the archetype of success in our culture, the fireworks person, the Steve Jobs, the important one who drives himself beyond human limits and achieves fame, power, and money – and makes us feel bad about ourselves.

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Size Matters

Jan24

by: on January 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

  • In 1964, Joe Namath signed a $400,000 contract.  Today, $100 million plus contracts, for second tier sports stars, are commonplace.
  • In 1960, America’s 5 largest companies had, on average, $498 million in profits.  By 2010, that number had grown to $12.2 billion.
  • In 1982 – its first year – the average net worth of Forbes’ list of the 400 wealthiest Americans was $285 million.  By 2008: Almost $4 billion.

Wrapping our brains around the true dimensions of this explosion of private wealth is an extraordinarily difficult task.

Equally hard to understand is a similar explosion in the size and reach of the mainstream culture’s propaganda and reality molding machine; the de-centralized but highly coherent set of values-based messages and cultural cues – compete and win, dominate and control – in which we are immersed.

These are the issues I discuss in this blog.


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Minimum Wage: Rare Case of Moral Consensus

Jan17

by: on January 17th, 2014 | Comments Off

Picture a world where politics is not so polarized. Imagine that the American people are flat out in favor of a plan that could lift more than a million of their neighbors out of poverty. And they’re arriving at this position not out of narrow self-interests—most Americans aren’t poor—but for essentially moral reasons. Actually, not much imagination is required. At least not when it comes to public opinion on a perennial issue: the minimum wage.

For decades, polling has shown support for a higher minimum wage ranging somewhere between unambiguous and unbelievable. In November, a Gallup survey found that 76 percent of the people would vote for a hypothetical national referendum lifting the bottom wage to $9 an hour. That’s $1.75 more than the current federal minimum; it would also be more than any increase ever passed by Congress. Last summer, a less independent poll conducted by Democratic-leaning Hart Research Associates found eight in ten Americans flocking behind a $10.10 per-hour minimum wage.

Try to identify a considerable subgroup of American opinion that’s content with the $7.25 regime. You’d think, for example, that self-identified Republicans would want to either freeze the wage or tamp it down. You would be mistaken, according to the Gallup breakdown: Republicans favored the $1.75 hike by an unmistakable 58-39 percent margin. Meanwhile, in a previous Gallup poll, the support among self-identified “moderates” was rather immoderate (75 percent).

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Fast Track to Hell

Jan15

by: on January 15th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Last week a bill was introduced in Congress that would give Fast Track Authority to the Obama Administration in order to grease the wheels to passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (or TPP), a monstrous trade agreement that twelve Pacific Rim nations, including the United States, have been negotiating secretly for four years. This week is crucial in defeating Fast Track, in order to give more time for the public and for members of Congress to learn about the far-reaching and deadly provisions contained in this pact.

The TPP, if passed, will impact every aspect of our lives, and will be the final undoing of democracy itself. Fast track, if passed, will be a fast track to hell.

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The Public Goods Deficit

Jan10

by: Charles Derber and June Sekera on January 10th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Deteriorating roads are just one sign of our public goods deficit. Credit: Creative Commons/Virginia Department of Transportation

In The Affluent Society, one of the most influential books of the twentieth century now in its fifty-fifth anniversary year, the eminent economist John Kenneth Galbraith highlighted the bizarre and potentially catastrophic coexistence of “private opulence and public squalor.” Galbraith warned that American society was in grave peril because of a deficit that we lack even the language to discuss today: the deficit of public goods. Correcting that crisis should be at the top of our collective New Year’s Resolution list.

Galbraith wrote that “It is scarcely sensible that we should satisfy our wants in private goods with reckless abundance, while in the case of public goods we practice extreme self-denial.” As early as the 1960s, he was struck in an affluent America by the decline of public goods, including quality public education, highways and public transit, air quality, consumer protections, and basic public services.

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A Corporate Coup

Dec10

by: on December 10th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Flush the TPP.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) met the week of December 3 in Bali, Indonesia, where anti-WTO demonstrators took over the streets. On the first day of the talks, demonstrations were held around the world to mark the Global Day of Action Against Toxic Trade Agreements. A particular focus for protesters here in the United States and in other Pacific Rim nations was the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a so-called “free-trade agreement” that would consolidate corporate power over member nations. The TPP has been called “NAFTA on steroids.” It has also been called “a corporate coup” and a “corporate power tool of the 1%.” This week, at the Trans-Pacific Partnership Ministerial in Singapore, where negotiations were to be finalized, TPP negotiators failed to meet the end-of-year deadline promoted by the United States.

Why are the WTO, NAFTA, and free-trade agreements such as the TPP “toxic?” Because they put trade (or rather, the free flow of capital) above all else, because they cover far more than trade, and because they give corporations the power to determine what laws a country can or cannot have. They are vehicles through which corporations make and enforce rules for governments to follow.

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A Swiftian Proposal from an Author Facing Homelessness

Dec9

by: Burton Wolfe on December 9th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Using factors described below, it is manifest that the 46+ million “poverty class” statistic issued by the U.S. Census Bureau is bogus, and the true figure is 150 million. Clearly, these deadbeats (myself included) are the ones responsible for the U.S. Government deficit of 17 trillion dollars that is wrecking the nation. We 150 million losers have become a pain in the brain and backside of all the productive citizens who do not need government assistance or assistance of any kind. We 150 million lowlifes have become especially aggravating to the most important Americans, the Rich ladies and gentlemen, who are understandably fed up with having to look at increasing numbers of these filthy wretches begging on the streets and with having to pay more taxes to feed these undeserving deadbeats who cannot make enough money on their own to justify their existence. Now, before I present my “Modest Proposal for Preventing the 150 Million Poor from Being a Burden to Their Fellow Americans and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public and Especially the Rich Ladies and Gentlemen,” I have acknowledgments to make.

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Religion and Utopian Economics

Dec4

by: Sigfried Gold on December 4th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Economic and power relations are the place where any set of lofty religious or humanistic ideals come to ground, where the rubber hits the road. And for those atheists who care about making a better world (rather than just making religious people look dumb) this is a place where atheists and the religious can help each other face a most formidable, perennial, intractable challenge: how to structure institutions for the benefit of their members or the public at large while discouraging exploitation and the use of institutional power for the private gain of trusted leaders.

My current favorite of the atheist religions–which don’t generally consider themselves religions–is Nonviolent Communication or NVC, and I was confirmed in my positive regard for the NVC movement when I came upon this piece by Miki Kashtan on Tikkun’s blog addressing crucial questions of money, higher values and inner peace. Kashtan attacks the problem of money in a mode of full-fledged utopian dreamery, offering ideas and experiments that point toward the reform of our society’s whole economic exchange structure. She summarizes some of her intentions thus:

In how I engage with money and resources, I continually strive to move closer to my vision of how I want to see these operate in the world at large. I aim to move from considering exchange value to valuing people and life; from seeing relationships through the lens of exchange to participating in a flow of generosity; from allocating resources based on output equity to caring for everyone’s needs; from making things happen based on the ever-s-subtle coercion of money incentive to complete and wholehearted willingness; from thinking about our merit to sharing our gifts; and from wondering about what someone “deserves” to contributing to everyone receiving all we need. (Miki Kashtan, personal communication)

But I want to focus on a specific problem she raises: how can she offer her services as a trained NVC teacher and practitioner in a way that is consistent with her values? She is, from what I can gather, in considerable demand in the NVC world, but many of the people and organizations who would like her help have little money to pay for it. Does she sell her services only to those who can afford it? No, that would not fit her values. But how can she meet her own financial needs otherwise?

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