The Facts Are in: Austerity Politics Doesn’t Work

From Yes Magazine:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/how-to-eat-like-our-lives-depend-on-it/austerity-politics-doesn-t-work

From England’s double-dip recession to Portugal’s spiking unemployment, there is now conclusive evidence of the complete failure of austerity.

by
Dec 03, 2013

The idea that rational thinking should govern political decision making in America dates back to our very founding. “Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams said, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Oh, John Adams, where are you when we need you? Facts have been buried in a political era in which partisan ideology overrides reason. And while the Republican Party has embraced fact-free governance as its personal brand, Democrats are not entirely innocent either.

Take the case of “austerity politics.” Persistent, despite the facts. There is now conclusive evidence, both practical and theoretical, of the complete failure of austerity politics.

First was the United Kingdom, the practical test case for austerity. In 2010, faced with a recession similar to those gripping most other industrialized nations, Britain’s conservative government instituted a series of austerity measures to dramatically cut spending and taxes. Parts of the U.K. government were slashed by upwards of 30 percent.

The result? Utter and unquestionable failure. The deficit remained high while the country suffered through a double-dip recession. Austerity shaved 6 percent from the country’s GDP over the last three years. Major credit agencies downgraded Britain’s AAA rating for the first time in generations. The Fitch ratings agency blamed weak growth performance, “partly due to … public sector deleveraging.”

In other words: austerity. The International Monetary Fund has been pressuring the United Kingdom to back off austerity for its own good and the good of the global economy—which is funny because it was the International Monetary Fund that pressed for austerity measures in the first place.

Continue reading at:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/how-to-eat-like-our-lives-depend-on-it/austerity-politics-doesn-t-work

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Sorry, neoliberals: Inequality is driven by greed, not technology

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/30/sorry_neoliberals_inequality_is_driven_by_greed_not_technology/

A new study shows low wages are really caused by low minimum wage, weakened unions and the effects of globalization


Saturday, Nov 30, 2013

Inequality may be the greatest economic challenge of our generation. Yet despite extensive academic debate, there is still no consensus as to its causes. Earlier this year, Tyler Cowen sparked a debate on the subject with his book “Average is Over,” in which he argues that inequality is driven by new developments in technology that give some workers who can capably use the technology a wage premium over those who can’t. Future innovations in technology, he argues, will contribute to hyper-meritocracy and further inequality.

His argument echoes the conventional wisdom in economics, formulated by Lawrence Katz and Claudia Goldin, that skill-biased technological change can explain most of the increase in inequality. The premise is that technological developments have favored college-educated workers over unskilled labor, thereby increasing inequality. Since it was formulated, SBTC has drawn criticism. A 2002 paper by David Card first drew attention to potential holes in the explanation: a short period of stabilization in wage inequality in the 1990s during a technological boom and the failure to explain wage gaps between men and women as well as blacks and whites. A 2012 paper by Daron Acemoglu and David Autor noted other failures in the theory, namely that it could not explain the divergence in incomes that had occurred among skilled workers and why the real median wages could decline during a period of increasing productivity.

Now, Lawrence Mishel, Heidi Shierholz and John Schmitt have released a new study that questions SBTC as an explanation for increasing wage inequality. Mishel et al. argue that “job polarization,” the premise that more jobs have been created in low-wage sectors and high-wage sectors, thus driving wage inequality, doesn’t actually explain the problem. On the one hand, high-wage occupations have not significantly expanded their share of the workforce since 2000. On the other, low-wage jobs have not increased as a total share of employment since 1979.

They find that changes in the occupation structure do not affect the wage structure, so if technology causes a shift from manufacturing to retail, this doesn’t necessarily entail a shift in the wage structure. They find that inequality is increasing within occupations, not between occupations as the SBTC narrative would predict. The SBTC narrative relies on the idea of an “education premium,” i.e., people with higher education reap the benefits of technological progress. But Mishel et al. find that wage inequality has grown strongly since the mid-’90s while the education wage premium grew little. Wages for college graduates have flattened over the last 10 years, even among science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and business occupations.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/30/sorry_neoliberals_inequality_is_driven_by_greed_not_technology/

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Robert Reich

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Bring Him Back Home

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Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s Liberator as Prisoner and President, Dies at 95

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/world/africa/nelson-mandela_obit.html?ref=obituaries&_r=0

By
Published: December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as his country’s first black president, becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance, died Thursday night. He was 95.

The South African president, Jacob Zuma, announced Mr. Mandela’s death.

Mr. Mandela had long said he wanted a quiet exit, but the time he spent in a Pretoria hospital this summer was a clamor of quarreling family, hungry news media, spotlight-seeking politicians and a national outpouring of affection and loss. The vigil eclipsed a visit by President Obama, who paid homage to Mr. Mandela but decided not to intrude on the privacy of a dying man he considered his hero.

Mr. Mandela ultimately died at home at 8:50 p.m. local time, and he will be buried according to his wishes in the village of Qunu, where he grew up. The exhumed remains of three of his children were reinterred there in early July under a court order, resolving a family squabble that had played out in the news media.

Mr. Mandela’s quest for freedom took him from the court of tribal royalty to the liberation underground to a prison rock quarry to the presidential suite of Africa’s richest country. And then, when his first term of office was up, unlike so many of the successful revolutionaries he regarded as kindred spirits, he declined a second term and cheerfully handed over power to an elected successor, the country still gnawed by crime, poverty, corruption and disease but a democracy, respected in the world and remarkably at peace.

The question most often asked about Mr. Mandela was how, after whites had systematically humiliated his people, tortured and murdered many of his friends, and cast him into prison for 27 years, he could be so evidently free of spite.

The government he formed when he finally won the chance was an improbable fusion of races and beliefs, including many of his former oppressors. When he became president, he invited one of his white wardens to the inauguration. Mr. Mandela overcame a personal mistrust bordering on loathing to share both power and a Nobel Peace Prize with the white president who preceded him, F. W. de Klerk.

And as president, from 1994 to 1999, he devoted much energy to moderating the bitterness of his black electorate and to reassuring whites with fears of vengeance.

The explanation for his absence of rancor, at least in part, is that Mr. Mandela was that rarity among revolutionaries and moral dissidents: a capable statesman, comfortable with compromise and impatient with the doctrinaire.

When the question was put to Mr. Mandela in an interview for this obituary in 2007 — after such barbarous torment, how do you keep hatred in check? — his answer was almost dismissive: Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/world/africa/nelson-mandela_obit.html?ref=obituaries&_r=0

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The Charity Swindle

From The New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/opinion/the-charity-swindle.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

By KEN STERN
Published: November 25, 2013

WASHINGTON — BY all outward indications, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association was a leader in the charitable community. Founded in 2002 to provide support to Navy veterans in need, the charity recorded astonishing financial success. In its first eight years, it raised around $100 million in charitable contributions, almost all of it through a direct marketing campaign. The organization, headed by Jack L. Nimitz, boasted of 41 state chapters and some 66,000 members.

This would be a great story of charitable success, except for the fact that virtually everything about the association turned out to be false: no state chapters, no members, no leader with the name redolent of naval history. Instead, there was one guy: a man calling himself Bobby Thompson who worked from a duplex across the street from the Cuesta-Rey cigar factory in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa.

But the money raised was real enough, generated by a series of for-profit telemarketers. The victims, by and large, were unsuspecting small-money donors who received urgent solicitations asking for support for needy naval veterans. Most of the money raised stayed with the fund-raisers, though plenty apparently dripped through to Mr. Thompson and a succession of Republican lawmakers who received generous contributions from the association’s political arm. But little ever made it to the intended beneficiaries. In 2010, the scheme was unwound by two reporters for what is now The Tampa Bay Times, but not before Mr. Thompson had fled the state of Florida.

From June 2010, Mr. Thompson was on the run, the search for him hamstrung by the fact that no one had any real idea of who he was. Finally, on April 30, 2012, federal marshals tracked him down in Portland, Ore., finding him with a card to a storage unit containing $981,650 in cash and almost two dozen fake identity cards.

Earlier this month in Ohio, where the charity’s registration documents had been filed, the man arrested as Bobby Thompson was convicted on 23 felony counts, including fraud, theft and money laundering. Authorities have identified him as John Donald Cody, a former Army intelligence officer and Harvard Law graduate. Given its sensational facts, the case has drawn more attention than your average matter in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. But the story is worth paying attention to for a more important reason, if we want to prevent more Bobby Thompsons in our future.

The most outrageous aspect of the case is that much of what Mr. Cody did was probably legal, or at least not specifically illegal. The principal beneficiaries were always the association’s for-profit fund-raisers. During the trial, one of them, Thomas Berkenbush of Community Support Inc., testified, apparently without fear of legal repercussions, that his company had kept 90 percent of the donations as a fund-raising charge.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/opinion/the-charity-swindle.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

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Why the Christian Right Believes It Has Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Impose Its Radical Worldview on America

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-christian-right-thinks-they-have-once-decade-opportunity-impose-their-radical-worldview

A change to obscure procedural rules in the U.S. Senate and the upcoming 2014 elections could be a dangerous window of opportunity.

By CJ Werleman
November 26, 2013

Elections have consequences. The Senate Democrats’ detonation of the “nuclear option” has dramatically raised the stakes for secular progressives in 2014, because if there are two issues that juice the Christian Right the most, it’s women’s reproductive rights and judicial activism. On the latter, the Religious Right senses a once-in-a-decade opportunity to impose its radical worldview on America.

Last week, the Senate voted 52-48 to eliminate the ability of the minority party in the Senate to filibuster executive branch nominees and any judgeship below the Supreme Court by changing the requirements for passage to a simple majority vote. It was a historic move made because there was no other alternative, given the GOP’s unprecedented abuse of the filibuster. In the history of the United States, 168 presidential nominees have been filibustered. Half occurred under all presidents from Washington through to Bush. Remarkably, the other half has taken place under just one president: Obama.

Why such aggressive judicial obstructionism by the GOP?

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. writes, “This era’s conservatives will use any means at their disposal to win control of the courts. Their goal is to do all they can to limit Congress’s ability to enact social reforms.”

The Christian Right, which is the GOP’s most reliable and agitated voting bloc, is obsessed with the courts, and the Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit is the nation’s second most important judicial body, which is why Republicans “gave the game away when all but a few of them opposed Obama’s three most recent appointments.”

Now that Democrats were forced into limiting the filibuster, the Christian Right has its incentive to mobilize for 2014. A simple majority control of the Senate gives it an opportunity to pack the courts with judges straight out of the Justice Scalia mold, who once said that separation of church and state would come under scrutiny under a Supreme Court with a Scalia majority. If the Christian Right sweeps Republicans to control the Senate in next year’s midterms, the anti-secularists will take a big step forward toward their stated ideological goals.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-christian-right-thinks-they-have-once-decade-opportunity-impose-their-radical-worldview

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