If memory serves: The 1 percent laughs last, as Wall Street wins again

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/29/if_memory_swerves_the_1_percent_laughs_last_as_wall_street_wins_again/

Five years after wrecking our economy, the big banks are back. Here’s why we need real government regulations

Sunday, Dec 29, 2013

September 15 marked five years since the beginning of the economic slump that defines the world we live in. Disaster was in the air already by that day in 2008: real-estate values had been falling for some time, Bear Stearns and several big commercial banks had failed, and the government had taken over the mortgage insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac the previous week. But that Monday morning in September was when the larger economy went over a cliff — after Lehman Brothers, the nation’s fourth largest investment bank, finally succumbed to the effects of the noxious securities on which it had gorged itself for years.

Later that day, in a climate of almost complete panic, Merrill Lynch — the nation’s third-largest investment bank, which had fed at the same trough — managed to find shelter in the arms of Bank of America. By the next day, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department announced that they were saving AIG, the mammoth insurance company that had transformed itself into a stealth hedge fund. As for actual hedge funds, more than 700 of them collapsed in the subsequent four months. And Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the last two investment-banking leviathans, desperately registered themselves as “bank holding companies” and threw themselves upon the mercy of the all-forgiving Fed.

It was the unavoidable explosion after decades of deregulation and willful blindness. A kind of waste product had been deliberately moved through the bowels of a hundred shady mortgage outfits. It was then gilded by delusional ratings agencies and sold to the world by the most respected names in finance. Bribery and deceit and crazy incentives had been the laxatives that pushed this product down the pipe; money and bonhomie and reassuring economic theory had been the sedatives that put the regulators to sleep.

The industry would supervise itself, we were told — and we believed it. Instead our economic order turned out to be wobbly, even rotten. The great banks looked insolvent. The great capitalists looked like criminals.

Then came a second outrage to rival the first. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who had been effectively promoted to king by a frantic George W. Bush, demanded and received $700 billion from Congress to resuscitate the banks run by his former colleagues on Wall Street. There was a class of businesses, we learned, that could not be allowed to fail, no matter what kinds of suicide missions they undertook; and there was a class of people who could not be held responsible for their deeds, no matter how they beggared the world or deceived their marks. That this class’s chosen public persona was one of churlish, sniggering contempt for the non-crooks who were now required to rescue them only compounded the shock.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/12/29/if_memory_swerves_the_1_percent_laughs_last_as_wall_street_wins_again/

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What America Would Look Like If Libertarians Got Their Way

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/what-america-would-look-if-libertarians-got-their-way

What if you cut all benefits? What if all of public life were a giant competition? What libertarianism would look like in real life.

By RJ Eskow
December 25, 2013

These four libertarian/conservative dystopias are offered, as Rod Serling used to say in “The Twilight Zone,” “for your consideration.”

The “Libertarian/Conservative”

I’ve qualified my previous writings on libertarianism with disclaimers explaining that I’m addressing a specific, popular subset of libertarian thought. But I’ve still run afoul of dozens of people who say, “I’m a libertarian and I don’t think those things.” I’ve still received comments like those from David Brin, who correctly notes that I’m not addressing libertarians like Friedrich Hayek in my criticism.

True. But Hayek ain’t in the saddle these days. Ayn Rand is leading the posse, to the extent any intellectual figure is. But I’ll put my disclaimer upfront this time: I acknowledge that, as libertarian-friendly writer John Danaher puts it, “’libertarianism’ has come to denote a broad, often fractious, group of political theories.”

I suppose it’s only fitting that a philosophy celebrating competing markets would, to a certain extent, be a set of competing markets itself.

But it seems even clearer that a “libertarian” in today’s political environment is almost always someone who ascribes to certain core philosophies: He abhors government, hates taxation, and is hostile to collective action on behalf of the less fortunate. Name any prominent modern libertarian—Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, Ron Paul, Peter Thiel, Rand Paul—and they are likely to fit this description.

These figures represent a singular and increasingly dominant libertarian vision. To avoid future confusion, I’ll give their brand of thought an admittedly imperfect name: “libertarian/conservative.” It is that vision, and their future, which I address here—and it’s a frightening future.

1. What if you cut all benefits?

You’ve heard it from Sen. Rand Paul and other conservatives this winter: unemployment benefits increase unemployment. It’s an enormously destructive idea, though absurd on its face. It’s like the argument that hospitals create sick people; after all, there are so many of them there.

We usually consider such thinking “primitive” in modern societies.

Continue reading at:   http://www.alternet.org/what-america-would-look-if-libertarians-got-their-way

Capitalism, Ecology and the Official Invisibility of Women

From Truth Out:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/20849-capitalism-ecology-and-the-official-invisibility-of-women

By Chris Williams
Sunday, 29 December 2013

When it comes to the world economy, what you “see” is not usually what you get – especially when it comes to gender. Capitalism has fueled a world in which women are rendered invisible and saddled with the majority of labor. They are responsible for two-thirds of all working hours, produce 50 percent to 90 percent of the world’s food  and 100 percent of the world’s children. Yet, for all this, they receive only 10 percent of the world’s income and own less than 1 percent of the world’s property. As a result, women make up 70 percent of the world’s poor.

Moreover, gender violence is more of a threat to women’s health than the sum of traffic accidents and malaria. Often, when women are “seen,” they are seen as simply bodies, to be manipulated in ways that lead to profit. In a very real sense, as people, women are invisible.

Stephen Lewis, the former UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, wrote in his 2006 book, Race Against Time, that the World Bank, the UN and other international organizations repeatedly emphasize the need for greater and more effective action to counter gender inequality to achieve sustainability and other economic goals – but continue to work contrary to that type of action. Lewis wrote, “There is no greater emblem of international hypocrisy than the promise of women’s rights.”

More recently, Elizabeth Arend, programs coordinator at Gender Action, has documented the “alarming gap” between the World Bank’s “rhetoric and reality.” Apart from ignoring issues of unequal access to land, credit, technical inputs, education, decision-making power and the extra demands of child care and other domestic commitments, “the bank’s declining support for rural agriculture disproportionately harms poor women, who constitute the majority of small-scale farmers and play a critical role in growing, processing and preparing food.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/20849-capitalism-ecology-and-the-official-invisibility-of-women

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Friday Night Fun and Culture Roots Edition: The Harlem Hamfats

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‘Church of Francis’ holds funeral for homeless trans woman to remind Christians to show mercy

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/27/church-of-francis-holds-funeral-for-homeless-trans-woman-to-remind-christians-to-show-mercy/

By David Ferguson
Friday, December 27, 2013

A group of Jesuits held a funeral in the home church of Pope Francis on Friday for a homeless trans woman who was murdered in July. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Rome’s Church of the Gesù, mother church to the Jesuit order, held the funeral for 28-year-old Andrea Quintero, a Colombian native and homeless drug addict who called herself “the Trans of Termini,” the city’s main train station.

A week before her death, Qintero gave an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, explaining that beatings had paralyzed her arm and left her walking with a limp. She told the reporter that she longed to “meet a guy with money who’ll get me out of this ugly life” on the street.

One week later, on July 29, she was found beaten to death alongside Track 10 at Termini station.

For months, officials attempted to find any family members to claim Quintero’s body or provide any instructions as to how she wished her remains to be handled. Finally, the Jesuit-run Centro Astalli — a group dedicated to refugee aid — stepped forward to organize a funeral in conjunction with civic officials and the Catholic charity organization Caritas.

Centro Astalli’s Jesuit director Fr. Giovanni La Manna said that the service is intended to remember and memorialize Quintero, but also to send “a signal for the entire Roman community that’s distracted in the face so many people who face discrimination, and who live their difficulties to the indifference of our city.”

Italian Minister of Integration Cecile Kyenge — the Congo-born ophthalmologist and first person of color to serve in the Italian Parliament — is slated to attend the funeral, as well as Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino.

Complete article at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/27/church-of-francis-holds-funeral-for-homeless-trans-woman-to-remind-christians-to-show-mercy/

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Pope’s ‘liberal’ views on capitalism freaking out conservative Catholics in Congress

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/26/popes-liberal-views-on-capitalism-freaking-out-conservative-catholics-in-congress/

By Travis Gettys
Thursday, December 26, 2013

Catholic Republican lawmakers are rattled by Pope Francis, whose recent comments have shaken up assumptions about their church and its relationship to their political party.

While church leaders have for years challenged the Republican Party on some social issues, including the death penalty and immigration, conservatives have generally marginalized their concerns as insignificant or irrelevant.

But the new pontiff has attracted too much attention with his call to focus less on divisive social issues and more on helping the poor and vulnerable.

Pope Francis has drawn sharp criticism from the hugely influential Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives for his remarks on the unrestrained free market and “trickle-down” economics, which he dismissed naïve and unsupported by the facts. Limbaugh branded those statements as “pure Marxism,” but Sarah Palin was less harsh, admitting only that the pope’s statements sounded liberal to her, and her former 2008 running mate offered mixed reviews.

“His economic perspective I’m not particularly enamored with, but his advocacy for the poor, his lifestyle example, his more modern outlook on social issues — I’ve been very impressed,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) attended Catholic school as a youngster and graduated from Notre Dame’s law school, said he found the pope’s reference to “trickle-down economic” demeaning and off-putting, but he said the pontiff’s message should be considered in context.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/26/popes-liberal-views-on-capitalism-freaking-out-conservative-catholics-in-congress/

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Your Terrifying Retirement Future: Why Millions Risk Sliding Into Poverty As They Age

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/maya-rockeymoore-racism-and-sexism-retirement-fiscal-policy

Low wages, low or no savings, and low Social Security benefits. The future is not bright, especially for women and minorities.

By Steven Rosenfeld
December 23, 2013

(Editor’s note: This AlterNet interview is part of our expanded focus on modernizing Social Security, which, to us means increasing benefits where needed and ensuring its long-term funding. Dr. Maya Rockeymoore is a longtime advocate for racial justice. She is chair of the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare and president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions. She spoke to AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld about how America’s retirement crisis affects communties of color and women.)

AlterNet: There’s a lot about America’s growing retirement security crisis that’s not fully appreciated by the public, especially when it comes to the harmful impacts on communities of color and women. Tell us how unless we as a country have an honest discussion about this, and expand Social Security, that tens of millions of people will literally slide into poverty as they age.

Maya Rockeymoore: There is no way we cannot have this discussion given the nation’s changing demographics. The rising majority will be primarily Asian-American, African-American and Latino-American. The fact of the matter is those people are already here. Of all the babies born today, a majority are children of color. By 2019, a majority of all children under the age of 18 will be from these racial and ethnic, quote-unquote, minority groups. And by the by 2043, the nation will be majority minority.

The benefit cuts that austerity proponents are talking about today will be fully shouldered, if they ever were to pass, by a nation that looks very different than it does today. And so when you’re talking about cutting Social Security now, most proposals are not talking about cutting it for current retirees. They’re talking about implementing changes that would affect today’s youth. You should understand that you are primarily cutting benefits for a generation of young people who the odds are stacked against them having any type of retirement security.

AlterNet: And that’s on top of what’s shaping up as a retirement crisis for baby boomers.

Maya Rockeymoore: We’re already a nation experiencing a retirement crisis. The private sector mostly does not have defined benefit pensions anymore. And 401Ks have been a failure. What many people fail to appreciate is that communities of color have less access to retirement savings vehicles on the job than do white Americans. And unfortunately, even when they do have access, they are either more likely not to take advantage of it, or more likely to take loans out of it. So what we have is a population, that by virtue of their inconsistent relationship with the labor market, which is rooted in historical inequities, are already disadvantaged when it comes to retirement security.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/maya-rockeymoore-racism-and-sexism-retirement-fiscal-policy

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