As the Bob Dylan song says: “Things should start to get interesting right about now.” You may think they’re already interesting—what with government closings, threats of a debt default, and extremist rhetoric under the Capitol Dome—but chances are we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. In twelve weeks or so our new system of government-by-crisis will resume its regularly scheduled programming: more threats, more confrontations, and even more extreme rhetoric.
A new study says that nearly half of all American jobs may soon be performed by robots. And the White House has just announced the formation of “the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee ‘2.0,’” which it describes as “part of a continuing effort to maintain U.S.leadership in the emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance America’s global competitiveness.”
Once again our nation is contemplating an act of war, entering into one of the most solemn debates a society can have. It’s worth restating some fundamental principles as that debate begins, especially for those of us who support economic justice, progressive ideals, and the reinvigoration of American democracy.
If Thomas Friedman didn’t exist, America’s high-tech entrepreneurs would have had to invent him. Come to think of it, maybe they did. The dark science-fiction vision he celebrates serves them well, at pretty much everyone else’s expense. Friedman’s vision is worth studying, if only because it reflects the distorted perspective of some very wealthy and influential people. In their world the problems of the many are as easily fixed as a line of code, with no sacrifice required of them or their fellow billionaires.
This is a story that hasn’t been covered yet, as far as we know: Alan Grayson is fighting for the right of US troops in the Middle East to read any online news outlet they want - including the one that keeps breaking new stories about the NSA.
Yesterday was the Fourth of July. That’s the day we celebrate the vision and courage shown by our nation’s founders. July 4th is the day they published a document which said it was “self-evident” that everyone has “certain unalienable rights,” including the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
It should be self-evident that recent NSA revelations bring up some grave concerns about civil liberties. But they also raise other profound and troubling questions – about the privatization of our military, our inflated expectations for digital technology, and the increasingly cozy relationship between Big Corporations (including Wall Street) and Big Defense.
After 237 years, we’re becoming a colony again. Our nation’s losing the right to self-determination it fought so hard to win, and it’s happening on a scale unseen since the days of George III. As is so often the case these days, this wholesale loss of our rights is being underwritten by corporate interests. And, as usual, it’s being called “bipartisan” – by corporations who “buy” both Republican and Democratic “partisans.”
Did you know that Apple Computer was a foreign entity? Did you know that it’s more Irish than anything else, at least as far as taxes are concerned? Or that it pays very little in income tax, even though its products wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for projects funded by U.S. taxes?
News reports tell us that more than 500 people have now died and more than 2,500 were injured in Savar, Bangladesh, while the toll in West, Texas stands at 15 dead and over 200 injured. Behind these two disasters is a common thread of greed - and a common need for unionized resistance.
Since the austerity crowd won't own up to a mistake, I will: I engaged in a kind of thought experiment last week, after we first learned that austerity economics is partly based on a spreadsheet error. I wondered, What if you were a government leader who sincerely believed those figures, or an economist who made the mistake of a lifetime? My empathy was misplaced. This discovery hasn't changed government policy one bit—at least not yet. Economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff seem surprisingly unremorseful. And austerity's paid pitchmen are still hawking their wares.
Corporate interests and their elected representatives have created a world of illusion in order to resist paying a decent wage to working Americans. They’d have us believe that minimum-wage workers are teens from ’50s TV sitcoms working down at the local malt shoppe.
The pro-corporate, anti-majority political class is sustaining itself with a lot of self-serving myths these days. Guess you need to do that when you’re dismantling the social contract. In the closed society that is Insider Washington, rites and mythologies are used to promote the otherwise-indefensible: the cruel irrationality of Austerity Economics.
Whom the gods would destroy, the old saying says, they first make mad. And there’s no quicker way to become completely untethered than to read economic reports, including the latest one from the Congressional Budget Office, and then watch the political debate go on as if reality didn’t even exist.
The quote of the day comes from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who suggested to NPR that Obamacare is a “fascist” program. Other CEOs are still insisting the health bill’s too “socialist,” as Mackey has in the past.
By all accounts Aaron Swartz was brilliant, gifted, idealistic ... and fragile. Too bad he wasn’t “too big to fail.” I never met Aaron, but I know a lot of people who knew him well. (We did “converse” as members of the same online discussion group.) I learned about Aaron’s suicide at the age of 26 the same way millions of other people did: on the Internet whose freedom he served with such dedication and brilliance.
The anti-Social Security propagandists should’ve thought this one through a little more carefully: On the same day that Goldman Sach’s CEO issued his “balanced” demand for Social Security and Medicare cuts, the Wall Street-funded group called “Third Way” published the results of a poll which precisely reflected the wishes of Goldman Sach’s CEO.
Economic issues make some people’s eyes glaze over, so we’ll put this plainly: Today’s minimum wage is epic in its injustice and Dickensian in its cruelty. It’s a shame that Dickens himself isn’t here to write about it.
It was a dream come true for the austerity crowd when Great Britain’s conservative/“centrist” coalition government took power in 2010. And for commentators like Slate’sAnne Appelbaum it was that kind of dream. Her celebratory column reflected the orgiastic glee with which the new government’s austerity plans were greeted, reveling in admiring (yes, admiring) phrases like these:
In the ongoing scandal about Barclays’ employees tampering with the “LIBOR,” or London interbank lending rate - which is to say, bank fraud - The Economist offers this brilliant cover. It’s not just the word “banksters,” or the fact that it shows bank executives dressed like the guys in Reservoir Dogs.
Here’s a headline we’re tempted to write - or rather, one that we would be tempted to write if we weren’t so nice, or so dedicated to avoiding oversimplification: “Climate-Change Deniers Struck by Climate Change in Texas Tornado Outbreak.”
These words are being written from the veranda of a small house in an African valley, in the hour just before dawn. In the past week I’ve met people from Pakistan, Great Britain, Iraq, Australia, New Zealand and several other countries, as well as South Africans from all backgrounds. And they’ve all asked me the same thing: What’s going to happen with the Occupy movement?
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon recently said that he felt safer in Lebanon than he did when Occupy marched past his house. If nothing else, it proves that Wall Street bankers haven’t gotten any better at risk management—the art of knowing where danger lies and avoiding it—than they were when their bad bets crashed the economy and caused the Great Recession.
I hate what I’ve learned about Apple’s outsourcing to China. I hate hearing Professor William Black explain why he believes that Steve Jobs, who I admired very much in some ways, must have ignored repeated reports that employees were being cheated and endangered.
Despite its many failures, “austerity economics” keeps remaking—and unmaking—the global economy. The only disagreement at this weekend’s Republican debate was over which candidate would push austerity more aggressively. And austerity dominated the political agenda last year—“Deficit Commission,” anyone?—until Occupy came along.
The name of the deceased was “Austerity Economics,” and it was first glimpsed in a 1921 paper by conservative economist Frank Wright. Austerity died of natural causes brought on by prolonged exposure to reality. But in the nation’s capital, dead things still rule the night.