Archive for category Democracy

The Millionaire Party

Monopoly Man

Tonight on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC show Prof. Dorian Warren of Columbia University (citing the book White Collar Government by Nicholas Carnes) wondered aloud what it would be like if the millionaires formed their own political party, a party representing just 3 percent of Americans.

  • The Millionaire Party would already occupy the White House.
  • They would control the House of Representatives.
  • They would have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
  • And the Millionaires would have a 5-4 Supreme Court majority.

While there is no such thing as the Millionaire Party, does it matter that the wealthiest Americans set the tax rates for the wealthy, that white-collar professionals choose the minimum wage for blue-collar workers, and that people who have always had health insurance decide whether or not to help those without? Could be.

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Connecticut Enacts $10.10 Minimum Wage

Chris Rock

Via Think Progress:

This week, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, and Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed it into law yesterday.

If implemented nationally, a $10.10 minimum wage would put it in line with where it would be if it had kept up with inflation since the 1960s, although far behind the increases in workers’ productivity since then. It would also lift nearly 5 million people out of poverty, close the gender wage gap by 5 percent, and reduce spending on public programs by tens of billions of dollars. There is also real world and academic evidence to suggest that it won’t hurt job growth and could benefit the economy.

Given that the November midterm elections (like 2010) are expected to be dominated by Faux-News-watching senior citizens, it really looks like President Obama will be the only president since FDR whose administration did not enact any increase in the federal minimum wage.

America needs a raise!

UPDATE:
After-tax profits for American corporations hit another record high last year, rising to $1.68 trillion. American workers have experienced a “lost decade” of wage growth, as their pay stayed flat or declined between 2000 and 2012, despite a 25 percent bump in productivity.

UPDATE:
Half A Million People With College Degrees Are Working For Minimum Wage

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Capitalism is a Failing System

This editorial by Richard D. Wolff caught my attention:

Janet Yellen, the United States’ Federal Reserve’s new chair, and I were graduate economics students around the same time at Yale University. The professor who shaped the macroeconomics we learned was James Tobin. He taught us to be Keynesian economists: that is, to accept capitalism as the sole object and focus of our studies, to celebrate it as the best possible system and to preserve it against its own serious faults. Keynesian economics teaches that to secure capitalism’s blessings requires systematic government intervention in the workings of the economy.

So far, conventionally Keynesian and even neo-liberal.

No courses at Yale troubled Yellen or myself with any analyses of how exploitation lies at the core of capitalist production. We were never taught that the majority of industrial workers produce more value for employers than what employers pay them. We were prevented from encountering arguments examining how this idea of “more” (or, in economic terms, of a surplus) contributed fundamentally to the systemic inequalities that define capitalist societies.

Now we’re getting interesting:

Capitalism’s dysfunctions have led me to appreciate and independently learn what Marxian economics has to teach me, outside of Yale’s mainstream economics. Yellen and her cohorts avoided and bypassed all that.

Convinced that we can do better than capitalism, many have analyzed the incipient alternatives emerging from capitalism’s deficiencies, such as cooperatives, workers’ self-directed enterprises and others. For us, Occupy Wall Street represents a powerful surge against capitalism, yet another sign of the waning tolerance for a system that Yellen will try to preserve.

The whole article is worth a read.

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1 Percenter: People With More Money Should Get More Votes

Thomas Perkins is an 82-year-old venture capitalist worth an estimated $8 billion. He doesn’t like democracy. Unfortunately for us, people like him hold the balance of power in today’s America.

Asked for an idea that could “change the world” by FORTUNE’s Adam Lashinsky, Perkins told an audience at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Thursday that Americans shouldn’t be able to vote unless they pay taxes and that the wealthy should have more votes.

Perkins has houses in Belvedere, Marin County, California, and spends about two months a year at Plumpton Place, his Elizabethan mansion in East Sussex, England, which once belonged to the Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. In 2010 he purchased the penthouse atop the Millennium Tower on Mission Street in San Francisco’s financial district.

You may remember this guy from his WSJ letter to the editor that compared what he called the “progressive war on the American one percent” to the Nazi death camps under Adolf Hitler.

When I say that capitalism is antithetical to democracy, or that the 1 Percent are trying to parlay their plutonomy into a plutocracy, this is an example of what I mean.

h/t Jillian Berman on HuffPo

UPDATE: How One Billionaire’s Idea To Give Rich People More Votes Is Already In The Works

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TPP Sidetracked?

Coporatocracy

While a major media news blackout provides cover, Congress is debating whether to give the president the authority to fast-track a massive free trade agreement, the secretly-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Members of Congress haven’t even been able to read it even though corporate lobbyists have.

President Obama is at odds with Democrats in both houses of Congress concerning reauthorizing a procedure called the “trade promotion authority” (TPA), that would grant the White House power to submit free trade deals to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is strongly against it.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has now publicly opposed giving President Obama fast track authority.

“We need transparency. We need a seat at the table to understand what they believe they are doing, so we can make it better. And if we don’t make it better, then we will not accept a path that is a job loser.”

TPP is part of the plan for global corporatocracy run by and for the 1 Percent. Unelected lobbyists and trade representatives are at the table, while representatives from the public at large and businesses other than huge monopolies, are conspicuously absent. From what little we know of the agreement, it would violate the U.S. Constitution, weaken environmental protections, and lead to more job losses, erosion of wages, and worsening inequality. TPP also threatens freedom of speech on the Internet because it would extend restrictive intellectual property laws and rewrite international rules on enforcement.

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Economists: Give America a Raise and Create 85,000 New Jobs

Fair Minimum Wage Act

Via HuffPo.

In a letter released Tuesday through the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, 75 economists, including seven Nobel Laureates, argue that the government should hike the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2016 and then peg future increases to inflation. A proposal from Senate Democrats, backed by President Obama, to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is currently stalled in Congress.

…During the initial phase-in period of a $10.10 minimum wage, the U.S. economy would grow by $22 billion, according to a December analysis from EPI. The economic growth would result in the creation of 85,000 new jobs, the analysis concluded.

If Republicans refuse to raise the federal minimum wage, let’s call it what it is: economic sabotage.

UPDATE: Republican Millionaire Has A Compelling Case For A $12 Minimum Wage, And He’s Taking It Directly To California Voters

UPDATE: Bickering Intensifies As Republicans Filibuster Unemployment Benefits

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Americans Believe Our Economy is Broken

Unemployed

According to new polling by the Center for American Progress:

Nearly two in three Americans (64 percent) agree that “Most people who live in poverty are poor because their jobs don’t pay enough, they lack good health care and education, and things cost too much for them to save and get ahead.” By contrast, only 25 percent of Americans agree with a competing idea that “Most people who live in poverty are poor because they make bad decisions or act irresponsibly in their own lives.” Even white conservatives and libertarians prefer the structural explanation for poverty over the personal by a significant margin, 63 to 29 percent.

These results are not a surprise if you belong to the reality-based community. Economic conditions in this country are the worst since the Great Depression. Six years after the start of Bush’s Great Recession, there has been hardly any recovery at all for most Americans. According to research by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, between 2009 and 2011 the top 1 Percent became 11.2 percent richer while the bottom 99 Percent got 0.4 percent poorer.

Long-term unemployment benefits expired for 1.3 million Americans on December 28. They were just a fraction of the 4.1 million people whom the Labor Department counted as unemployed for more than 26 weeks. Beyond the official long-term unemployed, more than 760,000 others are counted by the Labor Department as “discouraged,” meaning they have stopped looking for work (some economists think that the number may be higher).

It remains to be seen whether our broken political system can do much to fix our broken economy. Congress hasn’t even been able to agree on an extension of Emergency Unemployment Compensation, something that used to be routine.

UPDATE: Unemployment Is Falling For All The Wrong Reasons

One reason for the big drop in unemployment in December was that many, many people dropped out of the labor force — 347,000, to be exact. They stopped looking for work, which made them no longer “unemployed” in the eyes of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

UPDATE: 50 Years Into The War On Poverty, Right-Wing Media Want To Give Up The Fight

Right-wing media have spent the last few years baselessly dismissing the decades-long push to alleviate poverty as not worth the fight, despite evidence showing that government efforts to reduce poverty have been successful.

UPDATE: Robert Reich: Today’s Jobs Report and the Scourge of Inequality

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Worst Congress Ever

Worst Congress Ever

The 113th Congress is not producing legislation. It’s on track to be the least productive in history. They took 239 days off this year. Among their few accomplishments are the economic setbacks caused by public sector job cuts, the threat of defaulting on the National Debt, the sequester, and the government shutdown last October.

Boehner drunk

This is the least popular Congress in the history of polling. According to a new CNN/ORC poll, two-thirds of Americans say the current Congress is the worst in their lifetime.

Jon Walker on FDL:

Amazingly despite these terrible poll numbers well over 90 percent of the current members of Congress are expected to be re-elected in 2014. There is something wrong with the design of an election system when the connection between job performance and election outcome can be so weak.

More info:
14 reasons why this is the worst Congress ever

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Krugman: President’s Inequality Speech Deserves a Serious Hearing

Obama CAP speech

Writing Friday in the New York Times, columnist Paul Krugman asks all of us to give President Obama’s big inequality speech a serious hearing. Speaking at the Center for American Progress Wednesday, our President pointed to a combination of growing income inequality and a lack of upward mobility as “the defining challenge of our time.”

Our political class has spent years obsessed with a fake problem — worrying about debt and deficits that never posed any threat to the nation’s future — while showing no interest in unemployment and stagnating wages. Mr. Obama, I’m sorry to say, bought into that diversion. Now, however, he’s moving on.

…The wrong turn we’ve taken in economic policy — our obsession with debt and “entitlements,” when we should have been focused on jobs and opportunity — was, of course, driven in part by the power of wealthy vested interests. But it wasn’t just raw power. The fiscal scolds also benefited from a sort of ideological monopoly: for several years you just weren’t considered serious in Washington unless you worshipped at the altar of Simpson and Bowles.

Now, however, we have the president of the United States breaking ranks, finally sounding like the progressive many of his supporters thought they were backing in 2008. This is going to change the discourse — and, eventually, I believe, actual policy.

So don’t believe the cynics. This was an important speech by a president who can still make a very big difference.

Many of us, including myself, tend to discount our President’s remarks about inequality because his administration has consistently favored Wall Street over Main Street. His support for raising the minimum wage comes too late– unless the Democrats re-take the House next year, he will likely be the first President since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 not to sign a minimum wage law.

Economist Arindrajit Dube:

[T]he evidence suggests that around half of the increase in inequality in the bottom half of the wage distribution since 1979 was a result of falling real minimum wages. And unlike inequality that stems from factors like technological change, this growth in inequality was clearly avoidable. All we had to do to prevent it was index the minimum wage to the cost of living.

Not coincidentally, 95 percent of income gains during the ongoing economic recovery have gone to the top 1 Percent.

The question is, should we take President Obama’s inequality rhetoric seriously, as Krugman suggests?

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Hardline Right-Wing GOP House Members Threaten Another Government Shutdown

Government shutdown

Via TPM

A letter signed by at least 18 right-wing Republicans urges House Speaker John Boehner to bring up a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government at the low sequester level when money expires on Jan. 15. This could subvert a budget agreement being negotiated by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) to mitigate some of the painful sequester cuts. Without an agreement, the result will be another GOP government shutdown.

The sequester orders 2014 spending at $967 billion — hardline conservatives don’t want to spend a penny more than that. Ryan and Murray are close to a deal that raises spending to about $1 trillion. Democrats roundly oppose sequester spending levels and many Republicans, especially defense hawks, want to ease the cuts because they believe they’re unsustainable and damaging to national security. House Republican leaders support the Ryan-Murray framework but are often at the mercy of their right flank.

Progressives are not happy with the emerging Ryan-Murray budget deal either. It would cut off emergency unemployment insurance and it won’t close any tax loopholes. The deal may also cut some $20 billion from federal employee pensions.

House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) released his own budget proposal (PDF) Thursday.

More info:
The Real People Whose Lives Will Be Turned Upside Down If Congress Doesn’t Act In The Next Three Weeks

UPDATE: Shutdown fervor starting to gel among hardline Republicans

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The Democrat’s Guide to Talking Politics With Your Republican Uncle

The DNC has a nifty website full of actual facts in case the right-wingers at your family Thanksgiving get-together start repeating stuff they heard on Faux News Channel.

www.yourrepublicanuncle.com

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Civil Disobedience And The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Matt Damon gives Howard Zinn’s take on civil disobedience

Rocky Anderson talks about the Trans Pacific Partnership:

Update: More information:

Act Up!

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