Archive for category Economic Exploitation
Source: Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2014
Financialization of the economy is both a symptom and a major cause of inequality. Financialization is when making money from money becomes more important than providing real goods and services. It’s characterized by risky asset bubbles and periodic crashes that affect everyone in the 99 Percent because we’re not “too big to fail.” Les Leopold: “Wall Street is out of control. Once deregulation started 30 years ago, money has gushed to the top as Wall Street was free to find more and more unethical ways to fleece us.”
The result: Despite the fact we’re the richest country in the world, U.S. median wealth is just $53,352 according to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook (PDF).
The U.S. continues to lead the world in billionaires (571 in 2014, with China a distant second at 190). But after decades of financial deregulation and attacks on employee rights, Americans rank 26th in median wealth (defined as assets owned, minus debts owed for the person on the middle rung of the wealth ladder).
The Gini index for the USA has risen to 84.6 (with 0 representing perfect equality and 100 representing perfect inequality). Very few countries can top that, and not by much.
Seattle-based venture capitalist Nick Hanauer offers a smart policy proposal that President Obama could implement with a stroke of the pen. The President could raise wages and create jobs by directing the Department of Labor to expand the number of workers who can receive overtime pay. Sign the petition.
More from Democracy for America:
President Obama: Expand overtime pay!
We urge you to instruct the Department of Labor to significantly expand the number of workers eligible for federal overtime pay. By raising the salary threshold to $69,000, we would finally achieve the same eligibility for overtime pay that we had in 1975.
We also urge you to revise the rules in order to reduce the number of exemptions from overtime pay. Teachers, federal employees, doctors, computer professionals (anyone who uses a computer), and many more professional workers have been working overtime and increasing their productivity but aren’t seeing the benefits of their labor. They should also be eligible for overtime pay.
Revise the rules to expand overtime pay without delay.
Whatever Happened to Overtime?
Tea-GOP Congresswoman-elect Mia Love regarding our public lands: “I support returning ownership back to the state of Utah.” The premise of this statement (not to mention the grammar) is completely wrong, because the public lands in Utah have always been in federal ownership since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The State of Utah did not exist until 1896, nearly a half-century later.
State-level land grab attempts such as the Transfer of Public Lands Act (the 2012 Utah law that demands the federal government hand over public lands to the state by December 31, 2014) violate both the U.S. Constitution and the Utah Constitution. However, the U.S. Congress has the ultimate power over all federal lands. The Property Clause in Article 4 of the Constitution says: “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States…”
Now that the Tea-GOP controls both houses of Congress, will Mia Love get her wish?
For the Republican Party, the growing internal debate over whether America’s public lands should be seized and sold represents a choice between the conservation values of Republican President Theodore Roosevelt and the power of a special interest-driven agenda. Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar observed in August that the RNC’s endorsement of land grabs would “cause Teddy Roosevelt to turn over in his grave.”
With the debate escalating over whether public lands should be seized or sold, candidates who dodged the issue but won on Tuesday will likely soon have to say whether they are with the party of Teddy Roosevelt or Cliven Bundy.
President Obama has the power (delegated by Congress to the chief executive in the Antiquities Act of 1906) to proclaim national monuments on public lands. He has already done so 13 times to protect more than 260 million acres of land and water, which is more than any other President. And he says he is “not finished” with national monuments.
There is a proposal for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument in Utah. The Tea-GOP has it coming. Will President Obama bring it?
The Sagebrush Gang Rides Again? (February 2012)
Washington Post-ABC News poll Oct. 23-26, 2014
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!
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.
As usual, Robert Reich says it better than I could (emphasis added).
“Paid-what-you’re-worth” is a dangerous myth.
…The real difference is the GM worker a half-century ago had a strong union behind him that summoned the collective bargaining power of all autoworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members. And because more than a third of workers across America belonged to a labor union, the bargains those unions struck with employers raised the wages and benefits of non-unionized workers as well. Non-union firms knew they’d be unionized if they didn’t come close to matching the union contracts.
Today’s Walmart workers don’t have a union to negotiate a better deal. They’re on their own. And because fewer than 7 percent of today’s private-sector workers are unionized, non-union employers across America don’t have to match union contracts. This puts unionized firms at a competitive disadvantage. The result has been a race to the bottom.
…The reason Wall Street bankers got fat paychecks plus a total of $26.7 billion in bonuses last year wasn’t because they worked so much harder or were so much more clever or insightful than most other Americans. They cleaned up because they happen to work in institutions — big Wall Street banks — that hold a privileged place in the American political economy.
…The “paid-what-you’re-worth” argument is fundamentally misleading because it ignores power, overlooks institutions, and disregards politics. As such, it lures the unsuspecting into thinking nothing whatever should be done to change what people are paid, because nothing can be done.
It’s not that working Americans are lazy/incompetent. Capitalists are greedy and powerful.
Conservative Myths About the Minimum Wage, Debunked
Contrary to conservative myths, raising the minimum wage would boost the economy, benefit all workers, and won’t hurt consumers.
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.
A couple key passages:
The US elites, similarly, took the smooth functioning of the political-economic system for granted. The only problem, as they saw it, was that they weren’t being adequately compensated for their efforts. Feelings of dissatisfaction ran high during the Bear Market of 1973—82, when capital returns took a particular beating. The high inflation of that decade ate into inherited wealth. A fortune of $2 billion in 1982 was a third smaller, when expressed in inflation-adjusted dollars, than $1 billion in 1962, and only a sixth of $1 billion in 1912. All these factors contributed to the reversal of the late 1970s.
Three years ago I published a short article in the science journal Nature. I pointed out that several leading indicators of political instability look set to peak around 2020. In other words, we are rapidly approaching a historical cusp, at which the US will be particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval. This prediction is not a ‘prophecy’. I don’t believe that disaster is pre-ordained, no matter what we do. On the contrary, if we understand the causes, we have a chance to prevent it from happening. But the first thing we will have to do is reverse the trend of ever-growing inequality.
And finally this one:
How does growing economic inequality lead to political instability? Partly this correlation reflects a direct, causal connection. High inequality is corrosive of social cooperation and willingness to compromise, and waning cooperation means more discord and political infighting. Perhaps more important, economic inequality is also a symptom of deeper social changes, which have gone largely unnoticed.