Posts tagged political economy

Posted 3 years ago

Prison Economics Help Drive Arizona Immigration Law

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.

Posted 3 years ago

Banks Are to Blame for Rising Food Costs


What’s behind the spiraling cost of food? It’s not just oil and the burgeoning appetites of Americans.

As Frederick Kaufman, the author of A Short History of the American Stomach explains in an article in this month’s Foreign Policy, titled “How Goldman Sachs Created the Food Crisis”:

Since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, there has been a 50-fold increase in dollars invested in commodity index funds. To put the phenomenon in real terms: In 2003, the commodities futures market still totaled a sleepy $13 billion. But when the global financial crisis sent investors running scared in early 2008, and as dollars, pounds, and euros evaded investor confidence, commodities—including food—seemed like the last, best place for hedge, pension, and sovereign wealth funds to park their cash. “You had people who had no clue what commodities were all about suddenly buying commodities,” an analyst from the United States Department of Agriculture told me. In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since.

While rampant speculation by bankers in commodity index funds might sound lands away from your next meal, Kaufman writes in an earlier article for Harper’s (subscription req’d):

The worldwide price of food had risen by 80 percent between 2005 and 2008, and unlike other food catastrophes of the past half century or so, the United States was not insulated from this one, as 49 million Americans found themselves unable to put a full meal on the table. Across the country demand for food stamps reached an all-time high, and one in five kids came to depend on food kitchens. In Los Angeles nearly a million people went hungry.

And it’s inevitably going to get worse as the world reaches 10 billion. Time for bankers face the hard truth to their complicity.

Illustration: Tim Bower/Harper’s

Posted 3 years ago

David Harvey - Nice Day for a Revolution

Why May Day should be a date to stand up and change the system

May Day is the occasion we celebrate the grand achievements of the workers of the world in making our world a far, far better place to live in. There is, unfortunately, not too much to celebrate these days. The past 30 years are littered with battles and skirmishes that have resulted in defeat after defeat for organised labour.

A capitalist class gone rampant has now consolidated its power to command or corrupt almost all the major institutions that regulate the body politic – the political parties (of both left and right), the media, the universities, the law, to say nothing of the repressive state apparatus and international institutions. The democracy of money power now rules. A global plutocracy exerts its will almost everywhere unchallenged.

So what is there to celebrate? We would not, of course, have what we still have now (from pensions to the remnants of reasonable health care and public education) had it not been for the labour movement. But waxing nostalgic over the undoubted achievements and heroism of the past will get us nowhere.

May Day should therefore be about relaunching a revolutionary movement to change the world. The very thought of doing that – even just saying it and writing it down – is as exhilarating as it is astonishing.

Posted 3 years ago

We're #1 -- Ten Depressing Ways America Is Exceptional


Let me make it clear at the outset. I too believe in American exceptionalism, although I don’t think God has anything to do with it. But I suspect my perspective will find little favor among Republicans in general and Tea Party members in particular. For I believe that America is exceptional in the advantages we’ve had over other nations, not what we’ve done with those advantages.

Indeed, to me there are two American exceptionalisms. One is the exceptionally favorable circumstances the United States found itself in at its founding and over its first 200 years. The second is the exceptional way in which we have squandered those advantages, in the process creating a value system singularly antagonistic to the changes needed when those advantages disappeared.

Posted 3 years ago
America is not broke. Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich. Today just 400 Americans have the same wealth as half of all Americans combined. Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer “bailout” of 2008, now have as much loot, stock and property as the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.
Posted 3 years ago

The Story of Stuff - Citizens United v. FEC

Posted 3 years ago
To describe blatant exploitation of the political system for personal gain as corruption misses the forest for the trees. Such exploitation is surely an outrage against Egyptian citizens, but calling it corruption suggests that the problem is aberrations from a system that would otherwise function smoothly. If this were the case then the crimes of the Mubarak regime could be attributed simply to bad character: change the people and the problems go away. But the real problem with the regime was not necessarily that high-ranking members of the government were thieves in an ordinary sense. They did not necessarily steal directly from the treasury. Rather they were enriched through a conflation of politics and business under the guise of privatization. This was less a violation of the system than business as usual. Mubarak’s Egypt, in a nutshell, was a quintessential neoliberal state.
Posted 3 years ago

It’s Harder to Get Started Today

I told him that, although I agreed with him that young people should save more, there is also a strong case that it is much more difficult today for a young person to establish themselves financially as he did when he was a young adult.

He looked at me strangely. “What do you mean?” he asked.

So, I laid it out for him, piece by piece. Afterward, it occurred to me that the entire discussion might make for a good post here, particularly with some specific research to back it up.

Real wages Let’s start with income. In 1970, the average wage earner took home $312 per week (in 1982 dollars). In 2004, the average wage earner brought home $277 per week (in 1982 dollars) – and it’s still falling. That means that, once you factor out inflation, the average wage earner in 1970 brought home about 18% more than the average wage earner today.

Home prices Even if you adjust for inflation – and even if you take into account the crash of the housing bubble from 2007 to today – the median price for a home in the United States has gone up more than 50% since 1970. Remember, that number accounts for inflation, so what that number actually means is that the cost of a home requires 50% more of a person’s paycheck than it did in 1970.

Education prices The cost index of an average undergraduate education since 1970 drastically outpaces the growth of the Consumer Price Index. In short, disregarding inflation, the cost of an undergraduate degree today is roughly 30% higher than it was in 1970.

Other essentials In order to compete in today’s workforce, a young person often must have items – paid for out of their own pocket – that weren’t needed in 1970, including a cell phone, a computer, and home internet access. Often, when searching for work, it becomes very difficult for a young person to compete without these extra expenses.

So, to summarize, in order to have housing and an education comparable to what a young person had in 1970, they must spend 50% more on housing, spend 30% more on education, and do it all while earning about 18% less money. That doesn’t even include the extra expenses needed to compete.

I look at my own parents for an example. My parents purchased the house I grew up in for $20,000 – and that included seven acres of land. At the time, that was approximately what my father earned in a year. Today, if I were to purchase a similarly-sized house with seven acres of land, I would be spending well over $100,000 – significantly more than an annual salary.

My parents were also able to find good work without the cost of a college education. Today, the jobs they both had would be completely unavailable to someone if they did not have a college education, putting significantly more expense on the back of a young person today.

This is for the US and I am thinking about Canada, but in light of all the discussions we’re having about the rising cost of university tuition and the theory that students today are just lazing about… well, I found this interesting.

The old “when I was your age, we had it hard, you kids today are spoiled” trope no longer applies thanks to 30 years of growing income inequality.

(Source: )

Posted 3 years ago

David Harvey - A Brief History of Neoliberalism

5-part lecture. This lecture is basically the reason I started to become an anti-capitalist. 

Posted 3 years ago
A new report from the Political Economy Research Institute says that bike and pedestrian projects create 11 to 14 jobs per million dollars spent, while road construction only creates 7 per million.