Tag Archives | Economy

Why Cuba, and Why Now? One Missing Perspective on the Story

Unpolluted Caribbean Beach, similar to the endangered beached of Cuba. (Photo: Hugo Marin)

Unpolluted Caribbean Beach, similar to the endangered beached of Cuba. (Photo: Hugo Marin)

Hugo Marin and Joyce Meghan, writing at Common Dreams:

The so-called “thaw” between the United States and Cuba has been celebrated by many on the political Left and Right in the United States, while disdained by those on the far Right. What has been absent from the conversation has been the voice of the Pro-Global South and the Cuban people in Cuba. It is critical for Westerners involved in this debate to organize the information in a global and historical context that centers on the Cuban people and their interests.

The mid-far Left views the thaw as a path toward a positive relationship with Cuba and a means to close the Guantanamo Bay Prison. The bipartisan center views this as a path toward a diplomatic relationship with Cuba that would include vast capitalist opportunities for US corporations.

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The Share-the-Scraps Economy

CC BY-SA HonestReporting.com, flickr/truthout

CC BY-SA HonestReporting.com, flickr/truthout

Robert Reich via Nation of Change:

How would you like to live in an economy where robots do everything that can be predictably programmed in advance, and almost all profits go to the robots’ owners?

Meanwhile, human beings do the work that’s unpredictable – odd jobs, on-call projects, fetching and fixing, driving and delivering, tiny tasks needed at any and all hours – and patch together barely enough to live on.

Brace yourself. This is the economy we’re now barreling toward.

They’re Uber drivers, Instacart shoppers, and Airbnb hosts. They includeTaskrabbit jobbers, Upcounsel’s on-demand attorneys, and Healthtap’s on-line doctors.

They’re Mechanical Turks.

The euphemism is the “share” economy. A more accurate term would be the “share-the-scraps” economy.

New software technologies are allowing almost any job to be divided up into discrete tasks that can be parceled out to workers when they’re needed, with pay determined by demand for that particular job at that particular moment.

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Gaza’s Kids Seek A Voice Amidst the Chaos


Abby Zimet writes at Common Dreams:

A severe winter storm dubbed Huda this week brought ever more suffering to the long-suffering residents of Gaza, especially the over 100,000 people left homeless by last summer’s Israeli assault – an assault whose aftermath former UN special rapporteur Richard Falk has just declared “catastrophic…a form of massive state terror directed at the entire population of Gaza.” The storm, added to existing hardships in Gaza, has prompted Palestinian authorities to declare a state of emergency.

Huda unleashed heavy cold rains that caused widespread flooding, brutal winds and hail in Gaza, along with snow and even colder temperatures for Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon. With a still-blockaded Gaza having received less than 2 percent of an estimated 5 million tons of materials needed to rebuild, between 100,000 and 170,000 Gazans still lack adequate shelter and live huddled in tents, rubble or half-demolished homes. They also lack power – because Gaza’s sole power station was bombed by Israel last summer – and fuel, because the Israeli-Egyptian blockade continues.

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Let’s Abolish West Point: Military Academies Serve No One, Squander Millions of Tax Dollars

Via Salon:

Many pundits have suggested that the Republicans’ midterm gains were fueled by discontent not merely with the president or with the (improving) state of the economy, but with government in general and the need to fund its programs with taxes.  Indeed, the Republican Party of recent decades, inspired by Ronald Reagan’s exhortation to “starve the [government] beast,” has been anti-tax and anti-government. Government programs, as many of their thinkers note, primarily exist to perpetuate their own existence. At the very least, they have to justify that existence.

In the spirit of hands across the aisle, I’d like to suggest that the first thing the new Republican majority devote itself to is not, say, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but to converting the four hugely expensive and underproductive U.S. service academies (Navy, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard) — taxpayer-funded undergraduate institutions whose products all become officers in the military — to more modest and functional schools for short-term military training programs, as the British have repurposed Sandhurst.

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10 Good Things About the Year 2014

(Photo: Daniel Arauz/flickr/cc)

(Photo: Daniel Arauz/flickr/cc)

Medea Benjamin writes at Common Dreams:

It’s been a year of fervent activism on police accountability, living wages, climate change, personal freedoms, immigrant rights, an open internet and diplomacy over war. The electoral beating the Democrats received has prompted both the Administration and some spineless congresspeople to realize that support for progressive issues could reinvigorate their base —a realization that has already led to Obama’s executive action on immigration and the opening to Cuba.

So here are some of the 2014 highlights.

1. Uprising for police accountability. The movement for police accountability has swept the nation, spawning brilliant new leaders from communities most affected, giving a voice to the families who have lost loved ones and opening people’s eyes to the militarization of our police forces. It is an organic, grassroots movement destined to have a transformative impact on the struggle for racial equality. Keep an eye out in 2015 for CODEPINK’s campaign to demilitarize the police, Communities Organize to Demilitarize Enforcement.

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The Middle Class is Poorer Today Than it Was in 1989

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Photo by Brendel (CC)

No surprises for guessing who hogged the gains in the economy over the last 25 years. Yes, you guessed it, the wealthy 1%, per the Washington Post:

The fundamentals of the economy are, well, okay.

It’s been slow and steady, but the recovery has chugged along enough to get us back to something close to normal. The economy has surpassed its pre-crisis peak, unemployment is at a six-year low, and stocks have more than tripled from their 2009 low. It’s not the best of times, but it’s certainly not the worst — which was a very real possibility after Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy threatened to send us into a second Great Depression.

President Obama and his fellow Democrats, naturally, would like to claim some of the credit for that. If voters credited them with this economic turnaround, Obama and his party might have a better chance of holding the Senate this fall, an outcome that looks precarious.

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4 Ways Amazon’s Ruthless Practices Are Crushing Local Economies

By Akira Ohgaki via Flickr (CC by 2.0).

By Akira Ohgaki via Flickr (CC by 2.0).

via AlterNet:

Even by the anything-goes ethical code of the corporate jungle, Amazon.com’s alpha male, Jeff Bezos, is considered a ruthless predator by businesses that deal with him. As overlord of Amazon, by far the largest online marketer in the world (with more sales than the next nine US online retailers combined), Bezos has the monopoly power to stalk, weaken, and even kill off retail competitors—going after such giants as Barnes & Noble and Walmart and draining the lifeblood from hundreds of smaller Main Street shops. He also goes for the throats of both large and small businesses that supply the millions of products his online behemoth sells. They’re lured into Amazon by its unparalleled database of some 200 million customers, but once in, they face unrelenting pressure to lower what they charge Amazon for their products, compelled by the company to give it much better deals than other retailers can extract.

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Sack the Economists

SackMock-Up4

By Geoff Davies via Real-World Economics Review Blog:

Non-mainstream economists are all-too aware of the failure of mainstream economists to anticipate, let alone avoid, the Global Financial Crisis and the ensuing Great Recession.  The mainstream profession is also failing to fix the problem, and is actually making it worse.

It is hard to get alternative views heard, and the mainstream carries on almost totally unperturbed, despite being centrally responsible for a global disaster.  This is of course extremely frustrating.

After reading yet another cri de coeur from yet another frustrated economist, I thought perhaps we need to spell out the message in all bluntness: we need to sack the economists (the mainstreamers).  We also need to derail their baleful ideology.  That means we need to disband the departments of neoclassical economics, so the poison is not passed on to any more hapless generations.

When I say “we”, I really mean “we, the people”.  The job can’t be done by a small band of isolated reformers.  That means people need to be informed and persuaded.  They need to be spoken to in terms they understand;  not everyone, but opinion leaders and interested laypeople, of whom there are many.

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Scotland, Sovereignty and Corporations

Flag_of_Scotland_(navy_blue).svg

David Morris writes at Common Dreams:

Since 1945 the number of nations has soared from about 60 to more than 180. The first wave of new sovereign states came with the decolonization movement of the 1960s and 1970s; the second in the early 1990s with the break-up of the Soviet Union. If Scotland votes for independence it may ignite a third wave. Dozens of would-be nations are waiting in the wings: Wales, Catalonia, Flanders, Breton, the list is long.

In 1957 in his classic book The Breakdown of Nations economist and political scientist Leopold Kohr persuasively and rigorously argued that small nations are the natural order having been throughout history the engines for enlightenment, innovation, mutual aid and the arts. The large nation state, he argued is not a reflection of improved efficiency but of superior force:

It is the great powers which lack the real basis of existence and are without autochthonous, self-sustaining sources of strength.

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Woman with 4 Jobs Dies While Napping in Car

By SpaceShoe via Flickr.

By SpaceShoe via Flickr.

This tragic death raises questions about the economy. It’s time to raise minimum wage – working four jobs and being forced to nap in one’s car between shifts to make ends meet is unacceptable. Minimum wage =/= livable wage and it should.

via AlterNet:

Maria Fernandes, 32, of Newark, NJ, worked four jobs, including two at different Dunkin Donuts stores. In between working, she would often park in public lots and catch up on sleep. She kept a can of gasoline in her car because she had occasionally run out of gas in the past during her job commutes.

On Monday, Fernandes pulled into a WaWa convenience store parking lot in Elizabeth, NJ, to nap. Concerned employees called 911. When emergency workers arrived and opened her car door, they were met with a toxic odor. Workers determined that Fernandes was dead and called Hazmat workers to the scene.

Fernandes died from inhaling a fatal mixture of carbon monoxide from her car, which was running, and the can of gasoline that spilled open in the back of her car.

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