Tag Archives | Economy

Durban South Africa, Friday Night at The Movies: We Can’t Escape The Tensions Around Us

Soweto. Photo: Michael Toft Schmidt (CC)

Soweto. Photo: Michael Toft Schmidt (CC)

It’s Friday night, and the motorways are packed with cars heading for the mall. Here in Durban, the Gateway Mall is the destination of choice. It’s huge, the biggest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s stuffed with stuff, much of it upscale, calling itself a “theater of shopping.”  (It is actually built over what was once a dump.) The parking lots are packed with late model cars, many of them high end.

I have to confess, I was invited there to see America’s latest high culture import, the 3D version of the movie Transformers 3, based on a toy and cartoon, in a modern movie complex with 18 theaters and rows and rows of packed gates where you line up for endless popcorn and soft drinks.

Business was booming; the theater was full. Most of the crowd seemed to be whites and Indians but there were also many blacks now firmly anchored in the consumer life style.… Read the rest

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Video: President Obama Says It’s ‘Time To Be A Dick’ (Parody)

With news of President Obama's frustration with the debt talks, here is a parody from Funny or Die of what Obama may really want to say. As he said about the debt talks:
"I have reached the point where I say enough," and added "I've reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this," according to the Republican aide. After leaving the debt talks, Obama said this confirms the totality of what the American people already believe" about Washington politicians who are "too focused on positioning and political posturing." (RawStory)
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The Final Nail In The Supply Side Coffin

md_horizTaxes are low and corporate profits are high, but nothing is trickling down to the American worker.

If politicians are going to continue kowtowing to every whim of the rich, can they at least think of a new excuse? Via Salon:

The theory of supply-side economics tells us that if you cut taxes on rich people and corporations, the moguls and businessmen will take their windfall and invest it, creating jobs and accelerating the rate of economic growth. The benefits of a light hand on the upper class, therefore, will “trickle down” to the working man and woman.

Ever since Ronald Reagan first attempted to make supply-side economics a reality and proceeded to inaugurate an era of persistent government deficits and growing income inequality, it has become harder and harder to make the trickle-down argument with a straight face. But we’ve never seen anything quite like the disaster that’s playing out right now.

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The Age Of Perpetual Self-Branding

imageFacebook wants to be the place where you feel most yourself, with the most control over how you are regarded. It inextricably intertwines marketing with selfhood, so that having a self becomes an inherently commercial operation.

Writing for n+1, Rob Horning concocts a frightening, fantastic, and thought-provoking essay on how we live today, connecting the reign of “fast fashion” companies such as Forever 21, social media such as Facebook, and 21st century capitalism’s demand that workers market and reinvent themselves endlessly:

I’ve always thought that Forever 21 was a brilliant name for a fast-fashion retailer. These two words succinctly encapsulate consumerism’s mission statement: to evoke the dream of perpetual youth through constant shopping. Yet it also conjures the suffocating shabbiness of that fantasy, the permanent desperation involved in trying to achieve fashion’s impossible ideals.

Despite apparently democratizing style and empowering consumers, fast fashion in some ways constitutes a dream sector for those eager to condemn contemporary capitalism, as the companies almost systematically heighten some of its current contradictions: the exhaustion of innovative possibilities, the limits of the legal system in guaranteeing property rights, the increasing immiseration of the world workforce.

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Are Banksters Too Big To Jail?

BankUSWhy are we banking on banks to a promote economic recovery? HBO’s “Too Big To Fail” should have been about banksters “too big to jail.”

This week the financial crisis finally went prime time in the form of a big budget HBO docudrama called “Too Big To Fail.”

It was a well-acted docudrama focused on the BIG Men and some women in the banks and in government who tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again up on that wall to prevent a total economic collapse when panic dried up credit and financial institutions faced failure.

Based on the work of a New York Times reporter, it offered a skillfully-made but conventional narrative which, like most TV shows, showcase events but miss their deeper context and background.

We heard all the explanations, save one.

There was greed, ambition, ego and money lust. There were personal rivalries and ideological battles, parochial agendas and narrow self-interest.… Read the rest

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College Graduates Earning Less

OxfordceremonyCongratulations to all the new college grads out there, but have you thought about how much your expensive new college degree is worth? For 2009-10 graduates who were able to land a job (about half), starting salaries fell 10% versus 2006-8, and it doesn’t look like 2011 will be any better. Catherine Rampell reports for the New York Times:

Employment rates for new college graduates have fallen sharply in the last two years, as have starting salaries for those who can find work. What’s more, only half of the jobs landed by these new graduates even require a college degree, reviving debates about whether higher education is “worth it” after all.

“I have friends with the same degree as me, from a worse school, but because of who they knew or when they happened to graduate, they’re in much better jobs,” said Kyle Bishop, 23, a 2009 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh who has spent the last two years waiting tables, delivering beer, working at a bookstore and entering data.

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Real Rate Of Inflation In U.S. Is Near 10%

Paul Volcker

Paul Volcker

“Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics” comes to mind. John Melloy reports for CNBC First Money:

After former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker was appointed in 1979, the consumer price index surged into the double digits, causing the now revered Fed Chief to double the benchmark interest rate in order to break the back of inflation. Using the methodology in place at that time puts the CPI back near those levels.

Inflation, using the reporting methodologies in place before 1980, hit an annual rate of 9.6 percent in February, according to the Shadow Government Statistics newsletter.

Since 1980, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has changed the way it calculates the CPI in order to account for the substitution of products, improvements in quality (i.e. iPad 2 costing the same as original iPad) and other things. Backing out more methods implemented in 1990 by the BLS still puts inflation at a 5.5 percent rate and getting worse, according to the calculations by the newsletter’s web site, Shadowstats.com…

[continues at CNBC First Money]

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Last Minute Budget Deal Only Postpones More Serious Economic Warfare

Photo: Ser Amantio di Nicolao

Photo: Ser Amantio di Nicolao (CC)

The Capitol Hill battlefield is still for the moment as the Easter holidays approach and the combatants get a break from the heated polemics and overnight bargaining sessions. In a last minute deal, milked by both sides for maximum drama and political advantage, the government will not shut down—at least not now—even as its budget has taken a major whack.

Each side can posture to supporters as a victor. The President, who managed the process from the shadows, posed for photos in the White House after his great compromise of 2011 was announced.

It was a media moment to be relished, as media columnist Howard Kurtz explained on the Daily Beast:

“The White House escaped most of the blame. Once the spotlight shifted from the political gamesmanship to the human impact of a shutdown—soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan not getting checks, passport offices closed, national parks off limits—everyone knew an angry public would start pointing fingers.

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Medical Marijuana Is Now A $1.7 Billion Market

MMS

Medical Marijuana shop in Denver, Colorado. Photo: O'Dea (CC)

The medical marijuana market has had a significant growth this year. With seven states who have opened shop and five more states planned to approve medical marijuana outlets this year, cannabis could save many states’ economies. Medical News Today reports:

Medical marijuana is now a serious $1.7 billion dollar market, according to a new report released this week by an independent financial analysis firm that specializes in new and unique markets. Currently, 24.8 million people are eligible to receive a recommendation and purchase marijuana legally under state laws, and approximately 730,000 people actually do.

Ted Rose, editor of the new State of the Medical Marijuana Market 2011 report, comments:

“Medical marijuana markets are rapidly growing across the country and will reach $1.7 billion this year. We undertook this effort because we noticed a dearth of reliable market information about this politically charged business.

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