In the past, the super-rich were often directly involved in government. They were princes and kings, senators and warlords – or held some other important office. Nowadays, this direct involvement is comparatively rare, especially in democratic regimes. Even so, the levers of political power are firmly in the hands of the oligarchs. In Jeffrey Winters’ typology, contemporary democracies are classified as civil oligarchies. In order to emphasize their contradictory nature, we prefer to simply call them oligarchic democracies. Huge concentrations of wealth allow oligarchs to capture the electoral-representative institutions of contemporary democracies. The mechanisms of oligarchic capture vary from one country to another, but they are robust and entrenched in most, if not all, modern democracies. They include straightforwardly illegal forms of corruption, but also a variety of insidious mechanisms that are permitted by current legislation and are indeed typical of electoral-representative regimes.
The Flood Wall Street Protest began at the WW II Memorial in Battery Park at the lower tip of Manhattan at 9:00 AM. Speakers from around the world representing people from Africa, Central America, South America, North America and Asia spoke to the crowd of approximately 3,000 about how climate change is already impacting their environment and lives with droughts, floods, heat waves and massive storms. The group than practiced the resistance action of the day — flowing like water down in the financial district leading to a sit-in, in an undisclosed area. . . .they surrounded the iconic Wall Street bull, the Flood Wall Streeters sat down and blocked the streets. The sit-in lasted from about noon until just before 4:00 PM when the group decided to march to Wall Street for the closing bell of the trading session. . . In the end, approximately 50 people were arrested.
The historic People’s Climate March drew more than 300,000 people to call for action to deal with climate change on September 21, 2014. The march included people from a variety of issues who understood how climate change impacts a wide range of actions. Veterans and peace activists recognized that the US military is the largest institutional climate polluter in the world and continues to fight wars for oil and gas. Critics of the economy — including anti-capitalists, socialists, those advocating a green economy and others. Indigenous peoples who know see their lands are destroyed from climate polluting fuels, students and youth who see their future at risk, survivors of storms like Sandy and so many others came together to tell the UN the world needs to act to transform the economy and lifestyles, especially of the wealthiest who use the most carbon-based fuels. The march precedes the UN coming to New York City this week. The UN will be met by further protests which will be kicked off tomorrow with Flood Wall Street.
It’s been a month since the shooting of Michael Brown, who was unarmed, black and 18 years old. Scenes of Ferguson in the days following his death drew constant comparisons to a war zone: officers decked out in camouflaged combat gear, some of them arriving by humvee, snipers planted on rooftops, tear-gas-filled streets, protesters treated with milk for their burns. Finally, the conversation reached Capitol Hill Tuesday in the first congressional hearing on the militarization of police. The long-awaited hearing comes as a congressman from suburban Atlanta, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) prepares to introduce the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act to restrict the flow of surplus military supplies from the Pentagon to local police departments. So this is a good time to think about how the taxpayer dollars now being spent on assault rifles and lumbering street warfare vehicles could otherwise be spent.
As predicted yesterday, Tesla and the Neveda governor have confirmed that the gigantic battery Gigafactory that will make enough battery cells to power 500,000 electric vehicles per year will be located in Nevada. Governor Brian Sandoval and Elon Musk made the joint announcement, with the Governor saying that this investment in his state represents “nearly one hundred billion dollars in economic impact to the Silver State over the next twenty years” and that he called Tesla and Musk “21st century pioneers, fueled with innovation and desire” (how poetic). Musk, in turn, said that the “Gigafactory is an important step in advancing the cause of sustainable transportation and will enable the mass production of compelling electric vehicles for decades to come.”
Fostering resilient communities and building wealth in today’s local economies is necessary to achieve individual, regional, and national economic security. A community wealth building strategy employs a range of forms of community ownership and asset building strategies to build wealth in low-income communities. In so doing, community wealth building bolsters the ability of communities and individuals to increase asset ownership, anchor jobs locally, expand the provision of public services, and ensure local economic stability. Effective community wealth building requires rethinking present policies, redirecting resources, breaking old boundaries, and forging new alliances. Over the past few decades, despite limited government support, new and alternative forms of community-supportive economic enterprises have increasingly emerged in cities and towns across the country as an important counter-trend to the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth, income, and opportunity.
Timeka Drew of the Global Climate Convergence in conversation with Dennis Trainor, Jr. The Global Climate Convergence is calling for AN EMERGENCY GLOBAL GREEN NEW DEAL
It’s an odd thing, really. in certain precincts of the left, especially across a broad spectrum of what could be called the economic left, our (by which I mean humanity’s) accelerating trajectory toward the climate cliff is little more popular as a topic than it is on the right. In fact, possibly less so. (Plenty of right-wingers love to talk about climate change, if only to deny its grim and urgent scientific reality. On the left, to say nothing of the center, denial takes different forms.) Sometimes, though, the prospect of climate catastrophe shows up unexpectedly, awkwardly, as a kind of non sequitur—or the return of the repressed. I was reminded of this not long ago when I came to a showstopping passage deep in the final chapter of anarchist anthropologist David Graeber’s The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement, his interpretive account of the Occupy Wall Street uprising, in which he played a role not only as a core OWS organizer but as a kind of house intellectual (his magnum opus, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, happened to come out in the summer of 2011). Midway through a brief discourse on the nature of labor, he pauses to reflect, as though it has just occurred to him: “At the moment, probably the most pressing need is simply to slow down the engines of productivity.” Why? Because “if you consider the overall state of the world,” there are “two insoluble problems” we seem to face: “On the one hand, we have witnessed an endless series of global debt crises…to the point where the overall burden of debt…is obviously unsustainable. On the other we have an ecological crisis, a galloping process of climate change that is threatening to throw the entire planet into drought, floods, chaos, starvation, and war.”
Beloved for its charming landscapes and fresh lobster, the rural community of Deer Isle, Maine is now gaining attention in the cooperative world. When Verne and Sandra Seile, proprietors of Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and Pharmacy, and The Galley, decided to retire last year, they sold their businesses to their employees. With 62 new worker-owners, Island Employee Cooperative, Inc. is now the twelfth largest worker cooperative in the nation. In a small community of just more than 2,500, with a workforce of 1,300, the loss of 62 jobs would have been felt intimately. Where family-owned businesses are significant, communities face additional challenges. Only 30 percent of family-owned businesses, like the Seile’s, survive to the next generation. When these businesses are closed or sold to outside investors, communities lose wealth. For example, an Institute for Local Self Reliance study analyzing the local multiplier effect in Maine, found that for every $100 spent at a big box retailer, $14 in local spending is generated compared to $45 when the money is spent at a locally-owned business. Additionally, communities sacrifice social benefits fostered by ownership of local business, such as good health and a politically engaged community. Hoping to keep wealth rooted in their home of over 40 years, the Seiles began working with the Maine- based Cooperative Development Institute and the Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative to convert their businesses to a worker-owned cooperative.
The new religion of economic development — mines, pipelines, power projects and private property — is being promoted by Bob Rae, Jim Prentice, and even former prime minister Brian Mulroney as the only realistic alternative for First Nations. Last month Rae, acting as a negotiator for nine Ontario First Nations, joined Premier Kathleen Wynne to celebrate the signing of a framework agreementthat would open up the province’s far north to a mineral development bonanza. The Ring of Fire, now re-branded as Wawangajing, is located in one of the largest intact wetlands on the planet, 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay in the James Bay Lowlands. The Ring of Fire apparently holds a treasure chest of chromite, nickel and other minerals. If we are to believe the Chamber of Commerce, it has the potential to drive the Ontario economy for decades. The chamber estimates that within the first 32 years of operation, the Ring of Fire could generate more than $25 billion in economic activity across a number of sectors.
Below is an interview with Robin Hahnel about the Participatory Economics movement or “Parecon.” Parecon is a theoretical economic system based on participatory decision making as the primary economic mechanism for the allocation goods, services, resources and the guidance of production. In this interview, author and political economist Hahnel talks about his book Of the People, By the People: The Case for a Participatory Economy and describes the Parecon vision of an alternative economic system that avoids the excesses and failures of both capitalism and communism. While Parecon remains more a theoretical proposition than an actual practice, it provides one more vision, one more possible response, to those who claim that “there is no alternative” to our present ways of organizing ourselves and our economy. The interview was conducted by David Delk of the Alliance for Democracy.
When an article appears in Foreign Affairs, the mouthpiece of the policy-setting Council on Foreign Relations, recommending that the Federal Reserve do a money drop directly on the 99%, you know the central bank must be down to its last bullet. The September/October issue of Foreign Affairs features an article by Mark Blyth and Eric Lonergan titled “Print Less But Transfer More: Why Central Banks Should Give Money Directly To The People.” It’s the sort of thing normally heard only from money reformers and Social Credit enthusiasts far from the mainstream. What’s going on? The Fed, it seems, has finally run out of other ammo. It has to taper its quantitative easing program, which is eating up the Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities needed as collateral for the repo market that is the engine of the bankers’ shell game. The Fed’s Zero Interest Rate Policy (ZIRP) has also done serious collateral damage. The banks that get the money just put it in interest-bearing Federal Reserve accounts or buy foreign debt or speculate with it; and the profits go back to the 1%, who park it offshore to avoid taxes. Worse, any increase in the money supply from increased borrowing increases the overall debt burden and compounding finance costs, which are already a major constraint on economic growth.
So, in addition to destroying the ecosystem and straining to hold up the house of cards that is the global Hyper capitalist financial system, we are thinking that things might get down right scary in a mad max kind of way so we might want to prioritize helping the victims in developing countries who suffer or will suffer the homicidal side effects of our lifestyle. But actually change our lifestyle? No, silly. That’s not on the table, is it? Question, and again, I am no expert on the subject, but is Capitalism compatible with the health and survival of all of the living things on this rock we call Earth?
This year’s Jackson Hole hobnob, once again hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, last week attracted the usual assortment of central bankers, finance ministers, and influential business journalists. But this year’s gathering also attracted something else: protesters. For the first time ever, activists converged on Jackson Hole — to let the Fed’s central bankers know, as protest organizers put it, that “it’s not just the rich who are watching them.” Over 70 groups and unions backed the protest and signed onto an open letter that calls on America’s central bankers to start nurturing an economy that works for workers. At one point, early on in the Jackson Hole gathering, protesters actually had a brief exchange with Federal Reserve Board chair Janet Yellin. “We understand the issues you’re talking about,” Yellin told them, “and we’re doing everything we can.”
This is the reality of our political system in 2014: In what should be a titanic battle between multinational corporate power and federal power, our elected representatives are hardly putting up a fight. Obama has been a sharp critic of corporate tax avoidance. Yet the offshore corporate earnings stash has nearly doubled on his watch. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has unleashed blistering attacks on corporations like Walgreens that have threatened to renounce their U.S. citizenship for tax purposes. And he has said he’s “ready to roll” on a vote for a (sure-to-fail) Democratic bill that seeks a two-year moratorium on inversions. Yet Reid has also been shopping a stand-alone tax-holiday proposal, rewarding multinational tax avoiders with a 9.5 percent rate. Reid’s partner in this effort? Kentucky Republican Rand Paul – who’s been courting right-wing billionaire David Koch.