Tag Archives: Great Recession

The rich are 64% richer than before the recession, while the poor are 57% poorer

Britain’s divided decade: the rich are 64% richer than before the recession, while the poor are 57% poorer

By NIGEL MORRIS

The gap between richest and poorest has dramatically widened in the past decade as wealthy households paid off their debts and piled up savings following the financial crisis, a report warns today.

By contrast, the worst-off families are far less financially secure than before the recession triggered by the near- collapse of several major banks. They have an average of less than a week’s pay set aside and are more often in the red.

Younger workers have fallen behind older people while homeowners – particularly those who have paid off their mortgages – have become increasingly affluent compared with their neighbours who are paying rent.

Evidence of Britain’s rapidly growing wealth gap was revealed by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), which analysed the changing incomes and savings of thousands of people. Its findings will be seized on by Labour as evidence that any recovery from the downturn is uneven and not shared across all income groups. However, the trends uncovered by the SMF began before the Coalition came to power, underlining the huge impact of the credit crunch on levels of affluence.

It found that the average wealth of the best-off one-fifth of families rose by 64 per cent between 2005 and 2012-13 as they put more money aside as a buffer against future shocks. They have average savings and investments of around £10,000 compared with £6,000 seven years earlier.

The proportion of people in this group with debts (apart from mortgages) dropped from 43 per cent to less than one-third. However, the SMF found the poorest 20 per cent are less financially secure than they were in 2005, with their net wealth falling by 57 per cent and levels of debt and use of overdrafts increasing.

Read more » The Independent
See more » http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britains-divided-decade-the-rich-are-64-richer-than-before-the-recessionwhile-the-poor-are-57-poorer-10097038.html

Germany Rejects Loan Request Saying Greece Must Meet Conditions

(Bloomberg) — Germany rejected Greece’s request for an extension of its aid program, saying its offer doesn’t meet the euro region’s conditions for continuing aid.

The Greek government is trying to agree bridge-financing without meeting the conditions of its existing rescue program, German Finance Ministry Spokesman Martin Jaeger said in an e-mailed statement. European Commission Spokesman Margaritis Schinas moments earlier had said the Greek letter could be the basis for a “reasonable compromise.”

The euro dropped 0.3 percent to $1.1358.

Read more » Bloomberg
See more » http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-19/eu-says-greek-letter-may-pave-way-for-reasonable-compromise-i6c3go5j

The Marxist Nightmare Of The 1 Percent

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“… between technology, globalization, trade, the winner-take-all superstar effect, inequality is rising. This is not just a ‘moral’ issue but also an issue of too little consumption too little savings that is bad for global growth. So it becomes vicious cycle. It’s a bit like the old Marxist idea that if profits grow too much compared to wages, there’s not going to be enough consumption, and capitalism is going to self destruct. So I think that insight of Karl Marx is as useful today as it was 100 years ago.”

If profits grow too much compared to wages, there’s not going to be enough consumption, and capitalism is going to self destruct.

That quote is from Nouriel Roubini, and it perfectly summarizes what a lot of the world’s elites were thinking about at the World Economic Forum.

Roubini’s words echoed the warning from MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson, who told us:

…there are a lot of forces affecting inequality. There’s globalization, there are institutional changes, cultural changes, but I think most economists would agree that the biggest chunk of it is due to technology. And that’s because of what economists call skill-biased technical change — favoring skilled workers versus less-skilled workers.

Also we talk in the book about capital-biased technical change — you bring capital over labor like when you replace humans with robots. And the third category that maybe is the most important one, we call it superstar-biased technical change, maybe we should come up with a better name. But it’s the fact that technologies can leverage and amplify the special talents, skill, or luck of the 1% or maybe even the 100th of 1% and replicate them across millions or billions of people. In those kinds of markets, you tend to have winner-take-all outcomes and a few people reap enormous benefits and all of us as consumers reap benefits as well, but there’s a lot less need for people of just average or above-average skills.

Brynjolffson came to The World Economic Forum in Davos to warn policymakers that without changes, technology would exacerbate inequality, rather than benefit society as a whole.

The folks at the World Economic Forum in Davos are almost all doing extremely well. They’re the world’s 1% (actually probably more like the world’s 0.001%), and it’s well known that the recovery has been good to them. But there was also a sense — that Roubini gets at in his comment — that the good times won’t last if things keep becoming more unequal.

Figuring out a way to promote mass welfare and to ensure that more people have jobs and strong incomes becomes crucial to preserving what the elites have. Better to have some sort of rebalancing than a dramatic capitalist-destroying rebalancing.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/rich-tech-fears-2014-1#ixzz3KDVYHufQ

‘Revolution is inevitable’: Russell Brand

 

‘Revolution is inevitable’: Russell Brand hits Wall Street, kisses RT interviewer (VIDEO)

Russell Brand and some 200 Occupy Wall Street protesters descended onto New York City’s financial district on Monday, where the celebrity called for a “revolution” within the US. Brand explained his viewpoint to RT – and even kissed the correspondent.

The gathering began as part of a promotional event for his newly released book, titled ‘Revolution.’ However, after a reading at Zuccotti Park – where Occupy Wall Street protesters made global headlines for rallying against social and economic inequality – Brand and other attendees marched to Wall Street.

Once they arrived, Brand spoke about the need for a social and economic “revolution,” something he writes about at length in his new book. Brand mentioned the high disapproval ratings that have been reported regarding American institutions like Congress, arguing that the last time vast swathes of the country were taxed by “elites,” a revolution was sparked.

Speaking with RT’s Aleksey Yaroshevsky at the event, Brand said the arrival of his book comes at a time when Americans are bracing for similar revolutionary action.

“I think it’s inevitable,” Brand said. “When universal change is required, people will formulate and organize, and bring about that change. Now we are living under galling inequality, at the point of ecological crisis. People are misinformed, but the means for new communication are merging, and people are awakening.”

Read more » RT
http://rt.com/usa/195992-russell-brand-revolution-wall-street/

Thomas Piketty’s Capital: everything you need to know about the surprise bestseller

The radical economist’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has angered the right with its powerful argument about wealth, democracy and why capitalism will always create inequality. Not read it yet? Here’s what it means

By The Guardian

That capitalism is unfair has been said before. But it is the way Thomas Piketty says it – subtly but with relentless logic – that has sent rightwing economics into a frenzy, both here and in the US.

His book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, has shot to the top of the Amazon bestseller list. Carrying it under your arm has, in certain latitudes of Manhattan, become the newest tool for making a social connection among young progressives. Meanwhile, he is beencondemned as neo-Marxist by rightwing commentators. So why the fuss?

Piketty’s argument is that, in an economy where the rate of return on capital outstrips the rate of growth, inherited wealth will always grow faster than earned wealth. So the fact that rich kids can swan aimlessly from gap year to internship to a job at father’s bank/ministry/TV network – while the poor kids sweat into their barista uniforms – is not an accident: it is the system working normally.

If you get slow growth alongside better financial returns, then inherited wealth will, on average, “dominate wealth amassed from a lifetime’s labour by a wide margin”, says Piketty. Wealth will concentrate to levels incompatible with democracy, let alone social justice. Capitalism, in short, automatically creates levels of inequality that are unsustainable. The rising wealth of the 1% is neither a blip, nor rhetoric.

To understand why the mainstream finds this proposition so annoying, you have to understand that “distribution” – the polite name for inequality – was thought to be a closed subject. Simon Kuznets, the Belarussian émigré who became a major figure in American economics, used the available data to show that, while societies become more unequal in the first stages of industrialisation, inequality subsides as they achieve maturity. This “Kuznets Curve” had been accepted by most parts of the economics profession until Piketty and his collaborators produced the evidence that it is false.

In fact, the curve goes in exactly the opposite direction: capitalism started out unequal, flattened inequality for much of the 20th century, but is now headed back towards Dickensian levels of inequality worldwide.

Continue reading Thomas Piketty’s Capital: everything you need to know about the surprise bestseller

Canada surprises with April jobs loss: Canada’s economy lost 28,900 jobs

flagCaCanada surprises with April jobs loss; trails U.S. employment pace

By Louise Egan

OTTAWA, May 9 (Reuters) – Canada’s economy lost 28,900 jobs in April, Statistics Canada said on Friday in a report that revealed across-the-board weakness in a labor market that is stalled and has been adding jobs at a more sluggish pace than in the United States.

The report suggests economic growth has not been gathering the speed that was expected in the second quarter and that business confidence is still shaky.

Read more » Reuters
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/09/canada-economy-jobs-idUSL2N0NU26Y20140509?feedType=RSS&virtualBrandChannel=11563

The New York Times – A Return to a World Marx Would Have Known

Doug Henwood is editor of Left Business Observer, host of a weekly radio show originating on KPFA, Berkeley, and is author of several books, including “Wall Street: How It Works and For Whom” and “After the New Economy.”

I don’t see how you can understand our current unhappy economic state without some sort of Marx-inspired analysis.

Here we are, almost five years into an officially designated recovery from the worst downturn in 80 years, and average household incomes are more than 8 percent below where they were when the Great Recession began, and employment still 650,000 short of its pre-recession high.

Though elites are prospering, for millions of Americans, it’s as if the recession never ended.

How can this all be explained? The best way to start is by going back to the 1970s. Corporate profitability — which, as every Marxist schoolchild knows, is the motor of the system — had fallen sharply off its mid-1960s highs. Stock and bond markets were performing miserably. Inflation seemed to be rising without limit. After three decades of seemingly endless prosperity, workers had developed a terrible attitude problem, slacking off and, quaintly, even going out on strike. It’s no accident that Johnny Paycheck scored a No. 1 country hit with “Take This Job and Shove It” in 1977 — utterly impossible to imagine today.

This is where Marx begins to come in. At the root of these problems was a breakdown in class relations: workers no longer feared the boss. A crackdown was in order.

And it came, hard. In October 1979, the Federal Reserve began driving interest rates toward 20 percent, to kill inflation and restrict borrowing, creating the deepest recession since the 1930s. (It was a record we only broke in 2008/2009). A little over a year later, Ronald Reagan came into office, fired the striking air-traffic controllers, setting the stage for decades of union busting to follow. Five years after Johnny Paycheck’s hit, workers were desperate to hold and/or get jobs. No more attitude problem.

The “cure” worked for about 30 years. Corporate profits skyrocketed and financial markets thrived. The underlying mechanism, as Marx would explain it, is simple: workers produce more in value than they are paid, and the difference is the root of profit. If worker productivity rises while pay remains stagnant or declines, profits increase. This is precisely what has happened over the last 30 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity rose 93 percent between 1980 and 2013, while pay rose 38 percent (all inflation-adjusted).

The 1 percent got ever-richer and more powerful. But there was a problem: a system dependent on high levels of mass consumption has a hard time coping with the stagnation or decline in mass incomes.The development of a mass consumer market after Marx died, with the eager participation of a growing middle class, caused a lot of people to say his analysis was obsolete. But now, with the hollowing out of the middle class and the erosion of mass purchasing power, the whole 20th century model of mass consumption is starting to look obsolete.

Borrowing sustained the mass consumption model for a few decades. Non-rich households borrowed to buy cars, buy food, pay medical bills, buy ever-more-expensive houses, and so on. Conveniently, rich households had plenty of spare cash to lend them.

That model broke apart in 2008 and has not — and cannot — be revived. Without the juice provided by spirited borrowing, demand remains constricted and growth rates, low. (See also: Europe.)

Raising the incomes of the bottom 90 percent of the population through higher wages and public spending initiatives — stifled since Reagan starting putting the squeeze on them — could change that. But the stockholding class has resisted that, and they have a lot of political power.

And an extraordinarily lopsided economy is the result. We didn’t expect that the 21st century would bring about a return of the 19th century’s vast disparities, but it’s looking like that’s just what’s happened.

Courtesy: The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/03/30/was-marx-right/a-return-to-a-world-marx-would-have-known?smid=fb-share