Tag Archives: Inequality

America the Unfair?

America’s political and economic inequalities feed each other. The richest 1 percent in the U.S. now own substantially more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.

By 

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders don’t agree on much. Nor do the Black Lives Matter movement, the Occupy Wall Street protests and the armed ranchers who seized public lands in Oregon. But in the insurgent presidential campaigns and in social activism across the spectrum, a common thread is people angry at the way this country is no longer working for many ordinary citizens.

And they’re right: The system is often fundamentally unfair, and ordinary voices are often unheard.

Read more » The New York Times
See more » http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/21/opinion/america-the-unfair.html?smid=tw-nytopinion&smtyp=cur&_r=0

An Economy for the 1%

How privilege and power in the economy drive extreme inequality and how this can be stopped

The global inequality crisis is reaching new extremes. The richest 1% now have more wealth than the rest of the world combined, and 62 billionaires own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people on the planet. Power and privilege is being used to skew the economic system to increase the gap between the richest and the rest.

Read more » Oxfam
See more » http://www.oxfam.ca/our-work/publications/an-economy-for-the-1

Shame of inequality

By FAISAL BARI

JAVED’S mother insisted that we, the owners/managers of a motorcycle repair shop, hire her son as an apprentice even if it was with no pay. We refused as Javed was only eight years old. His mother’s logic was simple. “I cannot feed him at home, he cannot go to school as I cannot afford it, and we need any money that Javed can make. Even if you do not pay him for an initial period, he will get lunch here and will also learn a skill. That is enough.”

We made some arrangements for Javed. But there are millions of Javeds in Pakistan. Even though, and there is evidence for this, absolute poverty has gone down in the country, inequality has, by all estimates, increased significantly. This does not mean there are no poor people in Pakistan. There are still plenty of them. But the percentage of people living a life of absolute deprivation is lower than before.

The story is one about poverty and the extremes of inequality this society appears to be willing to live with.

Yet, not only has inequality increased manifold, it seems the progress we had been making on reducing infant mortality, maternal mortality, malnutrition in children and morbidity has slowed down significantly and, in some cases, disappeared. This is quite a paradox: poverty is down but why are child and mother health indicators not improving? Is it a case of time lags? Or is there something more to it?

Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1220930

India’s Inequality: Richest 1% Own 53% Of India’s Wealth

A credit suisse report has revealed richest 1% Indians owns 53% of country’s wealth while the top 10% owns 76.30% of the country’s wealth.

For long activists and many intellects had appealed to reduce inequality in India, but we are reaching slowly but surely to a point where it is too late to do anything about it. Research says reducing inequality could prolong economic growth spell’s than any economic impetus (for ex -Free Trade Agreement) would do.

When mankind wanted to reach the moon, it did it. There is nothing that mankind is not capable of, its only a matter of having the will to do it. If inequality persists, it is not because it is out of our control, it is because none had the will and vision to work towards a equal society.

Some potential consequences of Inequality
1.) High inequality stifles economic growth besides pushing vast population into poverty.
2.) High incidence of poverty results in lack of access to basic amenities and most importantly opportunities
3.) The small wealthy population will have an unhealthy control over the policy makers.
4.) The Judicial system skews in favor of the people who could afford the best lawyers
5.) Tax structures will eventually favor the creamy 1% burdening the vast “others”
6.) Vast economic differences will result in poor not getting credit facilities and endangering them to enter into predatory market practices like a debt trap.
7.) Investment dries up, as fewer individuals have money to invest in.
8.) Higher incidence of poverty is closely to related to the higher crime rates and other social evils
9.) Class divide’s becomes visible, as rich neighborhoods springs up everywhere and seclusion becomes the new norm
10.) Participation in the political process diminishes for the vast majority coupled with poor access to quality health care and education.

Courtesy: The Logical Indian
Read more » http://thelogicalindian.com/news/indias-inequality-richest-1-own-53-of-indias-wealth/

Half of world’s wealth now in hands of 1% of population – report

Inequality growing globally and in the UK, which has third most ‘ultra-high net worth individuals’, household wealth study finds

By 

Global inequality is growing, with half the world’s wealth now in the hands of just 1% of the population, according to a new report.

The middle classes have been squeezed at the expense of the very rich, according to research by Credit Suisse, which also finds that for the first time, there are more individuals in the middle classes in China – 109m – than the 92m in the US.

Tidjane Thiam, the chief executive of Credit Suisse, said: “Middle class wealth has grown at a slower pace than wealth at the top end. This has reversed the pre-crisis trend which saw the share of middle-class wealth remaining fairly stable over time.”

Read more » theguardian
See more » http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/oct/13/half-world-wealth-in-hands-population-inequality-report

Stephen Hawking Says We Should Really Be Scared Of Capitalism, Not Robots

By 

According to world famous physicist Stephen Hawking, the rising use of automated machines may mean the end of human rights – not just jobs. But he’s not talking about robots with artificial intelligence taking over the world, he’s talking about the current capitalist political system and its major players.

On Reddit, Hawkings said that the economic gap between the rich and the poor will continue to grow as more jobs are automated by machines, and the owners of said machines hoard them to create more wealth for themselves.

Someone asked:

Have you thought about the possibility of technological unemployment, where we develop automated processes that ultimately cause large unemployment by performing jobs faster and/or cheaper than people can perform them?

In particular, do you foresee a world where people work less because so much work is automated? Do you think people will always either find work or manufacture more work to be done?

Hawkings replied:

If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.

The insatiable thirst for capitalist accumulation bestowed upon humans by years of lies and terrible economic policy has affected technology in such a way that one of its major goals has become to replace human jobs.

If we do not take this warning seriously, we may face unfathomable corporate domination. If we let the same people who buy and sell our political system and resources maintain control of automated technology, then we’ll be heading towards a very harsh reality.

Courtesy: U.S. Uncut
Read more » http://usuncut.com/news/edit-complete-hw-stephen-hawking-says-really-scared-capitalism-not-robots/

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More details » Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/stephen-hawking-capitalism-robots_5616c20ce4b0dbb8000d9f15?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067

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/

Tens of thousands march in London against coalition’s austerity measures

An estimated 50,000 people in London addressed by speakers, including Russell Brand, after People’s Assembly march

By  and agencies

Tens of thousands of people marched through central London on Saturday afternoon in protest at austerity measures introduced by the coalition government. The demonstrators gathered before the Houses of Parliament, where they were addressed by speakers, including comedians Russell Brand and Mark Steel.

An estimated 50,000 people marched from the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster.

“The people of this building [the House of Commons] generally speaking do not represent us, they represent their friends in big business. It’s time for us to take back our power,” said Brand.

Read more » The Guardian
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/21/protest-march-austerity-london-russell-brand-peoples-assembly#start-of-comments

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

‘March for dignity’: Thousands arrive in Madrid to protest govt austerity

88 injured, 29 arrested in Madrid as anti-austerity march turns violent

Protesters clashed with police in Madrid as thousands of people trekked across Spain to protest austerity which they claim is destroying their country. Under the banner “no more cuts!” the protesters called for an end to the government’s “empty promises.”

Police arrested at least 29 protesters following the clashes which took place after the march. According to emergency service, 88 people were injured – 55 of them police, El Mundo newspaper reports.

Protesters were seen throwing stones and firecrackers at police. According to witnesses, officers used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.

Clashes broke out during a final speech at the demonstration when protesters tried to break through a police barrier. Riot police took charge by beating protesters with batons, AP reported.

“The mass rally was coming to an an end when reportedly a group of younger protesters, who had masks on their faces, started throwing rocks at the police. Police tried to push them away from the parameter that they organized around this area,” RT’s Egor Piskunov reported from Madrid.

Read more » http://rt.com/news/spain-protest-cuts-crisis-509/

Bill Maher’s excellent commentary on income inequality

by BruinKid

Last night, Bill Maher delivered an excellent final New Rule on how some of the 1% are whining about feeling persecuted.

Did you know that during World War II, FDR actually proposed a cap on income that in today’s dollars would mean that no person could ever take home more than about $300,000?  OK, that is a little low.  (audience laughter)  But wouldn’t it be great if there were Democrats out there like that now, who would say to billionaires, “Oh, you’re crying?  We’ll give you something to cry about.  You don’t want a minimum wage?  How about we not only have a minimum wage, we have a maximum wage?”  (audience applause)

That is not a new idea.  James Madison, who wrote our Constitution, said, “Government should prevent an immoderate accumulation of riches.”  Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, they all agreed that too much money in the hands of too few would destroy democracy.

Read more » DAILY KOS
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/01/1281312/-Bill-Maher-s-excellent-commentary-on-income-inequality

The 1% Should Be Afraid: The New Norm in the Workplace Is Unstable

By Laura Flanders, Truthout | Interview and Video

A new study from Oxfam published just ahead of this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, reported that just one percent of the world’s population controls nearly half of the planet’s wealth and 70 percent of the world’s people live in countries where income inequality has been growing in the last 30 years. In the US, the gap between rich and poor has grown faster than in any other developed country. The top one percent has captured 95 percent of all growth since the putative “recovery” of 2009. This is the “new normal.” Is it sustainable?

Barbara Garson is the author of a series of books describing American working lives at historically important turning points. If this is one of those turning points, it’s one in which the one percent have won:

“That the so-called recovery that everyone is bragging about is this,” Garson told GRITtv in a recent interview. “We’ve recovered, we’ve taken your full-time job away and given you a part-time job, and we’ve given the difference to our stockholders.”

The trouble is, this cockeyed situation is not stable, and even the capitalists, maybe especially the capitalists, should be worried.

“There are capitalist solutions, like redistribution, but they’re not doing it. That may be why we have a socialist solution this time,” she concludes. “If seventeen percent of the houses are vacant, we’ll just move into them.”

Garson’s new book is Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live. You can watch our conversation at GRITtv.org.

Read more » truth-out.org
http://truth-out.org/news/item/21785-the-one-percent-should-be-afraid-the-new-norm-in-the-workplace-is-unstable

Marx Was Right: Five Surprising Ways Karl Marx Predicted 2014

From the iPhone 5S to corporate globalization, modern life is full of evidence of Marx’s foresight

By 
There’s a lot of talk of Karl Marx in the air these days – from Rush Limbaugh accusing Pope Francis of promoting “pure Marxism” to a Washington Times writer claiming that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is an “unrepentant Marxist.” But few people actually understand Marx’s trenchant critique of capitalism. Most people are vaguely aware of the radical economist’s prediction that capitalism would inevitably be replaced by communism, but they often misunderstand why he believed this to be true. And while Marx was wrong about some things, his writings (many of which pre-date the American Civil War) accurately predicted several aspects of contemporary capitalism, from the Great Recession to the iPhone 5S in your pocket.Here are five facts of life in 2014 that Marx’s analysis of capitalism correctly predicted more than a century ago:

1. The Great Recession (Capitalism’s Chaotic Nature)

The inherently chaotic, crisis-prone nature of capitalism was a key part of Marx’s writings. He argued that the relentless drive for profits would lead companies to mechanize their workplaces, producing more and more goods while squeezing workers’ wages until they could no longer purchase the products they created. Sure enough, modern historical events from the Great Depression to the dot-com bubble can be traced back to what Marx termed “fictitious capital” – financial instruments like stocks and credit-default swaps. We produce and produce until there is simply no one left to purchase our goods, no new markets, no new debts. The cycle is still playing out before our eyes: Broadly speaking, it’s what made the housing market crash in 2008. Decades of deepening inequality reduced incomes, which led more and more Americans to take on debt. When there were no subprime borrows left to scheme, the whole façade fell apart, just as Marx knew it would.

2. The iPhone 5S (Imaginary Appetites)

Marx warned that capitalism’s tendency to concentrate high value on essentially arbitrary products would, over time, lead to what he called “a contriving and ever-calculating subservience to inhuman, sophisticated, unnatural and imaginary appetites.” It’s a harsh but accurate way of describing contemporary America, where we enjoy incredible luxury and yet are driven by a constant need for more and more stuff to buy. Consider the iPhone 5S you may own. Is it really that much better than the iPhone 5 you had last year, or the iPhone 4S a year before that? Is it a real need, or an invented one? While Chinese families fall sick with cancer from our e-waste, megacorporations are creating entire advertising campaigns around the idea that we should destroy perfectly good products for no reason. If Marx could see this kind of thing, he’d nod in recognition.

3. The IMF (The Globalization of Capitalism)

Marx’s ideas about overproduction led him to predict what is now called globalization – the spread of capitalism across the planet in search of new markets. “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe,” he wrote. “It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.” While this may seem like an obvious point now, Marx wrote those words in 1848, when globalization was over a century away. And he wasn’t just right about what ended up happening in the late 20th century – he was right about why it happened: The relentless search for new markets and cheap labor, as well as the incessant demand for more natural resources, are beasts that demand constant feeding.

4. Walmart (Monopoly)

The classical theory of economics assumed that competition was natural and therefore self-sustaining. Marx, however, argued that market power would actually be centralized in large monopoly firms as businesses increasingly preyed upon each other. This might have struck his 19th-century readers as odd: As Richard Hofstadter writes, “Americans came to take it for granted that property would be widely diffused, that economic and political power would decentralized.” It was only later, in the 20th century, that the trend Marx foresaw began to accelerate. Today, mom-and-pop shops have been replaced by monolithic big-box stores like Walmart, small community banks have been replaced by global banks like J.P. Morgan Chase and small famers have been replaced by the likes of Archer Daniels Midland. The tech world, too, is already becoming centralized, with big corporations sucking up start-ups as fast as they can. Politicians give lip service to what minimal small-business lobby remains and prosecute the most violent of antitrust abuses – but for the most part, we know big business is here to stay.

5. Low Wages, Big Profits (The Reserve Army of Industrial Labor)

Marx believed that wages would be held down by a “reserve army of labor,” which he explained simply using classical economic techniques: Capitalists wish to pay as little as possible for labor, and this is easiest to do when there are too many workers floating around. Thus, after a recession, using a Marxist analysis, we would predict that high unemployment would keep wages stagnant as profits soared, because workers are too scared of unemployment to quit their terrible, exploitative jobs. And what do you know? No less an authority than the Wall Street Journal warns, “Lately, the U.S. recovery has been displaying some Marxian traits. Corporate profits are on a tear, and rising productivity has allowed companies to grow without doing much to reduce the vast ranks of the unemployed.” That’s because workers are terrified to leave their jobs and therefore lack bargaining power. It’s no surprise that the best time for equitable growth is during times of “full employment,” when unemployment is low and workers can threaten to take another job.

In Conclusion:

Marx was wrong about many things. Most of his writing focuses on a critique of capitalism rather than a proposal of what to replace it with – which left it open to misinterpretation by madmen like Stalin in the 20th century. But his work still shapes our world in a positive way as well. When he argued for a progressive income tax in the Communist Manifesto, no country had one. Now, there is scarcely a country without a progressive income tax, and it’s one small way that the U.S. tries to fight income inequality. Marx’s moral critique of capitalism and his keen insights into its inner workings and historical context are still worth paying attention to. As Robert L. Heilbroner writes, “We turn to Marx, therefore, not because he is infallible, but because he is inescapable.” Today, in a world of both unheard-of wealth and abject poverty, where the richest 85 people have more wealth than the poorest 3 billion, the famous cry, “Workers of the world uniteyou have nothing to lose but your chains,” has yet to lose its potency.

Courtesy: Rolling Stone

Economic apartheid

By Sakib Sherani

INEQUALITY is rising in Pakistan — in all its unsavoury dimensions. While we may have had a less-unequal society, in relative terms, for much of our existence, that sliver of solace is fast disappearing. The more worrying aspect is that inequality is no longer ‘cyclical (if it ever was) — that is, relating to income disparities arising out of a slowing economy and fewer jobs.

It has institutional as well as structural roots that the elite have been very comfortable with perpetuating, most shamelessly via a duality of education systems — one, near-world class for their own children, the other, a shambolic excuse for a minimal fulfilling of the state’s responsibility (and failing at that too). Hence, through a variety of channels and means, both wittingly as well as unwittingly, a large swathe of Pakistan faces permanent exclusion from economic, social as well as political voice and opportunity.

The statistic that most captures the public imagination with regard to inequality relates to income disparity. On this front, the share of income of the bottom 20pc of the households is around 8pc, while that of the top 20pc households is almost six times larger, at 45pc. Over the past 10 years or so, incomes of the top 20pc households have grown faster than for the others.

Continue reading Economic apartheid

Noam Chomsky: We’re no longer a functioning democracy, we’re really a plutocracy

By Travis Gettys

The world faces two potentially existential threats, according to the linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky.

“There are two major dark shadows that hover over everything, and they’re getting more and more serious,” Chomsky said. “The one is the continuing threat of nuclear war that has not ended. It’s very serious, and another is the crisis of ecological, environmental catastrophe, which is getting more and more serious.”

Chomsky appeared Friday on the last episode of NPR’s “Smiley and West” program to discuss his education, his views on current affairs and how he manages to spread his message without much help from the mainstream media.

He told the hosts that the world was racing toward an environmental disaster with potentially lethal consequence, which the world’s most developed nations were doing nothing to prevent – and in fact were speeding up the process.

“If there ever is future historians, they’re going to look back at this period of history with some astonishment,” Chomsky said. “The danger, the threat, is evident to anyone who has eyes open and pays attention at all to the scientific literature, and there are attempts to retard it, there are also at the other end attempts to accelerate the disaster, and if you look who’s involved it’s pretty shocking.”

Chomsky noted efforts to halt environmental damage by indigenous people in countries all over the world – from Canada’s First Nations to tribal people in Latin America and India to aboriginal people in Australia—but the nation’s richest, most advanced and most powerful countries, such as the United States, were doing nothing to forestall disaster.

“When people here talk enthusiastically about a hundred years of energy independence, what they’re saying is, ‘Let’s try to get every drop of fossil fuel out of the ground so as to accelerate the disaster that we’re racing towards,’” Chomsky said. “These are problems that overlie all of the domestic problems of oppression, of poverty, of attacks on the education system (and) massive inequality, huge unemployment.”

He blamed the “financialization” of the U.S. economy for income inequality and unemployment, saying that banks that were “too big to fail” skimmed enormous wealth from the market.

“In fact, there was a recent (International Monetary Fund) study that estimated that virtually all the profits of the big banks can be traced back to this government insurance policy, and in general they’re quite harmful, I think, quite harmful to the economy,” Chomsky said.

Those harmful effects can be easily observed by looking at unemployment numbers and stock market gains, he said.

“There are tens of millions of people unemployed, looking for work, wanting to work (and) there are huge resources available,” Chomsky said. “Corporate profits are going through the roof, there’s endless amounts of work to be done – just drive through a city and see all sorts of things that have to be done – infrastructure is collapsing, the schools have to be revived. We have a situation in which huge numbers of people want to work, there are plenty, huge resources available, an enormous amount to be done, and the system is so rotten they can’t put them together.”

The reason for this is simple, Chomsky said.

“There is plenty of profit being made by those who pretty much dominate and control the system,” he said. “We’ve moved from the days where there was some kind of functioning democracy. It’s by now really a plutocracy.”

Chomsky strongly disagreed with Smiley and West that he had been marginalized for his views, saying that he regretfully turned down dozens of invitations to speak on a daily basis because he was otherwise engaged.

He also disagreed that a platform in the mainstream media was necessary to influence the debate.

“If you take a look at the progressive changes that have taken place in the country, say, just in the last 50 years – the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, opposition to aggression, the women’s movement, the environmental movement and so on – they’re not led by any debate in the media,” Chomsky said. “No, they were led by popular organizations, by activists on the ground.”

He recalled the earliest days of the antiwar movement, in the early 1960s, when he spoke in living rooms and church basements to just a handful of other activists and they were harassed – even in liberal Boston – by the authorities and media.

But that movement eventually grew and helped hasten the end of the Vietnam War, and Chomsky said it’s grown and become so mainstream that antiwar activists can limit wars before they even begin.

He said President Ronald Reagan was unable to launch a full-scale war in Central America during the 1980s because of the antiwar movement, and he bitterly disputed the idea that antiwar activists had no impact on the Iraq War.

“I don’t agree; it had a big effect,” Chomsky said. “It sharply limited the means that were available to the government to try to carry out the invasion and subdue the population. In fact, it’s one reason why the U.S. ended up really defeated in Iraq, seriously had to give up all of its war aims. The major victor in Iraq turns out to be Iran.”

Despite these limitations, he said the Iraq War had been one of the new millennium’s worst atrocities and had provoked a violent schism between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that had sparked regional conflicts throughout the Middle East.

“The United States is now involved in a global terror campaign largely against the tribal people of the world, mostly Muslim tribes, and it’s all over. The intention is to go on and on,” Chomsky said. “These are all terrible consequences, but nevertheless they’re not as bad as they would be if there weren’t public opposition.”

Courtesy: The Raw Story
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/27/noam-chomsky-were-no-longer-a-functioning-democracy-were-really-a-plutocracy/

Switzerland: 2,500 franc basic monthly income for every one

Swiss to vote on 2,500 franc basic income for every adult

(Reuters) – Switzerland will hold a vote on whether to introduce a basic income for all adults, in a further sign of growing public activism over pay inequality since the financial crisis.

A grassroots committee is calling for all adults in Switzerland to receive an unconditional income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,800) per month from the state, with the aim of providing a financial safety net for the population.

Organizers submitted more than the 100,000 signatures needed to call a referendum on Friday and tipped a truckload of 8 million five-rappen coins outside the parliament building in Berne, one for each person living in Switzerland.

Read more » Reuters
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/04/us-swiss-pay-idUSBRE9930O620131004

Pope Francis Calls Unfettered Capitalism ‘Tyranny’

by Joshua Holland

Earlier this month, Laurie Goodstein reported for The New York Times that Pope Francis’ softer rhetoric on hot-button social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage were causing conservative Catholics no small amount of chagrin.

It looks like they can expect more cognitive dissonance, according to this report in The Guardian

Pope Francis has attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny”, urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”.

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

In a sense, the new pope is just grappling with the reality he faces. Polls show that American Catholics, at least, agree with the pontiff’s position that the church focuses too much on social issues. And Francis recently commissioned a survey of Catholics around the world to see where they fall on these questions.

Meanwhile, Dominic Barton, the Managing Director of McKinsey & Co., writes in today’s Wall Street Journal: ”In 2012, the top 1% of earners in the US collected 19.3% of the country’s total household income–an all-time high… The disparity is growing rapidly as well. Incomes of the top 1% grew by 31.4% from 2009 to 2012, compared to just 0.4% for the remaining 99%.

Continue reading Pope Francis Calls Unfettered Capitalism ‘Tyranny’

Switzerland limits CEOs one month pay

A Proposal To Limit Swiss Executive Pay To 12 Times That Of Low-Paid Employees Has Fat Cats Worried

By Adam Taylor

On Nov. 24, Swiss voters will go to the polls to vote on a radical new idea — limiting the monthly pay of the highest earners in Swiss firms to no greater than the yearly pay of the lowest earners. It’s being called the 1:12 Initiative — and it sure has some people worried.

To understand the context of the vote, you need to know two things about Switzerland. First, the country has a relatively unique system of direct democracy — if 100,000 people sign a proposed change to the constitution, or “popular initiatives,” a referendum is held. If a majority of voters and cantons (Swiss states) agree with the proposal, the change can become law.

The second factor is how these Swiss initiatives have been used recently. Earlier this year Swiss voters agreed to an idea proposed by entrepreneur Thomas Minder that limited executive (in his words, “fat cat”) salaries of companies listed on the Swiss stock market. On the other end of the spectrum, a proposal to give every Swiss adult an unconditional income of $2,800 a month recently gained enough signatures to be voted on.

The 1:12 Initiative lies somewhere between these two extremes in terms of its radical ambition, but its core idea comes from the same place — an angst in Switzerland, a country most famous for centuries of private banking, that executive pay and income inequality are out of control.

To understand the thought process, Business Insider called David Roth, the leader of the youth wing of Swiss party the Social Democrats, and one of the architects of the plan. Roth explained that high executive salaries only became a big issue in 2002 or so, and by 2006/7 they became a public issue. The preparation for the 1:12 Initiative began in 2009.

Continue reading Switzerland limits CEOs one month pay

The Number of Billionaires Is Growing Across the Planet, as Global Inequality Spreads

Gone are the days when U.S. billionaires accounted for over 40 percent of the list.

With the help of  Forbes magazine, we and colleagues at the  Institute for Policy Studies have been tracking the world’s billionaires and rising inequality the world over for several decades. Just as a drop of water gives us a clue into the chemical composition of the sea, these billionaires offer fascinating clues into the changing face of global power and inequality.

Read more » AlterNet

Oligarchs — new dictators of the 21st century

BY Christian Caryl

WASHINGTON: Earlier this month, the investment bank Credit Suisse published its annual survey of global wealth. The bank’s report is filled with illuminating findings, but one in particular caught my eye. It has to do with the distribution of assets in Russia, where, as the report notes, a mere 110 people own a mind-boggling 35 per cent of the country’s entire wealth. At the same time, 93.7pc of Russians are worth $10,000 or less.

As the report notes, this makes Russia the country with the greatest wealth disparities in the world. Americans, who are now increasingly concerned about deepening inequality in their own country, might seek some consolation from this dismal conclusion. Even under present circumstances, wealth in the United States is still spread a lot more evenly than that. Things could be worse, right?

Well, maybe. But I see little cause for jubilation. Russia is merely the most extreme case of a worldwide trend that potentially represents one of the greatest threats that democracy faces today: the spread of oligarchy.

The problem isn’t just that some people in today’s world are fabulously rich. It’s that disproportionate wealth increasingly goes along with disproportionate power. Russia, again, offers a textbook example of the dangers. Back in the 1990s, a handful of politically well-connected business tycoons managed to profit from their close relations with Boris Yeltsin’s Kremlin by taking advantage of the privatisation of the country’s industrial jewels — above all its vast oil wealth. Those magnates weren’t shy about exploiting their economic power to political ends. They bankrolled Yeltsin’s re-election as president in 1996, controlled ministerial appointments, and dictated government policy. No wonder these businessmen-cum-politicians were soon dubbed the “oligarchs.” (”Oligarchy” is Greek for “government of the few.”)

Continue reading Oligarchs — new dictators of the 21st century

Marx’s Revenge: How Class Struggle Is Shaping the World

Even business journals are recognizing it. Since this piece originates with a business publication, you will obviously find some things that may startle you. If so, disregard..or better, explore and see what the other side thinks. —Eds.

By , Business Time

Or so we thought. With the global economy in a protracted crisis, and workers around the world burdened by joblessness, debt and stagnant incomes, Marx’s biting critique of capitalism — that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive — cannot be so easily dismissed. Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic crises and heightened conflict between the rich and working classes. “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole,” Marx wrote.

A growing dossier of evidence suggests that he may have been right. It is sadly all too easy to find statistics that show the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are not. A September study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington noted that the median annual earnings of a full-time, male worker in the U.S. in 2011, at $48,202, were smaller than in 1973. Between 1983 and 2010, 74% of the gains in wealth in the U.S. went to the richest 5%, while the bottom 60% suffered a decline, the EPI calculated. No wonder some have given the 19th century German philosopher a second look. In China, the Marxist country that turned its back on Marx, Yu Rongjun was inspired by world events to pen a musical based on Marx’s classic Das Kapital. “You can find reality matches what is described in the book,” says the playwright.

Continue reading Marx’s Revenge: How Class Struggle Is Shaping the World

U.S. Economic Inequality Is Permanent, Study Finds

Bye, Bye American Dream! U.S. Economic Inequality Is Permanent, Study Finds

Analysis of two decades of income tax trends also find the rich consume more.

By Steven Rosenfeld

A new study by a team of economists in academia and the government has concluded that economic inequality is a permanent—not temporary—feature in the United States, based on an analysis of 350,000 federal income tax returns between 1987 and 2009.

“For household income, both before and after taxes, the increase in inequality over this period was predominantly, although not entirely, permanent,” the highly technical report concluded. “We also find evidence that the U.S. federal tax system helped reduce the increase in household income inequality; but this attenuating effect was insufficient to significantly alter the broad trend toward rising inequality.”

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Canada drops out of top 10 most developed countries list

The United Nations human development index now ranks Canada as 11th

By the Canadian Press

Canada has slipped out of the top 10 countries listed in the annual United Nation’s human development index — a far cry from the 1990s when it held the first place for most of the decade.

The 2013 report, which reviews a country’s performance in health, education and income, places Canada in 11th place versus 10th last year.

Continue reading Canada drops out of top 10 most developed countries list

Capitalism Becomes Questionable – by Richard D. Wolff

The depth and length of the global crisis are now clear to millions. In the sixth year since it started in late 2007, no end is in sight. Unemployment rates are now less than halfway back from their recession peak to where they were in 2007. Over 20 million are without work, millions more limited to part-time work, millions have been foreclosed out of their homes. Those who retain jobs suffer declining real wages, fewer benefits, reduced job security, and more work. This year of “austerity” began with an increase in the payroll tax rate for over 150 million wage-and-salary earners from 4.2 to 6.2 per cent (a 48% increase from 2012) — a far more significant tax event than the trivial — but wildly hyped — increase of taxes on those earning over $450,000 annually from 35 to 39.6 per cent (a 13% increase from 2012). Austerity deepens as Republicans and Democrats negotiate merely details of their agreements to cut government spending on social programs helping working people.

Between the crisis and today’s austerity policies lie the bailouts — a bought government’s program to aid mega-finance and other large corporations with unlimited funds unmatched by anything comparable for the mass of working people and smaller businesses. The bailouts worked for them, for the large corporations who secured them for themselves. For that reason, “recovery” blessed them while it bypassed everyone else. Now austerity policies shift onto the general population major portions of the costs of the crisis and the bailouts. The situation is so bad and US government complicity with capitalists at the people’s expense so exposed that the capitalist system is becoming questionable. Criticism challenges the last half-century’s treatment of capitalism as the absolutely best possible economic system, beyond any need for discussion or debate, justifiably implanted around the world by military force, etc.

First of all, this deep and long crisis undermines decades of confident assurances and predictions that another deep capitalist depression was no longer likely or even possible. Capitalism’s inherent instability overwhelmed and thus proved the futility of efforts to prevent its crises. Moreover, both conventional and extraordinary monetary and fiscal policies failed repeatedly to bring Europe, Japan, and the US out of the crisis. Central banks, international agencies, and national executives charged with economic responsibilities have, since 2007, spoken with assurance and met often, posed for media photos, puffed and threatened, made a few last-minute, stop-gap agreements, resolved to meet again and do more at the next meeting. However, the crisis continued for most people. In many places it has gotten much worse. All this challenges glib notions that capitalism’s highest authorities have the system “under control.”

Implicitly, at first, millions of people began to question whether capitalism does still “deliver the goods” as its defenders so long insisted. In the US, declining economic conditions for parents coupled with rising school debts and declining job prospects for their children suggest rather that capitalism “delivers the bads.” The widening inequalities of wealth and income that contributed to the crisis have in turn been further aggravated by it.

Continue reading Capitalism Becomes Questionable – by Richard D. Wolff

Canada is not doing better

Ed Broadbent: Inequality’s a problem for Canada, too

By: ED BROADBENT, The Globe and Mail

I don’t know whether it’s smugness or indifference, but we Canadians can be a self-deluding lot. Growing inequality, portrayed recently in The Economist as a global scourge, when viewed from Canada, seems to be a problem only for others.

After all, it was other countries’ banks that crashed in 2008. It’s in southern Europe that tens of thousands are taking to the streets. And it was in France and the United States that recent elections were fought over the fact that those who created the mess, the top 1 per cent, are still getting big bonuses and low tax rates.

Well, guess what? Canada is not doing better. From 1982 until 2004, almost all growth in family income went to the top 20 per cent, with much of that going to the top 1 per cent, while the bottom 60 per cent saw no growth at all. The increase in inequality in Canada since the mid-1990s has been the fourth highest in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But does this matter? Yes, the evidence is in, and the conclusion is clear: Inequality does matter. In terms of social outcomes, more equal societies do better for everyone, not just for the poor, in almost every respect: health outcomes, life expectancy, level of trust in society, equality of opportunity and upward social mobility. A recent study showed that if Americans want to experience the American Dream of upward mobility, they should pack up and move to Sweden. They would have to leave the most unequal democracy and move to the most equal.

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Canada falling behind on poverty, inequality, says report

Conference Board report card gives Canada a B, ranked 7th out of 17 developed countries

Canada isn’t living up to its potential or its reputation when it comes to societal issues like poverty, government and inequality, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

The group gave Canada a ‘B’, good for a 7th place ranking out of 17 developed countries, but it said the “middle-of-the-pack” ranking leaves room for improvement.

Getting an ‘A’ at the top of the rankings were the Scandinavian nations (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) as well as the Netherlands and Austria. …

Read more » CBC
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/02/01/business-canada-society-report-card.html